Rough sleeper bears the frigid night on a bed of cardboard behind the library

The harrowing sight of a rough sleeper lying amid the snow in February of this year

It’s cold. Fat flakes of wet snow are falling from the dense cloud above Canterbury’s streets.

The time is just before 8pm yesterday (Tuesday). Coming down is the second significant snowfall of the day – exactly as the forecasters had foreseen.

The Friars, central Canterbury, last night

The council has said no one should be out in this weather and worshippers from the Canterbury Mosque have been trying to help anyone they find sleeping rough.

And yet there he is.

Protected against the elements by a single blanket, he lies on a bed of cardboard behind the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge.

Art and knowledge. What use are they to anyone when the spectre of hypothermia is grimly holding open the door marked “death”?

Only hours earlier, the leader of Canterbury City Council Simon Cook had been pleading for anyone out on the streets last night to make use of the night shelter.  No one should be on the street risking death, he said.

And yet there is he.

A bed of damp snow is gathering just feet from rough sleeper’s body shivering beneath the blanket. He says he can’t go to the night shelter because he has a dog. She is a fluffy grey thing with big dark eyes who barks if anyone she doesn’t know gets too close.

Here two of God’s creatures attempt to resist the elements, their only immediate purpose to stay alive.

Despite the efforts of the council, despite the worshippers from the mosque offering shelter, despite the work of the homeless charities, at least one human being was destined to spend a freezing night on Canterbury’s streets.

We ask ourselves why? We ask ourselves how it can even be like this in a city full of well-intentioned people and organisations who cannot bear the thought of a life lived this way.

And yet there he is…


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