After reading Homeless write to put life in context I got to thinking about an old homeless guy I knew when I was in Wellington – I’ll call him Big Al.

He had lived on the streets for about 15 years when I first met him, and I only lost contact with him because I moved to Auckland would have been good to have followed his ‘story’ through the years.

One day when Big Al came into where I was working to collect old newspapers, we got to talking; I was amazed, inspired and horrified as to how his life had unfolded and how he ended up on the street.

He had been a community adviser for a Government Dept, married with his own home. One day he came home and discovered his wife in bed with the his best friend, who’d been the best man at his wedding. Instantly Big Al’s life was changed.

He told me he hadn’t lost his temper, he simply picked up his satchel and went back out. On returning the next day he and his wife sat down and talked through what had happened, and what had led to the situation they were now in. On hearing his wife’s ‘explanation’ Big Al could see that he was perhaps one of the main causes and didn’t want his wife to ‘suffer’ in a marriage that wasn’t working for her. He packed and moved out – that night.

With nowhere to go, Big Al spent his first night on the street; and, in his words – loved the experience, except for the cold, wet and windy nights – oh, and the drunken louts.

Big Al lost his job within weeks of moving to the streets, his employer couldn’t, or wouldn’t help him; he had no way of raising money to pay for new lodgings and had promised his wife he’d continue with the mortgage payments. Lucky he did receive a substantial payment from his employer, all of which he gave to his wife to pay toward the house – she then bought him out.

With no income, and not being eligible for welfare Big Al had no option but to stay on the streets; when he did become eligible for welfare he had settled into living on the street, and didn’t want to move into a box.

Why am I sharing this? I wonder what people would have thought if they’d had the chance to read Big Al’s story, in his words; not some brief summary like this.

He was a big man, and his story was big – how can we start to get some of our local homeless writing; can we set something up in our communities to help? Should business, local or central government help or should we as a community help to set up and run something that can help homeless learn something, or simply offer some a chance they may not have otherwise had.

Are you onboard? Do you have the time and skills to help? 

While you’re here – check this out Invisible People 

Originally posted on AdageBusiness

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