Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The police efforts to demoralise us

At the risk of not being believed, I have to report that last night the alarm of the porch we sleep in was going off when we arrived at 9.00pm, didn’t stop the whole night, and was still going when we left at 5.30am. The alarm wasn’t one of these that deafen, perhaps because the sound was coming from the inside hall, but anybody two metres from the porch could hear it – the porch alarm box flashed a blue light.

That is the second time we have arrived to the porch to the sound of the alarm … only this time it went all night.

We also noted that the porch I mentioned in the last blog, which we are going to move to should we have to, was all lit up in a first in four months – to deter us from sleeping in it?

Three nights ago a worker wanted us out of the porch; the night before last two lovers took over our porch for 55 minutes; and last night the never-stopping alarm. It appears this is going to become our new nightly lot. Anyway, it is not like we are not aware that the job of the Bishopsgate City of London police is to harass and demoralise us. (To think that there was a time I chewed over the idea of studying criminology after finishing my degree in Psychology because I wanted to become a top police inspector.)

Declan is still trying to make a formal statement to reflect the typed statement he handed in to Bethnal Green Police Station for the attention of PC Richard Bentley (823 HT). Declan was twice punched in the face by a homeless called Ali in the Whitechapel Mission on 17 February. PC Bentley was the police officer who took the details from Declan at the mission – he is on his holidays at the moment.

The following is Declan’s efforts to get the police to take his statement:

Mon 19th- 9.30pm, 1st visit to Bethnal Green Police Station.
Declan hands in typed statement for PC Bentley.
Wed 21st- 10.00pm, 2nd visit to Bethnal Green Police Station. PC Bentley on his holidays. PC Calabrese of Limehouse Police Station to phone Declan.
Fri 23rd- 11.30am, 1st phone call to Limehouse Police Station. Declan told to phone back on Monday for PC Calabrese.
Mon 26th- 6.15am, 2nd phone call to Limehouse Police Station. Declan told to phone back at 7.00am for PC Calabrese.
- 7.15am, 3rd phone call to Limehouse Police Station. Declan told to phone control room.
- 7.20am, 4th phone call to Limehouse Police Station – Control Room. Declan to be phoned back immediately. (No call.)
- 7.25am, 5th phone call to Limehouse Police Station – Control Room. PC Calabrese to phone Declan.
- 8.30pm, 1st phone message from Limehouse Police Station. Declan asked to phone DC Head.
Tues 27th- 7.30am, 6th phone call to Limehouse Police Station. Declan told to phone back at 9.00am for DC Head.
- 9.00am, 7th phone call to Limehouse Police Station. DC Head to phone Declan.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A squat? I don’t think so

Last night when we arrived at the porch we sleep in, we discovered a couple had taken possession of it and were in a corner trying to look like they were hot for each other, but other than that not moving at all. So bogus, you would think they had just met and didn’t even like each other. They stayed in the porch for what must have been a very long, boring and cold 55 minutes.

So, two nights ago it was a worker that wanted us out of the porch for the night because he was going to do handiwork inside the building – but couldn’t open the door with the keys he had … and last night this couple. It doesn’t take rocket science to work out the latest idea of the Metropolitan Police: to put people in our porch, our guess is, with the intention that we voluntarily abandon it – too much hassle. They should put next a homeless, lying on cardboard, with a few cans of beer by his side. That would put us out for the night!

Declan and I have put two and two together and reached the conclusion that the police want us to move into a squat – we have heard the word “squat” quite a bit recently.

A squat! Where some homeless can assault Declan without floor staff to intervene, like in the Whitechapel Mission? Where we can be robbed, or spiked with drugs? Which the police can raid any time it pleases them, under any pretext and have us arrested? I don’t think so.

The only way the Metropolitan Police are going to get Declan and I into a squat is if in our next reincarnation – which we don’t believe in – we come back as rats. Oh, I forgot, we are not going into an empty building either.

This morning we arrived at the gates of the Sisters of Mercy run Dellow Centre at 7.30am to do our weekly laundry and were first in the queue. (The Dellow Centre doesn’t open until after 9.15am but if we don’t arrive that early, chances are we will not be given a washing machine.)

Having been told by the worker in charge of laundry that yes I can do a laundry, I nevertheless discovered when I came out of the washroom – Declan was still changing his clothes in the men’s washroom – that two homeless were in the laundry room getting undressed at breakneck speed into the only two washing machines available. When I pointed out to them that I have been outside since 7.30am and was first in the queue, they laughed me off. When I pointed out to the worker that he had told me that I could do a laundry, he says sorry, that my name wasn’t on the list and the two homeless could carry on – which they were doing anyway.

This morning also, but after the laundry business, Declan collected his new badge to sell The Big Issue from our co-ordinators in Liverpool Street – current badges become obsolete from this coming Thursday. The co-ordinators didn’t have my badge though. So Declan and I decided it was in our interest to take a bus and collect it from head office rather than have a lunch. Oh well …

Sunday, February 25, 2007

We are being moved out of our porch

Last night was quite an interesting night. Ten minutes after we arrived at the porch we sleep in, and while Declan was gone to check the result of the rugby game between Wales and France, this guy comes to me and, pointing to our bags and cardboard, tells me I have to move immediately for the night, that he is going inside the building to do some handiwork.

He had parked his car beside the porch and had with him a small rucksack and a sleeping bag – perhaps an indication of how much work he thought he had to do. While I was waiting for Declan to return, he tried repeatedly to open the door of the porch and, having failed, proceeded to make a long phone call on his mobile.

Declan and I stood in the porch until he had finished his call, after which he informed us that we could stay where we were for the night but would have to leave when he returned either tonight or tomorrow night. He then drove away. Maybe I should have pointed out to him that the keys he had could have been for the front door of the building, not the side door.

As soon as we woke up this morning (7.30am on Saturdays and Sundays, 5.15am the rest of the week), Declan went around the corner where there is another kind of porch. It is quite dirty but we are happy to clean it – we are very nice homeless people!

I told Declan not to check the porch in daylight, that the Metropolitan Police will set up somebody to move us out, but Declan said that they would do that anyway, and off he went. The police may not be a beacon of intellectualism, but they sure can come up with imaginative ways to make one’s life more difficult.

Things in Covent Garden went quite well yesterday. Despite the rain and Declan’s watching of the rugby game between England and Ireland, we still managed to sell a good number of The Big Issue magazines. Our favourite pitches, which were made unavailable to us a few weeks ago, were free yesterday and so we took the opportunity to step in to them. We have been given a pitch to sell the magazine in the West End during the week – a crowded pitch though. A guy is sharing it with us and he wants to stay in it all day, everyday.

This morning in the Whitechapel Mission a homeless guy sat in Declan’s chair while he was in the washroom. When I realised that he was going to hit me in the face if I kept telling him that the chair was occupied – Declan’s coat was hanging on the chair – I duly shut up and kept writing my blog …

Friday, February 23, 2007

Second email to the founder of The Big Issue

This morning Declan had another run with a Polish homeless guy – he was drunk, which made it even more dangerous – in the Whitechapel Mission at 6.10am. He was adamant that Declan salute him with his good morning and when Declan didn’t pay him any more attention, he began shouting at him in Polish. Then this Ali’s girlfriend (Ali being the guy that punched Declan in the face twice last Saturday) comes out from nowhere and hugs him (she told some homeless guy the Sunday before last that her brother was going to slit his throat from ear to ear).

This Pole almost assaulted (would have assaulted if floor staff hadn’t intervened) another homeless because he had sat at his table, which he wanted to be exclusively for Poles. Most Polish homeless go around in groups, in contrast with other homeless, and perhaps it is creating a bit of conflict. It is a lack of individualism, I think, encouraged by Catholic Church traditions. Social control is, I should imagine, the ultimate goal, the Catholic Church being so big on authority and rules. No doubt that is why they are equally big on the nuclear family.

And in countries like Spain, where I am from, the extended family – first cousins for example – are almost as important as brothers and sisters. When the Catholic Church wants to bury some scandal, the first thing they do is go at the family of the person they want to shut up – through the parish priest, if there are no clergy known to, or part of, the family. Sometimes it doesn’t work, most of the time it does … when it doesn’t work it is the State, through the police, that takes over. I know that because Declan and I have gone through the steps.

This morning also Declan emailed for the second time the founder of The Big Issue, Dr John Bird. We were given two green jackets on 8 February so we could sell the magazine in the City of Westminster after 6.00pm. A few days ago, we were given a pitch in Westminster for the both of us after 6.00pm, but it turned out that it wasn’t an official pitch. Anyway, this is the email:

Subject: Westminster pitch

Dear Dr Bird

I refer to my call in to your head office yesterday and this morning and, given the difficulties my wife (badge no. 1170) and I have experienced with pitches in Covent Garden, would be grateful if we could be issued a pitch protected by both pitch slip and pitch listings to sell The Big Issue in the City of Westminster after 6.00pm.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey
Badge no. 1163

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Will the ruling of a Lord Justice be unnecessary?

This morning Declan called into the Civil Appeals Office in the Royal Courts of Justice. He wanted to know primarily if there was some form he could fill out to expedite the matter of a Lord Justice’s ruling as to whether he can appeal Judge Walker’s decision of 11 December to dismiss his claim for judicial review of 24 August against the Department for Work and Pensions. Declan already filed an application for urgent consideration with his claim of 24 August – our situation must not had been deemed urgent enough at the time though. Apparently he can fill out another form that may speed things up.

Since Declan filed his amended appellant’s notice (to include transcript of judgment) in the Civil Appeals Office on 17 January, he has been assaulted twice, most recently last Saturday in the Whitechapel Mission when a homeless guy punched him twice in the face.

Not entirely satisfied with two punches, this homeless – Ali is his name – had a message passed on to Declan on Sunday to the effect that he is going to kill him outside the mission. How nice!

Yesterday morning Declan made a second visit to Bethnal Green Police Station to inquire as to when he can make a formal statement to PC Richard Bentley (823 HT), while I stayed in the mission with all our bags. He was told that PC Bentley, who dealt with Declan the morning of the assault, was on his holidays but that a PC Calabrese from another police station would phone Declan sometime next week with a view to making his written statement of 19 September formal.

When he returned to the mission who was there but Ali himself and his girlfriend. (PC Bentley had told Declan that the manager of the Whitechapel Mission confirmed that Ali had been barred.)

So, with PC Bentley on his holidays, Ali back in the Whitechapel Mission and the slow progress of our claim in the Royal Courts of Justice, perhaps a Lord Justice might not have to rule at all – Appellant deceased so to speak.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Declan’s statement to the police

Last night Declan and I delivered a typed statement to Bethnal Green Police Station for the attention of PC Richard Bentley (823 HT), who is investigating the assault on Declan by a homeless guy in the Whitechapel Mission last Saturday morning. Declan was given a crime reference number (4204886/07), and has now to be called to make the statement official.

Declan wrote the statement yesterday morning after the Dellow Centre let this homeless and his girlfriend do a laundry at the same time as us, which the two shouldn’t have because they have washing machines available to them in their respective local Salvation Army hostels.

This particular woman apparently set off one of the last fights that took place in the Whitechapel Mission on Sunday, 11 February after she shouted at some guy that her brother was going to slit his throat from ear to ear. (As reported in my blog, in all there were five fights that morning, the first two of which I witnessed.)

This is Declan’s statement:

Statement of Declan Heavey for PC Bentley (823 HT) re assault on 17 February 2007 in the Whitechapel Mission at 9.00am approx. Awaiting crime reference no.

I, Declan Heavey, a rough sleeper with my wife in the porch known as …, hereby declare that I was assaulted without provocation in the Whitechapel Mission, 212 Whitechapel Road on Saturday, 17 February 2007 by an individual called Ali by the mission staff, and herein referred to by that name.

At 9.00am approximately, I left the table I was sitting at (with four chairs connected to it, two either side) to get a cup of coffee for myself. My wife had already left to take a shower. At the back of my chair hung my coat and underneath I had one half of our belongings tied up.

I had no sooner left my chair when Ali moved from where he was and took my seat to talk with someone. I immediately returned to retake my seat before it might become more difficult to do so. Despite the non-confrontational manner with which I attempted to regain my seat, Ali accused me of being a “racist”. When I told him that he could have the seat and sought to untie the bags from the empty chair beside him, he stood up, pinning me between two tables and with my back to the wall.

He continued his loud and aggressive tirade about me being a racist, to which I continued to insist that he take the seat. As his tone became even more menacing, I looked over his shoulder for floor staff to come and cool him down. It was then that I received the first punch, to the right-hand side of my chin, with my hands down by my side. I had no sooner looked over his shoulder again for floor staff to intervene when I took the second punch, this time to my left cheek, my hands remaining down by my side. At this, a worker shouted, “Hey, hey!”

As soon as I could, I untied all the bags and moved them to the front of the canteen area to wait for my wife. Before she finished showering, the police arrived. PC Bentley (823 HT), having been introduced to me by the manager of the Whitechapel Mission, acknowledged from sight of my left cheek that I had been hit. I confirmed that I wished to press charges.

As I spoke with PC Bentley, his colleagues sought to arrest Ali, who had fled the building, apparently without his jacket. PC Bentley confirmed that he had been advised by the manager of the mission that Ali had been barred.

Yesterday, while I was shaving in the Whitechapel Mission washroom, a friend of Ali’s informed me that Ali wanted me to know that I would be killed by him outside the mission. I reported this to the manager of the mission as soon as I left the washroom.

Signed: ______________________           Dated: 19 February 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Declan is punched twice in the face

This morning in the Whitechapel Mission Declan was punched twice in the face by a homeless guy, while I was taking a shower. We know this homeless well because his girlfriend gets lavished with good clothes and toiletries by both the Whitechapel Mission and the Dellow Centre – in total contrast to me, I might add.

Declan actually took the two punches with his hands down by his side because he knew that if he defended himself, which he was entitled to do, he could very well have been the one arrested by the police. Neither of us is under any illusion that Declan would not have had one single witness – homeless or staff – going with him. It was only after the second punch that the worker standing by made a move to put a stop to it.

When the police arrived this homeless just took off out of the building, but not before taking off his jacket and leaving it behind him. Are some of these homeless used to running off or what?

Declan is of course pressing charges, just in case he is now perceived as a punch bag for any of the homeless that visit the Whitechapel Mission. So, he has to give the police a statement and the police then take it from there. I don’t think this homeless guy has much to be concerned about though.

PC Stephanie Tann (737 FH), who was supposed to phone Declan in relation to the assault on him in a WLCHC rolling shelter, never bothered getting back to him one way or another. How could the WLCHC find that assault an “accident”, if there were not witnesses and the assailant identified?

With some homeless you just can’t win. If you point out that he has sat in your chair – with your coat hung on the back of it and half your belongings underneath – he takes exception to the tone you have taken with him. When you tell him he can have the chair and you attempt to move your belongings, you get punched.

When Declan complained to the manager of the Whitechapel Mission about how long it took the worker to move in his defence, she told him that staff don’t get involved in fights and that people enter the mission at their own risk … wouldn’t it be anarchy if public institutions operated this policy?

I think the Methodist Whitechapel Mission ought to be informed that they owe a common duty of care to visitors to their establishment. This is to ensure that the visitor will be reasonably safe in the premises for the purposes for which he has been invited or permitted.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back to sleep deprivation techniques

For the last two nights the Metropolitan Police have been using some of their usual sleep deprivation techniques against us: alarms close-by (although this time none of them came from the medical centre across the road) and cars parking by our porch at all hours of the morning despite that both sides of the entire street were free for parking, with drivers and/or passengers banging doors.

The police are so desperate to shake our world – well, the one we have been reduced to – I wouldn’t be surprised if next they turn up and ask us to leave the porch we have been sleeping in since 3 November (save a brief period in WLCHC rolling shelters), that they have received complaints. That is going to be a difficult one to pull though. We sleep at the side of an office building, and leave at 5.30am every morning – hardly the material for a complaint.

The Whitechapel Mission is the best place to measure the temperature, so to speak, of the whole situation. Yesterday morning it was piping hot ... we hadn’t even sat at a table and this homeless guy approaches holding some pastry he wants me to accept. When Declan declines the offer, he starts hurling abuse at him. We were actually close to walking out of the building, even though it was only 6.10am and we had nowhere to go. The last thing we are going to do is wait around for an assault. (On Sunday morning there were five different fights in the Whitechapel Mission within the space of a half an hour. As I mentioned in my last blog, the police were called after a guy had apparently been head butted.)

This lunch time, while I was selling The Big Issue at Liverpool Street station, this old homeless appeared out of nowhere and started selling some plants for £1 each to passers-by just two metres away from my pitch. He was there for 45 minutes and was not removed by the police for selling in the street illegally, despite that Liverpool Street is heavily patrolled by police … they are so concerned about a terrorist attack that there is not a single bin inside the station. Needless to say, I did little selling while he was there. Anyway, I have told Declan that if he is back tomorrow, I am going to Chelsea library to buy 30 of their 10p books and I am going to sell them beside this homeless man – obviously this is a spot where street traders need not to worry about Council approved vendor ID badges.

Two days ago we went to another journalist – do the Metropolitan Police think that we are going to take a trip to the River Thames and jump into it? In addition to pertinent documents in the case of Heavey v Birmingham Erdington Jobcentre Plus and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Declan again enclosed some pages from our NAC website so that the journalist can see where everything is emanating from. We know that when our story breaks domestically, we are going to get a tremendous amount of local support. After all, England is a secular country and most people have little time for religion. Add to that the serious threat that the Vatican and the Christian Right present for progress and secular values, and the best cards are with us.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Will there be a police visit tonight?

Yesterday morning the Whitechapel Mission became the scene of five different fights – all of them in the space of a half an hour. The first was between two women; the second between two Poles. We didn’t see number three, four or five because Declan thought it more appropriate to drink our coffee outside the building. A homeless guy that left the establishment by the back door fed us the news.

The eventful breakfast finished with the arrival of the police – we did see that bit – after apparently somebody got head butted. This morning another fight was averted after one homeless guy manhandled a troublemaker out of the mission, the floor staff happy to remain in the kitchen. The troublemaker later turned up in the Dellow Centre to be promptly shown the front gate by the cook … the Sisters of Mercy don’t tolerate aggressive behaviour even if they themselves are infamous for it.

In relation to the fights that took place yesterday in the Whitechapel Mission, one of the workers who was unable to establish order was in his element when a half an hour earlier he gave me one of the smallest towels he had and a sachet of conditioner instead of the shampoo I asked for.

Anyway, we don’t know if there were more fights in the mission this morning because we left at 7.30am for the Dellow Centre so we could do a laundry. Although the Dellow Centre starts letting people in after 9.15am, if we don’t stand outside their gates well before 8.00am we run the risk there will be no washing machines left … that didn’t happen at the beginning though.

With this arrangement we only do one laundry a week. You would think that one laundry involving one dryer is a pretty straight forward business: you press one button and then another until the clothes are dry. Not in the Dellow Centre. Last Monday, the worker in charge of laundry wanted Declan to take our clothes out of the dryer despite the fact that they were not dry, and when Declan wouldn’t do that we returned to discover that the dryer had been turned off unknown to us … this morning Declan stood beside the dryer the whole time, although the same worker didn’t seem too happy about it.

In relation to me and the Dellow Centre, well it is more or less the usual, except that now I have to also deal with some women that are coming from the women’s hostel down the road from the centre. At 9.15am one of them almost ran over me, she was that desperate to enter the building before me, despite that I had been there for an hour and 15 minutes before her. Then in the women’s toilet, they took turns showering in the only shower available – why would they do that when they have showers available in their hostel? I was actually lucky to sneak a quick shower almost at the last moment. Like the men’s Booth House, this hostel is also run by the Salvation Army for those who are in receipt of benefits, which we are not. But even if it was free, after my experience with some of these women, they would have to bring me in a straightjacket for me to even put my foot in it.

In the past when the Dellow Centre and the Whitechapel Mission were going at us that extra mile it usually meant that the Metropolitan Police would pay us a visit at night – they have visited our patch in Whitechapel four times so far. I mean we are the ideal homeless: we don’t drink or smoke; we leave the porch we sleep in clean; and we leave at 5.30am. What reason have the police to harass us?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Has a Lord Justice ruled?

Declan eventually got the two Westminster vendor jackets from the Big Issue head office yesterday – after three visits to the office to sort it all out. It means that we can now sell The Big Issue in the City of Westminster after 6.00pm. We might as well, because after the difficulties we ran into last weekend with pitches in Covent Garden, not to mention our loss of earnings yesterday, we have been hit financially.

To receive letters from the Royal Court of Justice, Declan has the Whitechapel Mission as a care of address. However, since last Monday there has been no listing for post received by the mission for the homeless appearing on the monitor installed in the breakfast area. Monday and Tuesday Declan had to return to the mission mid-morning, to be told through the intercom that there was no post for him. Yesterday, because Declan was in and out of the Big Issue head office well into the afternoon, he had to phone instead. And all he repeatedly got was a voice mail.

This morning he established with a member of staff that all post is sorted for certain by 1.00pm and that he should phone after that time – he still could get a voice mail, nothing he can do about that – and if he has post he has until 3.30pm to collect it. So if he is selling The Big Issue at his pitch in Liverpool Street and there is post for him in the Whitechapel Mission, he will have to pack his bags and, in the heart of London’s traffic, take a bus to the mission to collect his post. The thing is he has no choice in the matter, especially now that he is waiting for a Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal to rule on whether or not we can appeal Judge Walker’s decision of 11 December to deny us permission to apply for a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions. Perhaps he has been called to a hearing to determine the matter, and we don’t know.

On Monday also, Declan found out that three of the four sink stoppers in the men’s toilet in the mission had been removed. All the homeless now use bits of toilet paper in an attempt to contain water – how do you shave otherwise? More than once, Declan has walked into sinks full of dirty water with clumps of toilet paper strewn everywhere. Declan wanted to buy a stopper for himself – he even had the one remaining stopper measured up – but he was told this morning by a member of staff that he couldn’t and that they would fit stoppers when they can. I have seen one homeless guy shave himself in the breakfast area in one of their foam cups for the coffee.

This morning also, while I was in the women’s toilet in the mission at 6.10am (we now wake up at 5.15am), a homeless woman came in. Without minding that I had my mouth full of toothpaste, she wanted me to give her something of mine – I assume some of my toiletry. She was so pushy and aggressive that I went into one of the toilets and locked the door – toothpaste and all.

This is not the first time I have ran into a homeless woman, or to better clarify, a homeless woman has ran into me. A few weeks back another homeless woman hassled me while we were both queuing outside the Dellow Centre after I wouldn’t get into conversation with her.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Email to the founder of The Big Issue

Declan has emailed the founder of The Big Issue, Dr John Bird MBE. Bird co-founded The Big Issue in 1991 with Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop. Bird is also running for Mayor of London. The difficulties that Declan is referring to in this email below I already elaborated about in my last blog, so I will not go into any more detail.

Other difficulties we are also running into are in the Dellow Centre. Of late more than half the queue outside the gates of the centre in the morning is of homeless living in Booth House (a close-by men’s hostel, run by the Salvation Army, that only accepts benefits). They already get a breakfast there so it is really a mystery to me what they are doing queuing outside the centre at 8.30am. Anyway, queues are now longer than before, and therefore we are waiting for longer to be let in after 9.15am.

Last Tuesday morning in the centre, with my usual cereal breakfast, I was given a coffee so black that when I added milk it was still black. When I asked the volunteer working in the kitchen to give me a less strong coffee, she put some of the content of my cup in the sink and then added another teaspoon of coffee before handing it back to me. Declan wasn’t too impressed with me complaining. He says that from now on he is going to get the same treatment.

Anyway this is the email Declan sent to John Bird this morning.

Subject: Westminster vendor jackets

Dear Dr Bird

I refer to my call in to your head office yesterday and this morning and, given the difficulties my wife (badge no. 1170) and I experienced last weekend with pitches in Covent Garden, would be grateful if we could each be issued a Westminster vendor jacket to enable us sell The Big Issue in the City of Westminster after 6.00pm.

Yours sincerely
Declan Heavey
Badge no. 1163

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Still waiting for a Lord Justice to rule

Well, I have to say that there is nothing I miss from the WLCHC (West London Churches Homeless Concern) rolling shelters: the food was bearably eatable (with the exception of their Monday shelter at the Chelsea Methodist Church); the women’s rooms were of late unheated; homeless were catching scabies off blankets and mats; and the women had to usually share toilets with the men. Then, of course, there were some of the homeless themselves. I wonder if faith-based initiatives can provide anything other than half-baked services.

From now until April, our biggest challenge is going to be the weather - apart from the usual police harassment. It snowed two nights before we had to quit the WLCHC programme on 28 January.

We have bought high quality thermals (top and bottom) for the both of us with money we earned this week selling The Big Issue. Other expenses were two seven-day bus passes (£28), plus food (lunch and dinner, sometimes breakfast). On Friday, the base of my left foot was swollen as result of all the standing around I had been doing. Anyway, if you take out the cold, and people are sauntering, we both enjoy selling The Big Issue.

Covent Garden is where we have been going on weekends – our pitches at Liverpool Street station just die for us on Saturday and Sunday. And up to last weekend we had been getting two pitches in Covent Garden that worked very well for us, while at the same time keeping our bags safe. Not any more. Yesterday, one of the Big Issue coordinators in Covent Garden informed Declan that both pitches are restricted. When Declan asked for two other pitches that have also worked for us, he was informed that one is restricted and someone had just been sent to the other.

Our new pitches turned out to be almost a washout. We didn’t know where to put our bags and passers-by were not buying the magazine. In regard to the bags, the majority of Big Issue vendors – we get on with a number of them, especially in Covent Garden – carry only a small rucksack. The reason is that they are either in temporary accommodation or hostels. But you need benefits for such placement and our claim for unemployment benefit was terminated on 27 September.

On the subject of benefits, Declan lodged his amended appellant’s notice (to include transcript of judgment) in the Civil Appeals Office in the Royal Courts of Justice on 17 January, and still a Lord Justice in the Court of Appeal has to give us the go-ahead to appeal Judge Walker’s decision of 11 December to refuse us permission to apply for a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Funnily enough, when Declan first lodged his application for judicial review on 24 August, he did so with an application for urgent consideration. I don’t know why they bother providing such an application when it can be so easily disregarded.

Our case certainly casts a shadow on the whole idea of the integrity of the Court, especially when the DWP can so blatantly deny us the right to the internal review process prior to irrationally terminating our claim on 27 September (because Declan did not “sign on” two days before he was due to do so on 29 September), and we are still waiting – having been forced to sleep rough – for the Court to rule on permission to appeal.

Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, writes: “I went from having an idealistic view of the law as a sword of justice to a perception of the law as a tool used by the ruling class to shape society in a way favorable to itself. I never expected justice in court, however much I fought for it, and though I sometimes received it.” I can’t think of anybody more qualified to make such an assessment, so I am happy to go with him.