I got back to my hotel room after a really long day of rehearsals. I felt totally drained and mentally exhausted after a day of nonsensical tomfoolery you find on a rehearsal set for a commercial involving large groups of dancers. It all felt so pointless and wasteful, of money, talent, and time. I’d set my heart on ordering room service because I couldn’t face going back out for food, but alas I got back to my room and learned that this hotel didn’t offer room service. Awesome. I put my coat and shoes back on and returned into the cold to go find some dinner. I walked through Manchester City centre, which was a lot colder than London, and somewhat unfamiliar. A few streets away from my hotel I walked past a regular looking homeless guy who was sat on the pavement of a bridge, staring into space. I often feel extreme empathy for those who find themselves on the streets, but as many do, I walk past, often as a loss of what to say or do. I walked past this guy, but felt a sadness pouring from his heart. It was like an unspeakable energy I was drawn to. I kept walking to get some food, and I said to myself, if he is still there when I walk back, I’m going to talk to him, I’m going to talk to him. I’m socially uncomfortable anyway, so I find it difficult to spark up conversation with any sort of stranger. I picked up some food and walked back the way I came. As I approached the bridge I could see him. He looked up at me from afar, and our eyes locked. It felt like my heart skipped a beat. I walked closer toward him, and as I did he started clambering up to his feet. He looked up and I said ‘Are you ok?’ He smiled and said ‘yeah I’m ok.’ I asked, ‘are you sure?’ ‘Yeah, my legs are just going numb in the cold ya know? I’ve been sat here for hours.’ I felt a wave of emotions rush over me. ‘Do you have somewhere to go? Like a hostel or something?’ I asked him. He was standing up now, and I could see his face properly. He had warm eyes, and an innocence about him. ‘Nah, the hostels are £16.50 a night.’ he said. ‘Are there no free shelters or something you can go to? Its so cold.’ ‘No. It has to be specifically minus 4º for us to be allowed free shelter, and even when it was snowing over Christmas they still said that we weren’t allowed.’ I took my wallet and handed him £20. ‘Take this and get yourself a hostel for tonight, I can’t have you sitting out in the cold like this.’ He was overwhelmed with gratitude, the kind of gratitude I’m unfamiliar seeing in my day to day life. ‘Are you sure? Thank you so much. You don’t know how much this means to me. I was sitting here for hours praying someone like you would come along, and I was just about to leave. I can’t believe it, thank you so much.’ He showed me the loose change cup that’d he’d had down all day. His hand was shivering ‘look, all day, and I made 30p. The other guys say I have to ask people, but I can’t face it. They told me to go to a busier area too but I’ve just been sat here because it’s more hidden. I thought eventually someone might come along to me, sent from god or something, and then you arrived. I can’t believe it.’ He then introduced himself to me. His name was Liam. He asked for a hug so I hugged him. He thanked me again and again. ‘How did you end up on the streets?’ I asked. ‘Its been a lot of different things all piling up to be honest’ he said, ‘I couldn’t pay my rent anymore, or look after my son properly. My brother died of a drug overdose, and then my other brother couldn’t cope with his death so committed suicide. I used to have drug problems years ago, but not anymore. I’m totally clean, I don’t even drink.’ I knew he was telling the truth. This man was honest and clear. He was vulnerable but he knew it. ‘How old are you?’ ’33.’ He said. My best friend is the same age, and that small relatable fact just pummelled me straight through the heart. ‘I’m bottom of the food chain mate. A 33 year old man on the streets. You get no help whatsoever’ he said. I knew I needed to help him but I wasn’t sure how. I asked him if he had a phone, it felt like a stupid question, but he did. He had £10 credit on it, and I asked for his number and told him to take mine. He said it was the first time he’d used it or even taken a number. I wanted to know that he had somebody he could call on. Besides everything that someone who is homeless goes through, loneliness can sometimes be the worst. ‘I’m not based in Manchester, but I want to help you. I don’t really know how to, but if you have my number and I have yours, maybe we can start giving it a go. How long have you been on the streets?’ ‘3 months now. I’ve spoken to some guys out here that’ve been out here for 20 years. I don’t want that to be me.’ ‘Its not going to be you.’ I said firmly. ‘I’m a trained chef, and an artist. People have called me a world class artist. I sit here looking at the zombies walking past me like I don’t exist, and I think to myself, what the fuck am I doing?’ He said. ‘Of course, and people just walk straight past and ignore you because it’s the easier option, when becoming homeless could happen to anyone at anytime.’ I said. ‘It really can. I’ve been through so much, and I’ve had addiction problems in my past, but I’m clean now, and I’ve just ended up here because I couldn’t cope.’ We chatted a little more, and I told him to text me whenever. He thanked me again for giving him the hostel money, we hugged and we said goodbye. As he walked off I felt like I was waving a loved one off to war. I’d given him enough to stay warm tonight, but what about tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that? I cried walking back to my hotel. The food that I’d bough had gone cold, but I’d totally lost my appetite. I text him as soon as I got back saying that it was nice to meet him, and that I’d like to help him if I could. I also offered to buy him breakfast in the morning before I caught my train back. He replied quite quickly saying that he hadn’t ‘had a good brekey for months’ and that he’d text me in a bit. I honestly felt at that moment that I’d made a true connection with someone. I’d made a new friend, and in some ways, the instinct that told me not to walk past him was a sign from above. Whether spiritual or not, I felt like in that moment, something about his energy told me to stop. I’m not quite sure how I might help, or if I even can, but I learned a little something about humility today. I broke down the wall between us and those we walk past on the street, and I made a real human connection, and a new friend.