There is a report in today’s Brighton Argus about a blog post by the Roman Catholic priest at St Mary Magdalen’s on Upper North Street, Brighton, Father Ray Blake. His blogs are often controversial, and he has taken a swipe at me in the past. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of that) his blog is worth reading.
In fact, the item in question was posted in early August. In ‘The trouble with the poor’ he writes:
“The trouble with the poor is that they are messy.
“There is a secluded area between the church and our hall, a passage, occasionally we find someone has got a few cardboard boxes together and has slept there and if it has been raining leaves a sodden blanket, cardboard there to be cleaned up, often it also smells of urine and there is often excrement there and sometimes a used needle or two.
There is a man who comes into the church, especially during the trad Mass and during the silence of the Canon will pray aloud, “Jesus, I want you to bless Fr Ray and …., and God, can you persuade the good people here to give to the poor, I am poor”, unchecked he will take his cap off and have a collection. It makes a mess of our prayers, it stops some coming to Mass here.
“If they are not doing that they are ringing the door bell at every hour of the day and night, and they tell lies. They tell you their Gran is dying in Southampton and they need the train fare, you give it to them and if you don’t find them drunk in the street they are back the next day and the other Gran is dying in Hastings this time.”
The point of Father Ray’s blog is that he is comfortable in his life and doesn’t want it messed up. He writes “…I have grown complacent in my lifestyle, I don’t want it changed, the message of the Gospels seem to be let the poor into it to mess it up a little”.
No doubt some people will be horrified by Father Ray’s view. He is saying it as he sees it, something that is not always welcomed in the tolerant, inclusive city that is Brighton and Hove.
Earlier this week I had an exchange with a homeless man who was causing a terrible nuisance outside my office, and had tried to punch a couple of his fellow street drinkers. I called the police who attended and dealt well with the situation. I went down and identified myself to the police and told the drinkers that it was me who had called the police.
One of the drinkers (the one who had thrown the punches and had chased another into a lane of moving traffic), challenged my decision to call the police by saying: “But I’m homeless”. My response was to tell him that with his behaviour he would probably stay homeless and even if he got accommodation he would probably lose it unless his behaviour improved. I wasn’t condemning him for being homeless but for being an unpleasant, anti-social thug.
A former member of staff once complained to me that her client had been unfairly treated because he was turned away from an interview at our Recovery Project because he had arrived an hour late. “But he lives a chaotic lifestyle”, my then colleague pleaded. “You should make allowances”. My response was: “It I was his dealer he would have arrived five minutes early”.
The point of this post is to ask: how honest should we be with people? My view is that it is patronising and dishonest to be anything other than blunt, realistic and to the point.