Real Human Beings: Lindsey

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On Saturday I met a woman called Lindsey. Until very recently she was living in Hurstpierpoint, a genteel Sussex village. She has a job, but she currently can’t work for reasons that will become obvious. Her GP, she told me, was kind enough to sign her off with ‘stress’. Why? Because her husband assaulted her so badly that he knocked out her two front teeth. She went to a women’s refuge where she lived for 2 weeks but then had to leave – they have a lot of assaulted women, limited funding, limited rooms in their hostel. She went to the council but according to their criteria she has made herself “intentionally homeless” because there is a perfectly good house she could live in, her marital home, so they can do nothing at all for her for a fortnight. That’s the rule, apparently. Her husband was incarcerated immediately after the assault but is now out on bail. She is, understandably, too afraid to live in this home from which she has made herself “intentionally homeless”.

So when I met her, Lindsey was sitting in a shop doorway in Brighton, facing her third night of sleeping on the streets, with a sleeping bag provided by a local charity. “I couldn’t sleep on the streets in Hurstpierpoint,” she said. “It would be too humiliating. I can’t afford for anyone who knows me to see me like this. I used to walk past people like me. I used to think ‘Get a job’. I didn’t understand. It’s hard to keep your job, and impossible to get one, when you haven’t got anywhere to live. I can’t even get my teeth replaced, because I can’t see a proper dentist because I haven’t got a permanent address, only the ‘homeless dentist’, and they don’t do ‘cosmetic’ work. I didn’t know.”

If you voted Conservative on Thursday, congratulations on your win. I hope you and your loved ones never need the welfare state. And I hope you don’t mind seeing a lot more human beings like Lindsey sleeping in doorways, unable to return to their jobs and their lives. Enjoy your tax cut.

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