Bible gives homeless man peace

Temperatures have fallen well below zero in London this week. But a blue sleeping bag is all that keeps the cold out for 40-year-old Mark Alder.

His home, during daylight hours, is the pavement of Victoria Street. People stream past him as if he’s invisible.

“People think that if you’re homeless it’s your fault,” he says. “And it’s true that there are some people who get into drink and drugs and all that and end up making themselves homeless.”

“But it’s not true. It just happens to some people.”

And Mark is one of those people. Until April [2012] Mark was living with his girlfriend Janet and her children Chris and Emma in Newcastle.

Then the relationship ‘turned sour’ and Mark found himself packing a bag and leaving.

“I wanted to get away and start afresh,” he says. Instead, he found himself in London’s busy Victoria station at 6pm with nowhere to go.

He’s slept rough ever since, most recently in the doorway of the electrical equipment store Argos. The people there are very kind, he says. They always say ‘good morning’ and sometimes bring him a cup of coffee.

But the night before we meet he’s had his trainers stolen. “Who does that?” he says. “A sick person. I pity them though, they were awful, they’d got wet and dry so many times.”

Mark carries two large bags that are mostly full of bedding. But deep in one bag is his Bible. He was given it a few months ago by Chas Bayfield, a Christian, who works in one of London’s top marketing agencies.

He reads it eight hours a day and is now on his fourteenth read through.

“The thing that sticks out to us is how much of a nice bloke Jesus was. That’s the only way I can put it, nothing was a bother to him. I would like to be like that.”

Reading the Bible, he says, “gives us peace, it gives us solace, it gives us something to believe in. What else have I got?”

“I went to a Roman Catholic school,” he says. “But the way the Bible was explained went straight over your head. But now I’m understanding it. I like what I’m reading.”

Slowly, Mark is rebuilding his life. He’s found a place in a hostel, which keeps him out of the cold winter nights. It also gives him a much-needed address with which to apply for jobs.

He says he’d like to find work on a building site, or labouring.

“The dream,” he says, “is an address and a job, my own place where I can close the door and shut the world out. I don’t want a job that pays loads of money, just so long as I could feed myself, that would do me.”

Until then, Mark will carry on sitting on Victoria Street reading his Bible and hoping that his situation will change.

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