Guest post by Alex.
The situation described below happened in an internet shop on Camden High Street where I work.
On the 7th of November in the evening, a customer came in to use a computer, he could hardly speak English and after a while I discovered he was Polish, being Polish myself, we could easily communicate.
He asked me to help him with benefit registration and told that he lost all his documents and money 2 weeks ago. He ended up being evicted from his potential house due to inability to pay the deposit (by the time we met he managed to organize a copy of his passport from the Polish Embassy). Due to the above, he had been homeless for last 2 weeks with no more than £7 in his pocket. He emigrated from Poland three weeks before, leaving his wife and 3 year old daughter to seek a better paid job so he could send money back to his family. He was 23 years of age, brought up in an orphanage back in Poland.
I advised him to find a shelter/hostel rather than benefits as a first move, which he was doing as advised by random people he had spoken to.
Farah is a regular client of the internet cafe, it is near her office in Camden. I was advised by Farah to call an emergency line for homeless to find out about available places around Camden. After a good 40 min on the phone we managed to get through to a consultant, who gave us a phone number to arrange for a Polish speaking interpreter.
We tried to call the help line several times but it was impossible to get through. Every call took at least 40 min to an hour to go through automatic dial and at the end we still hadn't manage to be put through to a consultant. We have tried calling from a mobile phone as well as phone box but unfortunately situation was the same – no answer. We kept calling until 8.00 pm when as we were warned – lines were closed.
The person we tried to secure a safe night for, gave up and walk away for another homeless night on the street…