I'm on a secondment for the next six months. Great because it's closer to home, so less travel, but not so great because the work dried up almost as soon as I joined...
The train journey is about 35 minutes as opposed to 1hr 30 so I'm there and home a lot quicker. It's getting colder and darker though, so I'm often coming and going after the sun has gone down
In the morning it's cold, the frost hanging on my breath, the ice growing stubbornly on my windscreen. It's a half-mile walk from the station to my work: you come out, go down in the lift, cross the road at the lights, turn right up the hill and then first left under the flyover and you're there.
No distance at all. No distance at all
Yet in the 10 minutes or so it takes me to walk it I see anywhere between 2 and 6 homeless people.
Most of them are usually asleep in the doorway of a closed down lap-dancing club, covered in an array of duvets that have seen better days, barely visible beneath the thin layers. Some of them sit outside the coffee shop, or the small supermarket. Sometimes they lie under the underpass or sit in the walk-in entrance to the car park.
One or two will call out for help: just a bit of change please. I give them what I can: not every day and not much. I used to really worry about giving homeless people money: what if they use it for buying drugs? what about the next person and the next and the next? Then I realised: what they spend it on is their choice. Sometimes I buy them a coffee instead, once I took someone to lunch (a Big Issue (magazine sold by homeless people) seller that I have become friends with) - it's not much and I guess it doesn't make much difference, but it's better than nothing.
Most of them didn't choose to be there: some just had a run of bad luck, some are running from something or someone, others may have mental health issues. Mostly they are just trying to survive as best as they can.
And every day I think the same thing. Every time I give a few coins, or when I don't, I think: how can we allow this?
How can it be that in a first world country, where most of us carry £600-£800 worth of smart phones in our pocket, where second homes sit empty and properties are allowed to fall into disrepair - how can we allow people to fall through the cracks of society and be left to rot?
So I do what I can, not always but sometimes. It's not enough, it doesn't change a thing - but maybe it's a start