Waifs and strays

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Street Pastors do a good job, but is more needed?

Here’s the issue, or dilemma. It’s that time of the year when this area gets inundated with visitors. It’s been called the South Londoners’ Riviera. People come here on impulse assuming the facilities exist to get back to civilisation.

So, last Wednesday a knock on my door produced a woman on crutches who had a story to tell about coming down for the day from London and having her bag stolen on the bus. She said she reported it to the bus driver, who dropped her in Rye without telling her there was a police station round the corner, but who said he would report it to Transport Police.

She had started walking out of Rye and ended up a mile out of town at my doorstep. Asking very nicely if she could spend the night on my sofa. Not likely with a houseful of family and three dogs. So, the whole family got involved, feeling responsible and we rang the Hastings Police who gave us a reference number but no other suggestions. Finally a friend put her up for the night.

By the morning and after numerous phone calls we established she could stay overnight in St Mungos in Shepherds Bush, where she had stayed before!

Having no ID in a strange place brings about a set of circumstances where anyone can suddenly become homeless. The options are few in dealing with this. This woman had to get back to her last known address, London. Which is where all her records are and she is obviously known by women’s refuges, overnight shelters etc.

The problem here is that there is no strategy for dealing with homeless, lost, strangers in Rye. The Street Pastors do a good job monitoring helpless and homeless overnighters on Camber beach but only at weekends.

Then there is the Salvation Army, who haven’t got a base down here. After a number of calls we established that if she could get back to London, they would escort her back to the homeless overnight shelter. So we ran her up to Ashford station, bought a ticket to London and put her on a train.

We are still hoping that she made contact with the Salvation Army who seem to know how to deal with cases like this

So what is lacking? It’s not the kindness of strangers, because this woman had obviously been depending upon strangers for some time. But it is a strategy for dealing with lost people that is needed. Not only do we encourage visitors to this part of the world and advertise it as welcoming, but we fail to provide transport facilities after dark back to the station where transport may or may not be available.

Try and get out of Rye after 8pm and you will find your routes limited.

A friend living in Camber took four young people back to Rye station late one night after they knocked on his door randomly asking for help.. A neighbour has had people call at his door asking if there are any buses back to Camber. Well no, after a certain time there aren’t.

It’s not a good idea for people to walk around here after dark. There are no street lights, and no pavements. It’s dangerous. User friendly bus services later in the evening are needed which link up with the train service. And if that fails, some sort of overnight shelter is going to be necessary in Rye. This is the summer after all, and people will arrive here and make bad decisions about how to get back, not knowing about the lack of homeless night shelters. Any suggestions?

It also happened that about a week ago a beautiful black racing pigeon with a white beak, and rings on both legs, arrived in my garden and has adopted us. He sits on window ledges and waits to be fed and once came in enabling us to catch him and read a phone number from a ring.

Presumably the owner wasn’t desperate to have him back because he told us to give him some bread and he’d make his way back within a few days. He is still following me round the garden and able to scavenge for food now. I think he’s putting on weight. I like the idea that he is free to make his own decisions but winter is coming and I hope the rings aren’t going to be a burden.

I might ring the owner again but he didn’t ask where he was, so I think the pigeon, which we’ve named Boris, is on his own, depending on the kindness of strangers.

Image Credits: Rye News library .

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