Community organiser Terri tells us about Bill.
Bill was a homeless guy who slept in the park and I sometimes go and have a chat and listen to his troubles. We often shared ‘my’ sandwiches. As he spoke he seemed to be rather posh and he didn’t have the ‘Black Country’ accent. I probed all the time until he finally told me his story…
Bill used to work as a Bank Manager in a high street bank, “the one with the griffin” he used to say. But after commuting and rushing about for 40 years, and the death of his wife, it made him take stock of his life, he thought he had missed out on so much by gaining this top job – with money and status came stress and ill health. When he lost his wife, he didn’t think he could go on, so he went on a journey to ‘find himself’.
But then he became unwell; ill health escalated, he had a heart attack and thought his world was falling apart, but he said “I looked around me and I actually had everything” I just didn’t know it at the time.
He ended up after a few lonely days sleeping rough and although he said it was tough on cold nights the network was amazing, people helping each other, sharing food, well he said they shared everything.
Returning to the estate/community and as I listened to a few other people in the area, they were moaning about the state of a house in their row, which was bringing down the prices I put two and two together it was Bill’s!
I spoke to him several times more to find out about his house and what troubles people had were having with the area of his house and the 3 high rise flats, transient people, young families stuck, young families alone. I told him we had a group of people that could really do with his help and understanding and how I had been talking about bulk buying potatoes – he said “leave it with me”.
Several days later I returned to the park and looked for Bill and couldn’t find him, days turned into weeks and I got a bit worried, so I asked about and the local greengrocer said that Bill had moved back into his house.
I went there and he had moved back in, I spoke to him over many hours and discovered he wanted to help but also wanted help and wouldn’t ask for it. I already had five ladies who were interested in bulk buying and Bill was the link. I suggested a house meeting in a local café and they all turned up apart from Bill. I rang him and he said he didn’t think he was the one to help but they could use his garage. I told him to get to café his cuppa tea was getting cold. Five minutes late Bill arrived. He volunteered to help them. He had the knowledge and the garage and the network to distribute.
Bill got in touch with a company in Dudley to supply the potatoes, and even borrowed some scales from the local shop – and off they went with the potatoes for sale. You had to pay upfront and the potatoes were then delivered to your door.
This then progressed into Nappies, school uniforms, a thrift shop for children clothes – all in Bill’s garage!
But as Bill was looking after these 34 flats at the time, they were giving something back, they started to help Bill ‘mend’ his house… and whilst mending his house they mended his heart – so he told me. He felt part of something, he was part of the community, for the first time in his life.
Bill is very much a part of his community now, he has five youngsters who run errands for him, (he keeps them out of trouble) if people run out of Gas or electricity he send his runners and they collect the cards & cash and top the cards up for them. These are mothers who would otherwise have to wait or get the kids up first. He is very much a ‘kid’ elderly gentleman who everyone needs in their lives. Bill gets it done, he says “it’s like having an extended family”.
He is now enjoying life, has people in and out all the time, his house looks great and so does he.