If you’ve not heard, I’m currently trying to raise money on someone else’s behalf. The story of how this happened has been left a little fragmented, spread across different Twitter threads, and condensed to fit character limits. So I thought it might be worth taking some time to properly explain how this came about.
Two weeks ago, I was helping out with a work event in the city centre. Often with events, I work as part of a smaller team, but this time I had a bit of a unique role and was on my own. As a side-effect, it meant I was on a different schedule to the rest of my colleagues.
Truthfully, I was feeling a bit lonely and down that day, as I went for a walk to stretch my legs and buy some lunch. I’d not slept well the night before due to the mini-heatwave we were having. When I’m only running on a few hours sleep, I often end up feeling a little sensitive and fuzzy-headed. So I knew it was nothing to worry about, but I still didn’t quite feel like myself.
To top off how I was feeling, while walking back with my lunch in hand, I was gawked at by a small child who then seemingly misgendered me to their mother in shock. It sucked. I’ve not been so blatantly misgendered and singled out like that in quite a long time, and although it generally doesn’t really bother me, it was just another small thing on top of already not feeling my best that day.
Although I was thinking of heading to the beach, due to my low mood I decided to finish lunch in a quiet spot and just listen to some music.
While walking back to work afterwards, I was snapped out of my thoughts as someone nearby called out ‘Have a nice day!’. I looked around to see who’d said it and spotted a young man sat by a wall. Walking over, I could see he was homeless. He had a sign with him, but I only glanced at it, not wanting to stand there staring. I had caught his age though, noting that he was only a year younger than me. I fished into my bag for my purse as we struck up conversation, talking about the weather and other little things. As I was explaining what I was up to that day, I demonstrated what a ditz I am by spilling my change onto the ground. Scooping it up for me, he tried to hand the change back, to which I just said he could keep it all. ‘Are you sure?’ he asked, seemingly surprised. ‘Oh of course, you need it more than I do’ It was barely any money, just a handful of coins that could scarcely buy you a sandwich, but he thanked me like I had done something truly generous. At that I had to go, to which he wished me a nice day again and I returned the gesture as I dashed off.
I then couldn’t stop thinking about him. He had been so grateful, so nice and upbeat, yet he had nowhere to live. I’d been feeling sad earlier about having nobody to spend lunch with and being misgendered by a random kid, by comparison that felt downright selfish to spare any thought to at all.
The next day I was in the city centre again, still working the same event, but this time I knew exactly what I was doing for lunch. I beelined straight for where he’d been yesterday and found him in the same spot. I said I was off to grab a frozen fruit drink and would he like one too, to which he said that’d be great. I returned with our drinks a few minutes later and asked if he minded if I joined him, to which he said I could happily go ahead. I then spent the rest of my lunch sat with him.
Okay the homeless guy I talked about in this thread yesterday? Just spent 2 hours with him chatting. He's lovely and amazing… https://t.co/ZDXVRkulj8
— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) June 30, 2017
He introduced himself formally to me, but for the sake of anonymity (more on why in a minute) we’ll call him B. We then talked about a huge range of topics, from trans rights to current politics. I’d spoken a bit about myself, explaining why I had moved down here to the coast and what it was like being trans here vs. back in my hometown. I was nervous about asking him much about why he was homeless, as I was aware I could come across as arrogantly privileged, simply looking to dish out some casual sympathy then walk away. But I also genuinely wanted to know more about him, he was such a lovely person I wanted to get to know him more. He explained somewhat about his past and what life has been like for him being homeless. Elaborating, it became clear he was the victim of truly heartbreaking circumstances. As a lot of the homeless help in the local area is geared towards addicts, it can leave everyone else at the back of the queue. Not being one, and having no criminal record, B. was often considered too “stable” to extend help to.
While sat together, only a few people even looked at him, never mind spoke to him. When a kind elderly woman finally did, her husband looked on behind her with a scowl on his face. B. then quietly explained that he had gotten used to that, it was normal for spouses or parents to disapprovingly glare at him while he was handed change or food. Despite such a dehumanising gesture, B. spoke about it in a matter-of-fact tone, disappointed but with no hint or anger or resentment. I continued to sit there, amazed at his reliance after 19 months of living like this.
Finally, after a lengthy discussion, I had to go back to work. I asked if he’d be here during the upcoming weekend Pride event, as that was when I was able to come back during the day. As he said he would be, I promised I’d pop back then and see him.
All I could think about that afternoon was how I wanted to help. Being frustratingly broke, I knew I couldn’t do much on my own, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still find a way to help. My Twitter community is full of wonderful, positive, and caring people. I was certain that if I asked, we could pool our money together and at least give him something to ease the burden. I shared the story on Twitter, giving an abridged version of what had happened and on short notice, with nothing but my PayPal link, we managed to raise £200 (you folks are incredible, thank you).
When Pride came, I brought Loretta and Laura (my housemates, for those not aware), and went to introduce them to B. while also bringing him the £200 in cash. His reaction to being handed that much money was amazement, along with endless thanks. He explained that with the money he might be able to secure somewhere to stay in the short term, it would give him a much needed break. I underlined that the money was his, and that it didn’t come with any conditions (I was remembering a story from earlier when he’d told me a man had demanded his money back when he caught him buying a book with it). We all spent some time talking and getting to know each other more before trading contact details and promising to stay in touch.
This is the point where the three of us decided we were absolutely going to make it our mission to help B. not just in the short term, but to do our best to get him out of this situation. The problem was that we were very nervous about causing him issues in future. If we used his photo and name, there was a high chance that in future this could adversely affect him, as it would essentially “out” him as having being made homeless, which would come with its own set of unfair connotations. Instead, we knew it should be his choice on what to disclose. We didn’t want to have to parade his identity on show, permanently leaving traces of it online, as the price of our help. So the result was this anonymous fundraiser, which we set up during the week with B.’s blessing.
Since then we’ve raised a really significant amount. while B. has been sending countless messages of thanks and was even moved to tears over the generosity. Unfortunately a plan to meet him over the weekend to discuss more details of what he needed, had to be canceled. With the money B. has been staying in a cheap bed & breakfast hotel, but has spent most of the time sleeping and recovering. But for this last week he’s been struggling with stomach pain and is in the process of waiting for hospital care to investigate further. In the meantime, we’re trying to keep raising money, which is all been transferred right to him. Although he lacks any kind of bank card, he does still have an open account, which means transferring the money to him has been very simple.
The long term plan is to get him out of this situation for good and into a permanent home. But that’s going to require a significant investment to overcome these hurdles. But for now, B. is safe, and finally has money for food and shelter.
And that’s the story so far, I’ll be sure to post another update once things have progressed further.