Thursday, 20 November 2014

A Man In A Van

Just across a field length from the Ukrainian village a man lives in a van.
He's hidden away behind a hedge from the main road through the village, and is surrounded by sheep, by all accounts he has fallen on hard times.
I've met him a couple of times as he has bought eggs from me and he seems nice enough, but I often think of his situation when I am out with the dogs on their last walk of the night and I stare out over the black fields to see a tiny single light in the damper van window.
Some say that he is totally responsible for his present situation, who knows......but whatever is the reason he has left the family home to live in a van, the plight of " hard times" makes you think.......
Well, it's made me think.
How quickly can circumstances change in what we all would consider to be a normal life eh?
A sudden loss of a job, a relationship breakdown, a death, ill health, whatever the reason it is all too common for some of us to be reminded that we are not invincible in this world and that home is not always that " God given" fact that we always think it is.



101 comments:

  1. As odd as it may seem some people, for what ever reason actually choose to live like that and don't find it a hardship. Some actually make it appealing. Look up Tiny-homes and Tumbleweed houses.

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    1. True.....it must be difficult for families though...

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  2. When my father in law was a diplomat, he had a good friend who worked at the foreign office, who lived in his car. He couldn't find an apartment so decided to camp in Hyde Park. I believe he lived there for over a year, and no-one knew.

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    1. That kinda supports " could happen to anyone" phrase

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  3. I work with the homeless and the hungry and more often than not, it is illness, age, or something that can happen to anyone of us that got them in such dire circumstances.

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    1. Heartbreaking work A
      And growing problem I guess eh?

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    2. It is more heartwarming to help another, even if it is only temporary. Heartbreaking is when there is no one who cares.

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  4. Since I lost my job last spring, I do my best to keep these thoughts at bay, lest I drop into sheer panic. And every day I count Miss Chef and her solid income as one of my primary blessings. Then I go about my routing of procrastinating on finding better-paying writing gigs by hanging about on Facebook and Blogger. I'm a treat, ain't I?

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  5. *routine. Perhaps routing would pay better, whatever it is.

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    1. Any luck finding another job Alison....anything on the horizon?

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    2. I haven't been looking as hard as I should, since dabbling in writing is so much more fun (I am getting some income, only it's about 1/10th of what I used to make). I've picked up a few shifts with a baker at a local market, and wish I could do more of that. But no, nothing permanent as of yet.

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  6. Having been laid off from one career job, I can testify to the "nothing lasts forever" sentiment. Fortunately I've always managed to move on to the next thing, which is a struggle for many people.

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    1. I guess it's all about how adaptable you are.
      I have been a nurse 34 years...I doubt I could cope if I had to think to do something new

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  7. My mother likes to point out what failures me and my partner are at every opportunity. Not so, weve 5 great grown kids 2 grandchildren , no money. but everything we need . I dont class that as failure

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    1. She sounds like a bag of laughs Kate x

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  8. there but for the grace of God go I...

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  9. Yes John, I talked about this only yesterday; it is indeed a fine line between everything going well and suddenly it can all be gone.

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    1. Looking at the comments Rachel..... Clearly the readers have more interesting stories of their own

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    2. I saw it first hand over 35 years ago. Nothing has changed in spite of what people may think. In the old days of No Fixed Abode there was only the night shelter or the bus shelter. There was very little in between . We have at least three night shelters here.

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    3. Ours ( next to our samaritains office) has just closed!

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    4. We have a lot of people on the streets here.

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  10. Well said John and all too true. So many of the so called 'down and outs' living under the Hungerford Bridge and suchlike, have once had what they considered to be a 'normal' life. We can all fall on hard times - thankfully most of us have loving family and friends for support if such a thing occurs.

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    1. I know often it is said that people have choices
      Especially as alcohol or drugs are concerned with the " fall from grace" so to speak
      But as Kelley said
      " there for the grace of God go I"

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    2. Don't know if anyone's mentioned this below, but a huge number of bankruptcies in our "greatest country in the world" are due to catastrophic medical costs. Which makes the ongoing campaign against Obama's health insurance reform all the more despicable.

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  11. I say god bless the Salvation Army. They are the people who truly care. There are homeless people in the countryside and in the towns and cities.

    Can you talk to the man in the van, John? Perhaps we could all donate something through your blog and help him out? What about a 'Going Gently' Christmas appeal for the homeless?

    Have you read Alan Bennett's 'Lady In The Van'?

    I'll think of your man in the van tonight and offer up a prayer for him.

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    1. He's still working Dave so I think he's doing ok
      It was a lovely thought from you though.
      As for the Bennett novel. Yes I've read and enjoyed it.....Maggie smith plays her in the forthcoming movie!

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  12. I am waiting to hear if I am to be made redundant in January - going to have a lovely Christmas! I am in a 2 bed council flat, and technically have one bedroom too many, even though my daughter stays most weekends. So may have to move from the village I grew up in and all my family live in too... This problem has crept up behind me and bitten me well and truly on the a$$. The way I look at the world has changed so much in a very short space of time, I can tell you...

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    1. Debdor,
      As I suspected many commentators here will have equally difficult moments in their lives like you indeed are experiencing .
      It is bloody sobering
      Take care x

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  13. He's living independently and hasn't has to resort to a shelter, so hopefully he is Ok. Hope he is warm and has enough food.

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    1. And it was kind of the owner of the field to sort him out too Chania x

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  14. Life can spin on a dime...one minute you're heads and the next..it's tails. Be kind to everyone you meet...you never know when you will be in the need of a bit of kindness yourself.

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  15. I am luckier than many and I know it.
    When I came back home after dropping the children off at school I found my husband had walked out. Seems he was unhappy and didn't want to live with a sick, old (I have several health problems that are comprising my life) fat woman who didn't want to golf anymore. Didn't want to deal with the children either.
    I had to move from my home, my friends and move to a new state at age 62. So I could live and help support our children who where still in school.
    Yes, your life can change in the blink of an eye.
    And as I said I am luckier than some. I live carefully.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Gayle
      Thank you for sharing this. Not an easy subject
      But seeing your amazing home, and scotties....you clearly have triumphed
      Jxx

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  16. My hubby, a computer engineer, was made redundant twice back in the ninety's, in the "clear your desk in an hour" era. He is now, and has been an hgv driver for the past 12 years. So yes John, one must be adaptable and be prepared to move in whatever direction fete points you to.

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    1. Did he end up loving the change?

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  17. After 35 years marriage, my charming ex-wife decided she would prefer life without me, 19 years 11 months into a 20-year mortgage. She stayed in the marital home, and I was made homeless, jobless (I worked from home) and moneyless (she milked our bank account and closed it); she even burned my credit card bills so I lost my credit rating.

    If it hadn't been for a very good friend allowing me to live in his spare room for a few weeks until I found a rented place, (the council didn't help as I wasn't over 65, under 18 or pregnant) that van might have been me.

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    1. I replied to this post below

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    2. I am slack jawed. What a repugnant person she is. Hope you are okay now Cumbrian

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  18. Some people are downsizing because all the things they have are overwhelming now. Some people are nomads at heart. Some people have fallen on hard times.

    When he next comes for eggs, maybe he is actually looking for a little human contact and maybe a friendly ear?

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  19. The more comments I read here, the luckier I feel. Apart from a few family deaths (which we all have)..I have very little to moan about in my life ( past and present)
    Hey ho

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  20. A very sobering post John, I think we all have someone close that is going through very hard times and may be in need of our help.

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  21. I always feel lucky and very grateful for what we have. I worked in social services for many long years and I saw this situation every day. For many it was a choice but for so many others it was hard times situations and job loss. Prayers and thoughts are with him.

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  22. I'm interested in how he came to be a living in a van. Was there no other alternative or as someone suggests, does he actually prefer it? You should try and winkle the story out of him.

    As everyone is saying, a life can be turned upside down overnight, given an unfortunate chain of events. It could happen to any of us and we should count our blessings while we have them. I was made redundant twice and had long spells of unemployment but luckily in the end I managed to find interesting new jobs.

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    1. I thank goodness that I am in a profession which is pretty safe
      I can only imagine just how hard it is to cope with a job that just kicks you out

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  23. I used to work with homeless women and children, it can happen to anyone.

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  24. So true. And I like what Delores said too.

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  25. I had a friend who chose to live in a van. She fitted it out beautifully and had a tiny woodburning stove which made it cosy. She moved from place to place, here and abroad, doing seasonal work and valued her independence. Takes all sorts. (which is not to belittle the tales of true hardship).

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    1. I think this case is very different by all accounts

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    2. I'm sure you're right John and wouldn't want to undermine what you and others are rightly saying. Just pointing out that there are all sorts of ways of living.

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  26. No, but needs must. He is away all week and you get on with it don't you! We enjoy our time together, talk and laugh every day on the phone and look to the future. He does wood carving in the cab when he is parked up.

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    1. Funny what suddenly becomes normal eh?

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  27. It's something we talk about and wonder about often. Some years back, I was the only one working and the recession had hit. We had no savings, a huge debt, and my company was laying off hundreds of people. All we could have done was move to the middle of the country and live with a family member who could afford to and WOULD HAVE taken us in. It was the first time we had an inkling of how easy it would be to end up without a home. And we realized, unlike so many people, we had the luxury of that family member. Many people don't even have that.

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    1. Good point.........throwing yourself on someone's good nature must be a difficult thing to do...thank goodness for family

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  28. Since losing my home in the GFC, I have found myself worrying that we would end up living in the car each time we have had to move rental premises. Fortunately, I have family who would not let that happen, so it is probably an irrational worry. But I think it is more common than we would like to think.

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    1. I am beginning to realize that carol

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  29. Back in the late 80s , there was a woman and her children living in the little wood Hal way down Gwaenysgor hillside .....you would often see them sat in the little wooded area or in Prestatyn trying to be allowed in the shops ( they smelt industrial ) .......she was evicted from her flat because she refused to get rid of her 3 dogs .....so she took eviction on the chin and lived in that make shift shelter for a couple of months with her young children and dogs ....she became a focus of the local newspaper and they eventually took on her moral crusade and used it to get her rehoused by the " heartless council " ......

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    1. That's interesting jace
      When I collected the oral histories from Trelawnyd's old folk, Trevor Evans told me of the villager who fell on hard times who moved into the GOP farm dove cote
      And died there

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  30. I have thought.about her many a time while driving up the hill ....she had mental health issues apparently ......her kids would be adults now and possible parents as well ....hopefully they have a roof over their heads and their mother got suitable help ....

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    1. I hope people in Prestatyn made the effort to feed her.

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  31. Oh yes. Change is only a heart-beat away. And some of those changes are frightening.
    I am glad your van dweller has enough money for eggs. And love that you think of him.

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  32. Sorry to change the subject but you might enjoy this bulldog related clip, it is interesting and apparently true, but slightly mysterious as how they discovered the peculiar phenomenon - http://family.sfglobe.com/?id=19372&src=fbfan_19372

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    1. Lily is a darling......a fascinating read and video.........
      Thank you for that

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  33. The cost of living has skyrocketed and incomes have stayed stagnant. Unless you are the 1% as we all know.
    What scares me and upsets me is that here in the US is that an illness can wipe you out financially and yet no one sees that as a major problem. But let's keep fighting "socialist medicine". Asses.

    A close friend of mine had to live with an Aunt after her and her boyfriend broke up and she lost her job. She was part of the group here in the US decimated by the lack of unemployment extensions. She struggled doing temp jobs, borrowed money, and almost had her car repossessed. She applied to any and all jobs. Employers have had the upper hand for some time here now. She was laid off twice and could not even get a job as a receptionist or in retail since she did not have "experience". Seriously, it angers me to realize how many people willing to work are turned away.
    After getting a job in Macy's in NYC, it was hell but she was happy to be getting a small paycheck, she was offered a full time position at an insurance company and is working with her creditors. She wiped out her 401K and her savings to survive. She has sworn she will never end up in a situation like that again, but many things put that in motion.
    On a side note, Obamacare actually helped her get all her physicals and dental work so yea for a success story with that.

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    1. At least in the UK health care is free at point of delivery, saying that I wonder just how long that will last for. Already if you are elderly and own your own home, it is unlikely you can keep the house if healthcare is needed when frail and in need of care......
      400 grand savings bloody hell

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    2. John, a 401K refers to a particular kind of retirement savings plan, not shorthand for 400 grand - easy to misinterpret if you're not from the US - still, a sad story. We used most of our retirement savings during two periods when my husband was out of work, and amassed quite a bit of debt just to live during those times.

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    3. Oh yes, sorry, should have been clear that 401K is a savings plan here where employers match up to a certain amount.

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  34. You're right...it could happen to anyone. A friend of mine (who's husband left her) and who has a daughter to care for is unable to find work in the area in which she has a degree level qualification, has been forced to take very low paid work with long hours. Now the council want to compulsorily purchase the whole road she works in to 'redevelop'. What they are doing is creating mass unemployment and misery as there are lots of successful small businesses there and many more people affected, apart from my friend...no-one listened to planning objections. I thought local councillors were OK as politicians go...I was wrong.

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    1. Everyone should have a warm bed, and a bit of security eh

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  35. Life has taught me (sometimes in the harshest way) not to plan or count on anything.

    Am a little concerned about the fella in the van. A car in September is one thing, but a van this time of year is something quite different.

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    1. I think he likes adrink .....not too good with snow around

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  36. I was told it is just too cold to live in a caravan in an UK winter, that they are virtually impossible to heat.

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    1. And you'd be right Andrew........

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  37. Maybe his wife really pissed him off.

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    1. I think the reality of the situation was completely the other way around

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  38. Never take a homely life for granted is what I say John. I could tell you a few things about being homeless, and they ain't good.

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    1. I'm interested to hear them Gary

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  39. we are arrogant if we think we are immune to homelessness. i hope he is ok

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    1. I have started to remember that saying about 6 degrees of separation
      Things are all connected

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  40. A very thin line indeed between 'us' and 'them'. Good post John, thanks for sharing.

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  41. When I first started worked as a social worker, I was struggling to get along on a minimal salary and could was having trouble paying my own heat & water. That afternoon in January, a new client arrived looking unkempt & rumpled clothing to ask for help finding a job. He told me he & his wife and 6 kids had been camping in a park all winter & their old car needed new tires so he could look for work. He then told me his wife had given birth 10 days before and the infant was now sick, They were all out waiting for him in the car in the freezing parking lot. I invited them all in to my office because I did not want them to be out in the sub freezing temps while we tried to sort out how I could help him. These little kids were as covered with dirt as you imagine children in a Dicken's novel. Never had I seen children with dirt smug marks on their faces & arms. It had been a long time since they had been able to wash up or had running water. I suddenly remembered I had one of those big boxes of peanut better crackers. As soon as I brought them our of the drawer & those kids saw what they were I was practically knocked over as their eyes opened wide at the sight of food. It was the saddest thing I had ever witnessed. Children so starving they could not keep stop themselves from grabbing for food. It only made me feel badly that I had nothing more substantial to offer them. I brought them out & was practically jumped on they were so hungry. I did managed to get the baby seen by a doctor (pneumonia) & a voucher for a week at a motel. The new tires were the easiest thing to provide for this man, I never saw them after that day, but in the years since, anytime I catch myself feeling financially stressed, I remember that family & the poverty & look of true hunger in those children's eyes. I remind myself that I may not have what I want, but I scrap by with what I need. Most people in the US are one paycheck away from poverty & homelessness. More than half out children go to bed hungry. What a disgrace for the richest & most generous nation in the world to allow our children to go without food, shelter and basic necessities. I have never understood why our own citizens must live like this when people in the US donate more money to charity than any other country. Why are our own people suffering & not our priority and then help the rest of the world. Anyone's world can be turned upside down in an instant. Wouldn't we appreciate a helping hand if we fell on hard times? In the US half the households are one paycheck away from being homeless & in poverty. More than half the children here go to bed hungry. Mostly hidden in the suburbs now rather than the urban areas most assume poverty lies, No, these days poverty is hidden in nicer middle class homes & places you would not suspect.

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    1. I was wondering if you would comment
      Thank you Ellen
      It's sobering to think that in small pockets of this modern world poverty lies stark and real
      X

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  42. A very difficult issue, the fine line between security and insecurity. It is even more complicated if there are issues mental health, substance abuse, illness, or disability. As a society we don't do a good job of supporting individuals who need help to be self sufficient.

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  43. Our lives can change in an instant, for better or for worse. That is why kindness to strangers is a great virtue. I think that man appreciates his short interaction with you when he buys eggs from you. A moment of normalcy in his day and a kind word from you too, I imagine from reading your blog.

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  44. Too many people are a paycheck or two away from utter devastation.

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  45. This hits close to home...
    As a child, after my folks separated and my mother and I were in a nasty car accident, she and I ended up living with one her brothers and his wife. Mom was in traction, so unable to do anything, and the small benefit she received weekly went to her brother to cover our keep. It was a filthy house and, at 5'3" and 101 lbs., they decided I had to go on a 'diet' and 6 weeks later weighed 78 lbs. and was anemic and suffering from a vitamin C deficiency...
    These days, after it taking so long to be diagnosed with Parkinson's, etc.. I'm no longer eligible for disability benefits. If it weren't for the Great Scot (and love and loyalty) I'd not have a home and all the other 'little' things we take for granted; if something should happen to my sweetheart's job or ability to work we would be out on the street ourselves.
    We are ever mindful of 'there but for the grace of God....' and help where and when we may. Good on you for doing the same out of the kindness of your heart. Those who have mentioned that the man in the van may be grateful for the simple human contact you give him are spot on; never underestimate the power of a kind word... they've kept me (and many others) going through the worst circumstances.

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    1. Good lord, Jacqueline, what a terrible situation with your uncle and aunt ... child abuse for sure ...

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    2. Bloody hell.....

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  46. i wouldnt normally do this but it's on topic and maybe someone has a spare dollar or two.
    this lady is a disability pensioner in the US and she hasnt had water for nearly a month and no money to fix her supply. Maybe someone would donate
    www.gofundme.com/h7j2q0

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  47. With housing to expensive I can see how easily it can happen. A divorce....one partner has the house and kids/dogs/whatever but where can the other go if they don't earn so much or are paying maintenance or something else. I'm surprised there aren't more people out there in vans. We shouldn't judge so quickly and people certainly look down their noses at those living this.....Emily Thornberry should have thought twice before making her own judgement! Have a great day John. xx

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  48. It could happen to anyone of us in the blink of an eye.

    Now I just feel humble after my hissy fit on my blog post today. At least I have a house!!

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  49. I think the very fact that you are happy to sell eggs to him probably means a lot to him in that you are not judging him. As people have said above, There but for the grace of God go I. We lost our home (through our parents divorcing) as children and ended up in a damp rented house while my dad moved into a caravan. He later died from alcoholism at only 47. Later in life we lost our home due to my ill health (I was the sole earner at the time) but fortunately had family to move in with. My husband has lost his health and job once and was then made redundant shortly afterwards when he got a new job. No one knows what's round the corner and we can never take our situations for granted x

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  50. Any of us, male or female, are only three or four unfortunate incidents or poor decisions away from homelessness. It can and does happen to all sorts in all walks of life. The next time you see that one weak light on knock at his door. Just say hello. No more. It will be appreciated.

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  51. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  52. So very true and unfortunately becoming more and more common

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