Who'd live anywhere else?

Posted by September Blue Friday, 24 August 2007

So here I am, eating a banana and working my way through thirty-six articles on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, when there comes a rapping at the front door like as unto a seven-foot woodpecker with a grudge. Weird. My friends don't turn up without notice, and my housemate has a key. Very insistent Jehovah's Witnesses? The bad cop version of those sweet Mormon boys? An angry mob of students I've failed for plagiarism? I make my way to the door with some caution.

It is two women who live nearby (framed by my neighbour leaning on her doorframe, which is unusual, since she usually watches all activity on our doorstep from behind her curtains (I am not kidding about this)). They have a petition. The petition concerns an unoccupied building up the road, which is currently boarded up and miserable-looking. The council, apparently, are going to "make it for the homeless," and this Will Not Do.

I suggest, very meekly, that I do not consider it a bad thing for homeless people to have homes.

They suggest, in louder, alcohol-fuelled voices, that I know what will happen if the building is made into flats for homeless people.

I respectfully disagree. (The building will no longer be derelict? Some homeless people will have a place to live? Do fill me in.)

"See, I'm not disagreeing with you," the petition-holder says. "I'd never deny someone a home. I'd never. I'm just saying, you don't know who you'll get moving in there. They won't be from our community."

Since my accent already gives me away as not being from our community myself, I don't comment on that part. "If they just made it into flats, we wouldn't know who we were getting either."

"But this'll drive the house prices right down." (Yes, that's the main problem in the British housing market right now.)

"And there'll be dozens of them," my neighbour adds. "In and out, all the time."

Sensing a friendly voice, the women on my doorstep turn as one towards my neighbour. Words of support and encouragement, viz. the dystopian crime-filled future that lies ahead of us should this plan go ahead, are parried back and forth. I wait. My neighbour calls over their heads, "So they were wondering if you'd sign it."

"Some of them might be asylum seekers," the petition-holder says, as if this will cinch it.

"Exactly," says my neighbour.

They stare at me. I shake my head. "Um, really..."

"Well, I'll tell you," says the petition-holder, with the air of someone who's been Telling You all day, "I got a homeless boy to sign this, I was just talking to him up there -"

"Up there?" There aren't many homeless people in my town anyway, and there aren't any I've ever seen in the direction of the new luxury flats she was waving towards.

"Yes! They've got all homeless in there now! And they've got homeless in a building in [a nearby] Street too! So I said 'I bet you won't sign this, then,' and he said 'No, I will, I see where you're coming from and I will.'"

"Because of the community," the other woman adds.

"But you don't have to sign it if you don't want to," the petition-holder says.

"I don't." I smile. "Thanks."

Petition-holder's friend glares at me for a long, long time. We stand frozen, cobra and rabbit. My neighbour's son, who would probably be homeless himself if his mother didn't keep taking him back in after his intermittent stays in - let's just say elsewhere - walked past talking in urgent, hushed tones to someone on the other end of a phone. There's faint music coming from a few houses down, where the police turned up in surprisingly large numbers not long ago to take away someone else. The street is dotted with cars in various states of disrepair, many of them chess pieces in some vast, incomprehensible game of chess which brings the police back every month or so: "We've had a report that the Land Rover is stolen property -" heavy sigh "- again, so if you saw anything this time..." But these are our sort of people, and nobody else deserves a house.

Hey, it's not a bad place to live. It's fairly quiet, it's fairly safe, and we now have Honorary Local status. We're still the outsiders, though. And although our neighbours already think they're entitled to our patio furniture, I draw the line at our vote.

1 Responses to Who'd live anywhere else?

  1. Laz Says:
  2. But if homeless people have a home then they won't be homeless. Therefore it won't be housing homeless people.

    If you'd said that with a really blank look on your face I bet you could have confuzzled them for hours.

    I refused to sign a petition a year or two back to ban airguns. I think we should ban idiots from having them, sure, but the airguns themselves are not the problem. They are not, by and large, lethal weapons, although accidents do happen. The boy (and I mean BOY of about 12) was really angry with me. I'm sorry a kid was killed, but I'm really tired of this "Ban It And Everything Will Be Alright" attitude. Let's stop blaming guns, knives, drugs and especially alcohol and start blaming people when they do something wrong. No, the drink didn't make you do it, idiots.

    And you know, I wasn't even in a ranting mood/mode there.

    I'm waiting for the "Ban Hoodies" petition any day now. Wait, didn't someone already try that?