Dear Kayla I’m using your real name in the vain and pointless hope that one day you will read this.
I know you are about 10/11 years old in 2015, that you like pretty things, startlingly adult perfume, that you love your cuddly toys but also sparkles, beads, trinkets.
I think that you may have lived in Holland Road, South Norwood or in the immediate neighbourhood. I know that you are doing well at school, well enough to get an award.
I know that your favourite colours are bright ones. I think you are probably very loved, given what I found.
You see, T and I run an animal rescue. To try and fund it, we buy and sell second hand stuff. We’ve become adept at spotting skips, rubbish in front gardens, flytipped things (we have little shame, needs must and all that) and so we spotted a group of black bags outside a group of flats, which are council-owned.
Gleefully, we stopped the car, leapt out and had a look. A few things were outside the bags, slightly damp from the rain, but saleable. Inside the bags, we found toys.
Not unusual as often parents in this neighbourhood leave toys out for people to take if they want. But these were in bags, not left on the top of a fence with a note saying “please help yourself”.
These toys had just been shoved in the bags, no thought to the love they have been shown, bare patches of fake fur rubbed off with proximity to a young girl’s cheek, one eye replaced.
There was no respect and it was then that my unease grew.
Because you see Kayla, when I got to the bottom of the bag and found your trinkets, your perfume, your friendship bracelet, your diary, I realised exactly what had happened.
No parent would throw out these personal things. No parent who gave you such lovely toys would stuff them in a bag and leave them like refuse
No parent would scoop up a child’s jewellery and throw these at the bottom of a rubbish bag, to rot.
No parent would half crumple and discard last year’s hard won certificate of merit.
And certainly, no parent would continue to fill a bag with the little things that find their way to the cracks and crevices of drawers.
Your things were clearly put in those bags by people who didn’t give a hoot about them.
Just coldly cleared a young girl’s room out and dumped the things she loved on the pavement outside, like so much trash.
I knew then Kayla, you were the victim of an eviction.
Did you know Kayla, were you there? God I hope not.
Did you come home from school and find yourself locked out? God I hope that didn’t happen either.
Did your parent/s fetch you, tell you you were homeless?
Did they tell you, your stuff was gone?
And where are you now?
I know the council, having had its budget cut two years ago and about to have it cut again, have no spare housing.
I know neighbouring boroughs are not dissimilar. I know you could be anywhere, just now.
I know that the soup kitchen queues are getting longer and longer.
I know that further cuts to benefits, the ones that probably cripped your mum, your dad or both of them, are on the way.
My heart broke for you, not just because of a little girl whose things were stolen from her, but for all the boys and girls out there in similar positions.
I had no idea what to do.
What I wanted to do was find you and give you back your things but I had no way of knowing your surname, no way of finding a forwarding address.
I didn’t even know for sure whether your stuff had been dumped outside your address because it was flytipped and no bailiff with half a brain would dump where he had evicted someone, when being paid to dispose of legally.
To take some things would be capitalising on your situation and to leave them would be to let them moulder on the pavement.
We opened every bag, to try and find something, anything to identify you, to be able to trace you.
Beyond anger, beyond grief, in tears, we went through every one of your belongings but all I had in the end was your stuff and your first name.
I wanted to tell you that not every person voted for the Tories, who through their cuts and demonisation of people on benefits, were responsible for this.
I wanted to tell you that not everyone would think your parent/s feckless for having a child they later could not afford to support, thanks to faceless, harsh benefit caps.
I wanted to bring your stuff to you, to give you something, anything back, to clean it all up and cast it back to you, so you had something to hold onto, over the years ahead, which may well be bleak ones.
I wanted to give you your replaced-eye teddy back, so you had something to hold, through the nights of a shelter, or the hardness of a sleeping bag on someone’s floor.
In the end, we thought it was best not to leave all your things there.
We thought it was best that if we couldn’t reunite you with your belongings that the best we could do was to ensure that some good came out of this.
I couldn’t bear to keep your certificate, it felt like theft.
I can’t give you back your home or the sense of security that has been forcibly removed from you.
I can’t kick the people who invaded your bedroom withot respect or human emotion.
I can’t stop this government from doing this over and over and over again, to thousands of children like you.
All I can do, is try and keep a little part of you safe.
So, I kept the little mirror surrounded by beads and threads.
One day perhaps, I’ll meet you. Perhaps you’ll be grown up by then, with children of your own.
But I’ll have kept it safe for you and give it back to you because I cannot, no matter how much I want to, give you the life you had back.
And I cannot, no matter how much I debate sensibly or shout and scream, get the electorate of this country to care enough to stop these over-privileged bunch of self-serving psychopaths from destroying the lives, dreams and security of children up and down the country.
I’m sorry Kayla, truly I am …