Help for Hamid: A story of homelessness in Harlow in 2017.
News / Mon 4th Dec 2017 am31 09:46am
By Adam Spartley
Help for Hamid
OVER the next few months, we will be looking at aspects of homelessness in Harlow. These pieces are simply holding up a mirror to aspects of life in our town in 2017.
Our first piece looks at a man living in a car at the back of Tesco’s in Church Langley.
‘They burnt it to the ground, and everything in it….even my medication’, says Hamid Farahi, about the tent he was living in up until a few months ago.
Born in Iran in 1962, Hamid was a promising student conscripted into the army at 18 years old, who after service went on to obtain a degree with high honours in applied mathematics and theoretical physics.
Of the few personal items he still has left, a bundle of letters from the desk of Stephen Hawking are amongst them. They are signed by Hawkings ex personal assistant Sue Masey, and are evidence of Hamid being one of the final few candidates shortlisted as a graduate assistant to the revered Professor.
‘It was a great time in my life, and i could have been sad about not getting the scholarship’ , said Hamid, ‘but more so i was proud to have been one of the final few candidates in the selection process’.
Hamid went on to graduate from the British Aeronautical University in Bristol, which led to him securing a job as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer at British Airways in Stansted.
Like many other people, Hamid’s life ambitions and job security were sadly cut short following the UK recession of 2008.
In 2009 he was made redundant, and after a year of desperately searching for work he turned to anti depressants and then to alcohol.
Sadly, Hamid’s problems appear to be compounded by symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that he has carried with him since fighting in the Iran – Iraq war, which saw over one and a half million people lose their lives.
‘It still affects me,’ Hamid said, ‘I still have flashbacks every night. Seeing the deaths of my men. My friends.’
With no children, and having never married, Hamids problems snowballed once he found himself on the streets. His prospects looked bleak for many years, and he eventually found himself sleeping in a tent behind Church Langley Tesco’s.
It was here, a few months ago, that his tent was torched by a group of teenagers.
Following this mindless act of vandalism someone kindly donated Hamid a used car so that he had somewhere to sleep and store his few remaining possessions, and he continued to live in this car until a week ago following a particularly bitter winter night.
‘It was so cold when i tried to open the car door, the key broke and i was locked out. I started a fire in the nearby woods and stayed by it all night to make sure i didn’t freeze’ said Hamid.
Having become known to regular users of Church Langley Tesco as a well mannered and approachable person, Hamid had struck up friendships with some of the people who regularly bought him spare clothes or food donations.
One of these people, who wishes to remain anonymous, goes by the Facebook pseudonym of Clive Turner.
Clive secured a locksmith to get Hamid back into his car, and then set up a crowdfunding page to hopefully help raise money and awareness to Hamids current situation.
‘He’s ex military, a very proud man, and not in very good health, ‘said Clive, ‘he just needs a bit of help to get himself back on his feet and even if we can raise enough money to get him somewhere to stay for a few weeks over christmas it’ll be worth it’.
The page caught the attention of a couple (also wishing to remain anonymous) who were moved by the story and went on to pay for Hamid to stay at the Park Inn for five nights with meals paid for.
‘Hamid said it was the first bed he had slept in for two years. Neither myself or the couple who put him up here are looking for a pat on the back, that’s why we want to remain anonymous’ said Clive, ‘we’re just doing what we hope most people would do in this situation and help out a person in need.’
The page has gathered momentum since being set up five days ago. Six hundred pounds has been raised, bags of donated clothes and food have been received by Clive, and a Harlow resident has offered to replace Hamid’s car with a van, giving him more living space and a higher level of comfort throughout the winter months.
Following this outpouring of support and good will, Hamid seemed almost overwhelmed.
‘I appreciate the massive kindness inside of people, to give to those who are in need’, he said, ‘I am speechless.’
Any money donated to Hamid’s cause will go directly towards helping Hamid. At the moment, any money donated will help to convert the new van into a comfortable living space, complete with insulation, lighting and other basic needs.
To donate to Hamids cause and hopefully help him through the nearing winter months, go to https://www.gofundme.com/help-for-hamed.
Through the council, Streets2Homes and other support agencies there is plenty of support in Harlow for people who are sleeping rough or who are insecurely housed. Harlow has some of the best support in the Eastern Region. People with no permanent roof over their heads can usually be found accommodation within a week or so, helped to claim benefits, directed to appropriate health care and supported into new tenancies. There are some, though, because of mental health or addictions cannot sustain a tenancy or are disruptive. People sleeping rough because of that should not be given cash to support their habits - it is not doing them any favours. Recovering from an addiction is not an easy path, there are good days and bad days but the support will be there when they need it. However, they need to want to change. Being given food and cash will not encourage people to try, it is much easier just to sit there and wait for people to bring it to you. If you really want to help homeless people give to a local charity like Streets2Homes or a national one, like Shelter or the Salvation Army.
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