I put my head around Phil’s door each time I arrive at LDHAS. He’s the manager and I get a quick update from him and a warm hello. If he’s not too busy there’ll usually be a couple of funny stories from the previous week, along with a gale of laughter. Phil’s laughter is a much-loved feature of LDHAS — last week someone requested a recording for their ringtone.
But this morning when he looked up from his computer I could tell from his face that something was wrong.“Another death. Someone we’ve known for years — OD again.”
He looked wistful and resigned all at once.
I sat down and he talked about the scattering of traces left that might tell more of what had happened. What was the trigger to that last, fatal dose? What pushes any of us over the edge?
And then we talk about self-esteem, how small disasters and small triumphs can make all the difference in a life. And when your self-esteem is tiny, then one tiny shove is all that’s needed to push you over the edge. Phil looks thoughtful and he says:
“I was talking to someone about getting some Covid jabs done here. It’s fine technically, we’ve done it before, had a van parked outside. But very few people wanted it and the uptake is pretty low.
“I had a theory as to why it’s low. My theory was they were worried about mixing the vaccine with whatever was in their system.So I ran this past a couple of the guys.They said no. They said what it is – people just can’t be arsed. It’s about a general lack of self regard.”
“You know, if you’re going to do all that stuff, put all those substances into you, you’re not going to be that bothered about Covid are you? Do you know what I mean, it’s just part of that syndrome – a disregard for one’s general well-being. And that’s why the uptake on the Covid jabs is low, it’s because self-esteem is low too. It’s not some kind of anarchistic gesture, or fear of how does this Covid jab mix with heroin? It’s about – there’s not much bloody point is there?”
“We’ve lost about 17 people who have been in contact with us since Covid started. People have been regulars at one time or another. There was one death the week before another death two weeks before that…”
By Philip Davenport. LDHAS, January 2022
Refuge from the Ravens is supported by the Heritage Fund. In 1798, Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge sparked a literary revolution — poems in everyday language, telling of people on the margins of society. 200 years later, homelessness and social inequality are still with us and even on the rise. This project invited people with lived experience of homelessness and other vulnerable people to meet Wordsworth across time, replying in poetry, art and song in a Lyrical Ballads for the 21st Century.