Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Islington's Finest

I debated whether to post this but I will want a record of it later, so here goes.

Last night I roll back to the flat about 7:15. We're on the third floor of our complex, and the stairs are outside although covered by a roof. I'm taking the steps two at a time, glad to be home and eager to play some Lego Indiana Jones.

Sitting on the top step of the final flight of stairs is a homeless guy. This isn't a terribly uncommon sight, there are a couple of them who hang out in our stairwell from time to time although it's very intermittant and they always seem to leave afer a few minutes. But this isn't one of those guys, and he's just kind of sitting there with a hood pulled over his face, kind of leaning forward and sleeping. I say 'excuse me' as I step around him, no response. I ask him if he's alright. No response.

I go inside, lock the door, and call the police. It's a non-emergency - more than anything I'd just rather have the cops come and let this guy know that our stairwell is not a good place to crash - so they say they'll send someone as soon as they can. That was about 7:20.

At 10:30, Liz comes home. The guy hasn't moved. In fact, he looks pretty much exactly like he did before. The cops call and apologize for not showing up yet. They tell me they'll be on their way. Our security gate is locked, and our door is double-locked, just in case.

Around 11, I hear our two female neighbors come home. I assume they are OK because their security gate closes; it's a distinctive sound. I check and he's still out there, hasn't moved.

I've got yet another cold (go London air quality) so I wake up at around 4:00 AM and can't get back to sleep. I check and our friend is still outside. I give the police another call, and tell the operator that he hasn't moved a bit and I'm a little worried he might not be OK.

The operator asks if he's still breathing.

I tell her I guess so, I didn't go out and check.

She asks me to go out and check.

Now think about that for a moment. The police are asking me to go at the very minimum wake someone up who doesn't have any other place to stay. Add to that he may have a mental illness, be on some kind of illegal substance, or both. And they want me to check his vitals.

Isn't that why the police exist? So I don't actually have to check the vitals on some guy who's camped out on my porch?

I go back to bed and by the time I'm up at 7 AM, he's gone. When I'm in the shower the cops show up 12 hours after they were initially called, and say that they'll let the night patrol know to check the complex. Fair enough.

Obviously the guy was OK (he got out of there somehow), but the whole experience was a little surreal. I know the cops have better things to do than chase homeless people out of stairwells, but 12 hours is a little ludicrous. As was, I feel, the request that I go outside and check to see if the guy's OK.

Welcome to the big city I guess.

No comments: