I stopped and spoke to Paul yesterday, a homeless guy sat in Shirley high street. I’d popped into a card shop and saw him and thought I’m going to stop and speak to him on the way out and at least offer to buy him a coffee. I’d heard on social media that’s something homeless people actually would like - to be acknowledged.
I passed him I said “Hi, are you ok?”. We struck up a conversation. He was just really happy to be talking. I asked him if he had a place to stay, he told me he was ‘sofa surfing’ but soon might have to sleep in the park. I asked him how he came to be homeless, he explained that he had a place but some people befriended him and hijacked his flat and his money, they kicked him out and he ended up living in a tent. Those same people poured petrol on his tent and set it in fire with him still in it! He suffered from terrible burns on his legs (which he showed me) and he had to have skin grafts. The people were caught thankfully and they got 5 years each.
He had become depressed & dependent on his painkillers & alcohol. I asked him what he wanted to do, he told me he has no hope, I told him you’ve always got to have hope for the future. All I could offer him at that point was a friendly chat and the offer of a meal. But I knew a place that could possibly help him with a plan for the future... they have a shop which was just down the road from where we stood... Betel.uk ‘Restored’. I told Paul about Betel, I knew about their work as I’ve worked with them on a few projects before in the past. They are an independent Christian charity for men, women and families affected by drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness.
I thought he might say he’d heard of them already tbh, but he hadn’t. I told him about their great work and told him he should try and contact them. We also went on to talk about that he used to do gardening work (which seemed to make him happy), Gods, Sumerians, Atlantis, planetary systems and the geometry of the universe.
I went and bought him a meal from @boracoffeeco and pointed to where Betel was and told him to go and ask if they could give more information.
I left him in peace to eat his food. I had to walk passed the store ‘Betel - Restored’ so I asked if they had any leaflets, they did, I was so thankful because the leaflet explained exactly who they were & what they did. I took it back up to Paul and told him to pop back to the shop or call them when he could.
I walked away thinking “what a lovely guy Paul was... I hope he goes to Betel and they can help him with his future”.
I knew about Betel because a few years ago I'd popped into a charity shop in Shirley High Street and got speaking to one of the mangers there. She'd told me that Betel had helped her escape an abusive relationship and alcohol abuse and helped her turn her life around. They'd taken in her and her children and now she was happy with life and had hope for her and her childrens' future.
That story resonated with me, I took a leaflet from her and kept it for a long time, before one day I called Betel and offered my services, I wanted to offer something to them to help them in any way I could. I offered my photography services, I helped create a library of images they could use in self promotion to help spread the word of what they did. I, also created this photo/film, in which Timon tells his testimony of how Betel changed his life for the better too.
For more information visit http://www.betel.uk
Thanks for reading.