This is a true story*
A woman was shouting at the homeless man that sits outside Morrisons. He was cross legged on the pavement with a hoodie on. He’d pulled the sleeves over his hands and the hood down over most of his face. The rain had made his cardboard sign limp and the ink had run. The hoodie had probably been a different colour when it was dry and with the wetness it was heavy against his small body.
‘Get up off your backside! You’re filth, you hear? Filth!’ The woman stood with one hand on her pull-along shopper. She and I had walked the supermarket aisles at similar pace and in roughly the same order just beforehand. She had beaten me through the checkout though, and when I reached the exit she had already turned back on herself to share her thoughts. ‘You make me sick, you lazy good for nothing piece of rubbish!’ It was a message that was worthy of her standing in the rain. ‘I said get up! Show yourself to the Lord! Get up and show Him how pitiful you are!’ She shook her head, mumbling and tutting. Rain was slick on her anorak. She was wearing wellington boots.
The homeless man sat perfectly still. His back remained straight and his eyes stayed fixed on his legs. A small number of people paused to watch before moving on. I was waiting inside the doors of Morrisons for the rain to subside. She started shouting again.
‘Sick, you make me. Sick! Did you hear?’ He looked up at her. ‘Oh, so you’ll look at me now will you?’ She said. At that point he stood up and she carried on shouting, ‘Filthy animal, that’s all you are,’ She started stepping backwards away from him. He held his cup of change in his hand.
‘Don’t you dare lay a finger on me!’ she said, ‘The Lord is watching everything! He sees you!’ She said. ‘He knows who you are!’
In one sharp movement he thrust the cup towards her face from hip height. As he did so the contents – a cloud of glitter that was pink, gold, turquoise and green – flew at her. It coated her chest and stuck to her wet cheeks. Some of it went into her mouth and some landed on her hat. People in the street gasped and the woman stopped talking, staring at him with her mouth wide open. A little girl walking by with her mother started to dance and laugh in the glitter as it flipped and turned on its way to the pavement. The man picked up his cardboard sign and walked away. One of his shoes was missing a sole.
*except for the bit where he stood up and threw glitter.
In the UK Street Link have an app that allows you to send the location of rough sleepers to a crisis team who can help. It’s free and easy to use. For more information visit http://www.streetlink.org.uk/.
Odette Brady is not affiliated with Street Link and has not requested permission to advertise them or use their logo. She just hopes they don’t mind.