When I was asked to write about the Homeless Shoebox appeal, I knew it was going to be a tough topic, because I have no real knowledge or amusing anecdote to share.
The only thing I can do is tell you WHY when asked to donate or help I never hesitate in saying YES.
Thinking back, it must be 6 years ago, Street had their first and I think only “obvious” homeless person, he became apparent because despite appearing in the height of summer, he was completely enswathed in filthy winter clothes, a huge parka coat with hood pulled up and over his head and face, heavy grey tracky bottoms, he trudged around Street.
It was clear that under all those disgusting ill fitting clothes, this person was painfully thin and in need of help, he had nothing, no bags, no backpack, no shopping trolley, nor was he located in one spot begging, he was just trudging slowly, head down looking at the floor, barely lifting his feet up, wandering the outskirts of Street.
Now understand, that I had seen this bloke from the luxury of my car as I “importantly and busily” drove about my business always en route to somewhere never able to stop.
Until, everything changed for me, one very hot Saturday afternoon, after buying petrol I pulled out and there he was slouched starving against the lamppost outside of MacDonalds just looking, looking at all those smiling fat family’s eating happy meals.
That was when my “I can sort this” head clicked in, “I’ll do something if nobody else will”.
Pulling over, and getting £10 out of my purse, I started to march towards this down and out, briefly thinking “what if he’s got a knife!!”.
I was stood in front of him with my tenner thrust out “here you are son get yourself something to eat”.
Looking back at me was a painful thin, frightened and dirty young lady with big brown eyes, she looked scared to death at being confronted by this fat bossy auld woman barking orders at her.
“I can’t” she said
“Here take this money -get some food”
“What !! why not?”
“they won’t serve me” nodding towards McD’s
“Well get something in Sainsbury’s then”
“I’m banned - go away”
And so our short conversation went on - me asking questions that I didn’t have a right to ask and her refusing money and begging me to “stop frightening her and go away” .
Eventually, I took the hint - she wasn’t going to be grateful at my so called generosity- she didn’t want my conscious salving tenner, i went back to my car startled and confused.
Saturday afternoon on a busy road, people had seen us - me a bright red over heated 1950’s fat girl-guide lookalike in shorts and “Livvy” a very poorly waif and stray completely encased in a grey, having a strange conversation on the roundabout.
So folk asked me about her, they were interested and through that and obviously other people word did get out that “Livvy” was approachable, not strange or dangerous, just a very frightened young lady.
People started giving her food parcels etc. (she was very fussy about which brands).
I spent several nights in torrential summer storms at 1, 2, 3 o’clock driving her haunts trying to find her- I never did.
And I spoke to police and doctors, all without success.
But in truth, as much as I would have liked to be able to help, Livvy didn’t like me, I was authority, my whole persona screams business like/ bossy , she understandably liked younger or more gentler people.
And I know that eventually those special people found her and helped her.
For those who like a happy ending I saw Livvy the following year, cleaner, head up with a dog, but slightly plumper and definitely rid of those filthy grey clothes. Hopefully she is happier and safer now.
This is the third year that OB have been involved with similar campaigns, for 2015 OB donated approx 200 Sheepskin hats and mittens to the Taunton branch of HTH.
Last year was different, we moved outside of Somerset (unusual for us) and we donated the hats and mittens to the Syrian Refugee appeal.
Here we are with the Shoebox appeal, I know a lot of you remember “Livvy” or someone like her - so please just a Shoebox - you’ll be really glad you did.
Thank you xxxxx
Directions/Map to find Owen Barry