Following on from Part 1
By, Gavin Money, Regional General Manager – Scotland & Northern Ireland, Biffa
After our late morning break, we climbed the hill which is Blythswood Street towards Sauchiehall Street. It was during this walk that the guys explained we were en route to meet a lady who was sat outside the Glasgow Dental Hospital.
A member of the public had called Simon Community Scotland, concerned for the well-being of the woman. The guys informed me that the lady had been homeless for a great number of years, with many long term and complex issues – indeed there was to be a discussion about the lady that afternoon such was the concern for her current predicament.
The lady was indeed sat where the member of the public said she was – she was using gas but immediately reacted warmly to both Paul and Alex. She asked for some chips (with a wee bit of salt) and Alex sought some from the closest chippy – she immediately started to eat and wanted some Coca Cola which the guys bought without hesitation.
A warm smile, empathetic words and an attentive ear from the Street Team and it was clear that the lady wanted to return to the accommodation she had left some nights ago. That was a huge step in the eyes of the Street Team. Alex called a taxi and within minutes of that call the three of us accompanied the lady to a shelter that had held her room in the East End of Glasgow. The taxi driver, clearly judgemental at first, made the journey to the East End and returned us to the Hub on Argyll Street.
On entering the Hub, the Simon Community Scotland team had received correspondence that this lady was returned to care. The correspondence was read out by Elaine, the Street Team Leader, that this outcome was “once again down to the fantastic efforts of the Street Team” – it was a real pleasure to watch this in action.
I had many reflections and learned much from what was a fleeting moment in the shoes of a Glasgow Street Team. The most compelling thoughts from my time with Paul and Alex was that people do not become addicts (whether it be drug or alcohol) for the “buzz” or “joy” but to escape or block whatever trauma they had encountered in their lives that brought them to this moment.
Why would a lady in her mid-60’s be sat in the middle of Glasgow consuming canister after canister of gas living on those streets? I don’t know and those managing her needs may never know. It was clear that the reason for the Street Team wasn’t to delve or unpick lives – it was to simply to try to make their lives better – to listen, to give, to provide, to care.
I also noticed the trailing, judging eyes of people as Paul and Alex knelt close to the lady to give her that care – the taxi driver showing visible agitation as we chaperoned the lady to his vehicle. The reality is that we all do that – but it has absolutely bodychecked me and made me realise that adage that you should never judge – that people in less fortunate positions than the many rarely get there through choice.
It was an incredibly powerful and humbling experience with the Glasgow Street Team. Paul and Alex are a credit to Simon Community Scotland. Our partnership with Simon Community Scotland has absolutely solidified in my mind – an amazing organisation backed by amazingly kind and warm people.
Simon Community Scotland are people like Paul and Alex. It was a genuine pleasure to be in their company and to learn the true value of trust.
Gavin Money, Regional General Manager – Scotland & Northern Ireland, Biffa