A young homeless woman asked me to buy a Big Issue just outside the conference area and then asked me, “If you get in, what are you going to do about poverty in this county? The Government seems very keen to get in with everyone else, but what are you going to do in this country?”
Happily, I was able to answer, but that’s not the point of the post.
She looked unblinkingly at me and said, “I’m a victim of the State”, before explaining some of her life. Abused by her mother – along with her 15 siblings – she was placed into care, where her ADHT was met with beatings. Made homeless at age 17, she was soon in prison for shoplifting to eat, which she saw as “fair enough” as she was “bang to rights”. She’s less keen on the occasions when she has been convicted, she claims, essentially because she wouldn’t grass someone up.
In prison, she got off drugs – though she still has DVTs from injecting – and started a course in counseling, which she is now 3 units from completing. While inside, she worked for The Samaritans and she would now like to attend college, complete the course and help others. She has qualifications in hairdressing and Indian head massage.
Of course, without a fixed address, she can’t get the job or achieve the stability that would enable her to see this through. She is constantly moved on and harassed by the State, but not helped to settle down and help others.
Now aged 27, this young woman has learned to deal with her mother’s physical abuse in childhood, but the State has just decided to prosecute the woman, so she has been asked to relive every detail in court. Is it any wonder she looks 47?
She told me other anecdotes, with obvious sincerity, but I haven’t the heart to write them down.
So there she is on the street, in the rain trying to round up £17.50 for a hostel room for the night, from people who seem unable to see her, while avoiding the teeming army of people ready to move her on. She is articulate, interested, interesting, willing, able and very nearly qualified to help others out of their mess, but she is stuck in her own. She needs opportunity.
This is a self-proclaimed “victim of the State”. This is Britain in 2008. Someone ask me again why I am going into politics.