This follows on from my ‘Homeless for Christmas’ blog. I don’t talk about the causes of homelessness here; it’s about a man who I’ve known for about 15 years as one of the local ‘characters’ of my local town. I started to write about him in that blog but then decided he deserved one to himself. He has several nicknames about town; let’s call him ‘Dimps’. This particular nickname comes from his habit of stooping regularly as he walks along the road to pick up a cigarette end (dimp) from the floor.
As long as I’ve known him he has been ‘no fixed abode’ (NFA). Most of that time, surprisingly he has managed to avoid sleeping on the streets by staying at various friends and sleeping on sofas. The ambulance gets called regularly for him when he gets too ‘out of it’ and his (usually equally ‘out of it’ friends) get concerned about his boisterous behaviour. Dimps is alcohol dependant. When I first met Dimps his drink of choice was sherry, time has not been kind to him, his drink of choice is now cheap cider which comes in the 2 or 3 litre plastic bottles. Dimps is normally a cheerful and friendly drunk who doesn’t cause us trouble. Even though he has been a frequent user of the service, most staff quite like him because of his cheerful nature.
The one time I’ve seen him act out of character was when one of his friends gave him a pill to try along with some cocaine. I don’t know what the pill was; some kind of stimulant presumably, but along with the cocaine he became aggressive and violent, so his friends of course called for us to get him out of their flat. I managed to calm him down enough to get on the ambulance and assess him. Then we took him to the Emergency Department (ED) of the local hospital. As my mate and I were leaving the department there was suddenly a lot of shouting behind us and next second security were running to the nurses’ station. Dimps had tried to attack a nurse as she went to assess him. It took 3 police officers and the 2 security guards to get the usually mild mannered, affable Dimps out of the department and into a police van.
Dimps can usually be seen begging in the town centre but from time to time disappears for months at a time.
One time he disappeared for a few months then reappeared wheeling himself around in a chair, his leg had been badly broken and was now pinned and plated. He was temporarily housed in a hostel near our station in the next town to his home town. We used to see him travelling between his room and the local off licence for his supplies and watched him progress from chair to crutches to a walking stick and finally to walking unaided. Then he disappeared and reappeared in his normal town.
Once when we had been called to Dimps and he was quite coherent I asked him why he didn’t accept any of the many offers of accommodation which had been made over the years and he said he didn’t like to feel trapped by living in a house. He preferred to stay with his friends.
In the days leading up to Christmas Dimps was out on the streets again. One night we saw him sleeping in a bus shelter. The next night we saw him in the ED waiting room and had a chat with him. He had walked to the hospital to get his leg looked at. He has a leg ulcer, a wound which won’t heal – difficult to manage in good living conditions, almost impossible out on the streets. We asked where he was sleeping and said he was going back to his shelter – he had refused emergency hostel accommodation. We made him a hot drink and gave him a bag with a sandwich and 2 blankets in we ‘borrowed’ from the department. Over the next few days he was sleeping in his shelter. It was nice to see that people had been donating blankets a duvet and even an umbrella to him – his bus shelter looked like a (slightly scruffy) camp site. Temperatures were dropping and overnight were recorded at -5C. Dimps was a subject of several conversations at the hospital as we were all concerned about him as the snow was forecast. The next day as I drove to work Dimps’ bus shelter was empty. There was no sign of him and all his stuff had also been cleared away.
I don’t know what has happened to Dimps but hope he is somewhere warm and safe. Maybe we’ll see him out and about again in the spring.