Last week I hosted a lunch and film showing which was made by Richard Hall, a friend of mine whom I met on the streets of Peterborough.
I sorted out the venue, the beautiful St John the Baptist church building in the city centre and one of my chaplain volunteers Sheila provided all the food for over 80 people. (amazing lunch!) With the help of people who I had randomly met on the streets we had over 80 guests attentively watch a film which gave insights as to what life is like on the streets. The Lady Mayoress and a local MP were amongst the guests, however, what was a real encouragement was the ammount of people who were there from the streets.
Richard did a wonderful job of capturing something of peoples lives on film. The story of Mark and how his mum had called him a ‘smack head’ when he was a teenager had somehow stuck with him and he had ended up becoming a heroin addict. He described one fateful day when he went home as a 17 year old boy to find his mum had moved out. Everything had been taken apart from a few plastic items: cup, plate and a soon and knife. Everything elce had gone.
The story of a man who sells the ‘big issue’ called Simon stuck with me. He had a hernia but couldn’t get it sorted as he always carried his world possessions with him in a heavy rucksack.
The film maker did a good job of showing the heart ache and fragility of living on the streets or being part of the street culture in parallel with the political work and policies of the council to seek to engage with and help people in vunrable circumstances. The film showed the tension of policies designed to enpower people off the streets and attempts not to create or sustain a street culture. However, in so doing these polices somehow were portrayed as something quite heartless.
Above the success of the lunch and showing of the film the thing that has encouraged me the most was how I was able to work with a guy I had met on the streets on a project that brought many kinds of people together. This wasn’t some kind of preachy thing or an excuse to push something evangelistic. This was an opportunity to serve and work alongside someone on a project that showed compassion and ultimately something of the heart of God for those who are poor and lack family and belonging.