Some here will remember that about four years ago a young man entered my life.
Although I've previously been reluctant to give his name, it can do no harm now to say that he's called Maurice. When I met him, he was sleeping rough and begging at my local tube station. Although I didn't know it then (though I had my suspicions about a lot of it), he was HIV+, had been given crack cocaine at the age of 7 by his father, and had had an intermittent heroin habit since the age of 9. He was a pathological liar, had a string of over 240 juvenile convictions for petty offences, had spent most of his life in secure childrens' units, and (we shortly discovered) had very advanced TB.
TB is nasty: it means taking meds twice a day, without fail, for 18 months. It was pretty clear Maurice wasn't going to manage, so he moved in with me the week before his 19th birthday (the alternative seemed to be that he was "sectioned" under the public health acts and forcibly detained - and we all knew he had a history of absconding).
Love started creeping in, on both sides, of course. Sex was never a major feature (and always initiated by him), but gradually deep bonds were formed. And Maurice started to change ... the petty criminality reduced, he became more stable on a methadone (heroin substitute) programme, and acquired better coping techniques for the ADHD and impulsive behaviour that were at the root of many of his problems. It wasn't easy for either of us, and there were some very testing times. But after a couple of years his heroin use was down to once every couple of months, as a "treat" if he had cash left over on his dole day, once he'd given me money for his food, bought any necessary clothes, and paid any debts. I'd lost my part-time job (yes: partly due to complicated things involving Maurice). We decided to move out of London, partly as a fresh start, partly because increasing disability meant that I felt I couldn't work again and needed to sell the flat in London in order to buy somewhere that I could afford without a mortgage.
And the move to Worcester in late 2011 generally went well. Oh, money was always frustratingly tight, but we never went hungry or cold (though I wish never to see another value-pack of cheapo frozen sausages again!). Apart from one spectacular screw-up as a result of excessive consumption of prescribed sleeping tablets, Maurice remained crime-free.
Late summer last year, I started to have heart problems, and was booked in for an angiogram. Maurice found this really hard to handle: I think he'd built his stability around me, and the thought that I might die was more than he could cope with (his father had died when Maurice was 13, and his stepfather had died in 2011, with me and Maurice's mother there. and Maurice lying on the hospice bed with his stepfather's arm round him). So two days before I was due for the angiogram, Maurice flipped - seriously - and was eventually sectioned under the mental health act. As the mental hospital is adjacent to the main hospital in Worcester, I was in the slightly surreal position of leaving the heart ward in my hospital gown and dressing gown to walk 200 yards to visit Maurice for a chat, before going back to have the procedure!
Although the results of the angiogram were very reassuring (apparently, my arteries are clear, and I have something called "cardiac syndrome x" which is not life-shortening), it did bring about a big change in the relationship between me and Maurice. For the first time, he started to understand that his excellent response to medication for the HIV he'd been born with meant that he was likely to outlive me ... and that meant that I wouldn't "always" be there. We started talking about him moving out and getting a place of his own ... though it never came to fruition, as Maurice's past meant that local "supported housing" providers were reluctant to take him on.
In May this year he started chatting to a woman on the internet. They got very close, and he went to visit her. Inevitably, what had started out as a short visit got prolonged, and they fell in love. Then she got pregnant, and Maurice asked her to marry him. A couple of weeks ago, they came over (a three-hour minicab journey) to collect most of Maurice's possessions, and I met her and her 14-year-old son for the first time: it went off very well. I have agreed to act as godfather to Maurice's child (assuming it comes to term: there's already been one scare).
Maurice and I are still very close: we talk two or three times a week on the phone (and not always because he's asking for money!). Yesterday, he posted on Facebook the first ultrasound scan of the foetus, and I was astonished by the depth of my emotional reaction to it: that this potential new life can have sprung from someone I love so deeply is an occasion of awe and wonder to me.
Things have come a very long way in the four years since my original post about him (http://forum.iomfats.org/m/59955/#page_top). It still does read a bit like a badly-written story from Nifty! Tim and a couple of others here have been following all this on my intermittent blog, but as things have now reached some kind of resolution (whether temporary or permanent), I thought I'd share it here.
No kid is beyond hope. And, as winter gales creep in here, and the queues at the foodbanks lengthen and the hostels are full to overflowing, and the homeless are "moved on" several times a night, each of us can make a very real difference simply by treating the street-homeless as people. A kind word, a bag of chips or a burger, and a can or two of decent food in the food-bank collection if you see one: just keeping people alive until the chance comes along for them to turn their lives around.
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. ... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars." Martin Luther King