Richard (not his real name) comes into our London food bank, and gives his account of why he needs emergency food so quickly that he’s hard to follow at times. He doesn’t draw breath.
He’s a former chef, who says that he’s out of work because his combination of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Bipolar Disorder means he can’t take the pressure’. The 45-year-old, who is divorced with three children (aged 20, 17 and 15), separated from his wife many years ago. He was living on the streets and drinking very heavily (a litre and a half of vodka a day to ‘block out reality and the cold’), until his life settled down a bit when he was offered a council flat.
But things have deteriorated again in recent months. He says he’s been left without money for food since drug addicts and pushers on his estate began targeting him for cash, valuables, food and clothes. According to Richard, nearly £800 in cash has been taken off him recently by these people, with ‘£560 stolen in the past 72 hours’.
He says that when he ‘crashes’ – either forgets to take his medications or has them ‘stolen’ off him by his visitors – he is more vulnerable to those who are targeting him. ‘When I crash people use me as a doormat – they will take advantage of the situation and take what they want. If you say no to them they think no means yes.’
When he initially opened the door to them, he thought they were being friendly: ‘Then one says I’m going to get a couple of beers, and they end up sitting in the flat. I’m not even supposed to drink on the tablets. They started coming in, all pally pally. I didn’t think anything of it on the Saturday. By Monday I’m going downhill, as I’m not taking my anti-depressant and anti-hyperactivity tablets. They then frogmarched me down to the Post Office. Then they get the pin numbers for your cards, and get into your account. You lose things from your flat, and when they know you’re getting money again they go through the same process.’
Richard says his money is completely gone and the Job Centre has given him the food bank voucher to get his emergency food supply.
He’s reported what’s happening to the police and got a crime number. The local estates officer based at the council ‘ is fully aware of the situation and is trying to get me to move’, he adds. His next money is due to hit his Post Office account on Tuesday. Will he stop opening the door to these people?