#RealEstateCommunityChallenge – Project Nicolae


I have driven, walked & cycled past this chap, named Nicolae every day for over a year & I found myself uncomfortable with the disparity between his life & mine. So I decided to ‘man up’ & do something about it.

Nicolaehas lived on the street for many years. He divorced 30 years ago & has nothing to his name. Just 10-12 stinking, putrid bags of lord knows what, but it includes mashed food, books, clothes, life essentials, remains of medicine & plenty of junk. The things that give him the confidence to cling onto life in fact.

My first interaction, I handed him some cash & hurriedly walked away to leave him in peace. I promised myself I would also take him shopping one day. For many months, when I passed, either I could not stop on the busy DN1 or it was raining & he was elsewhere or I had no car with me to pick him up & go shopping. Either way, for months I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.

Then last Wednesday night at 9pm, riding by on my Vespa scooter with my maintenance guy on the back, wobbling our way through the city in the last light,, I saw the dark heap on a bench that was Nicolae & his worldly goods. So I stopped, dismounted, went back to him & told him I’d be back in 15 mins to collect him to go shopping. Home I went, pulled out my car & went back to get him. I think I caused a bit of a stir ushering a 6 foot, 100kg homeless guy with 5 layers of clothing into the back seat of a Jaguar & a boot full of carrier bags. But screw it, who cares. No one actually.

Off we went to the nearest Decathlon store in Baneasa before they closed at 10pm, to buy some size 48! boots, multiple socks, underpants, a few pairs of all weather trousers, tee shirts, vests, a fleece, neck tube, all weather jacket & a few hats plus a few heavy duty bags to carry all.  One hat with a built in mosquito screen so he could sleep on a bench in peace. His current boots were literally split wide open at the front in two, held together by string.

I had to strip him off in the posh Mega Image car park as we could never walk into a store like that.  My car still smells from the fumes of those clothes, but what can you do? Either you are in this to sort it, or you aren’t.

After a hurried trolley dash to grab a year’s worth of clothes & bags ti carry this stuff in, the next stop, back to my place for his first shower in 2 years! I’m glad it was dark because there are diplomats in my block & a 2017 Bentley at the block’s door. They get snotty when I hand was my beloved car outside so I don’t want to know what they would think about me taking a vagrant home.  That said, plenty of times per months I see stunning looking 27yo models come to the block entrance, at 2am & leave exactly 60 mins later so the residents have better things to talk about, I hope.

So, in the middle of the living room, we tip all the new clothes out, pick out a set to wear & off he goes to the shower with a fresh towel.  I offered him a toothbrush & he just smiled at me.  At that moment I saw his one, solitary  a tooth! 30 mins later & a new man emerged from the shower. But his feet, good God, seeing is beleiving. They are as close to needing amputation as you can get without amputating them. Disgusing is not the word. But that’s tomorrows project. For today, the mission was to get him a little dignity, get him smelling fresher & looking cleaner.

He bathed his feet in hot salt water for half an hour & he explained it felt a lot better. I asked him if he wanted to join me on a trip I had to make to Brasov to our second office for 2 days & he got a little emotional.

He said “I haven’t been to Brasov for many years, & it is very dear to me, I grew up there & was in the army there”. ‘Hai sa mergem’ says me. So off we go to stay at my weekend home in the gorgous mountains of Bran area. It’s a house I had built a decade ago & I don’t use it nearly enough with a busy working life so it’s good to see it serve a noble purpose.

So off we went, 3 hours through the night, arriving at 0330 to a rainy foggy Bran. Another salt water foot bath & off to bed for Nicolae, a first in 30 months for him. He explained he hasn’t slept fully for over a year because he cannot escape the daylight in Bucharest’s parks.  My house has black-out blinds so he was out cold in 2 mins. I left him until 10am the next morning & brought him coffee in bed! Not a bad life, if only for a fleeting moment.

He’s an avid reader & very educated. He has published Literature in his youth!  So I left him some Romanian history books, as is his passion & left for work. I posted a short story of Nicolae on Facebook to encourage others to overcome their inhibitions & reach out, because it’s actually very simple once you take the first step.  On arrival at work, I read a remark from a competitor from Bliss Imobiliare, I was thus inspired to create a charity challenge to my competitors to make some kind of charitible act in their own comminity. It’s called #RealEstateCommunityChallenge. But I need to deliver myself before asking others to do anything.  So I set out some targets to help Nicolae & am well on the way to complete  these. Well done Isfahan for the remark & best of success in your journey.

My plan was to leave Nicalae to lay up at the villa for a  week or 2 to allow his feet to recover with clean warm bathing & rest. The following day, Friday, I took Nicolae to my office in the centre of Brasov.  I have a diverse, cultured & intelligent team.  One is in fact, & i still pinch myself when i say this, a trained medical doctor with 10 years prqctice who chaged career dorection.

So naturally, it was Monica (or Sister Margret as I call her due to her nun-like humility) who took Nicolae to the hospital for extensive blodd tests.  The weeks ahead will see what we do here.

During my time with Nicolae he exhausts me because he has a brain the size of a football & a memory that defies science. He talks continuously, posing challenging questions about everything from Brexit & the Northern Ireland border consequences, how we are due an earthquake because Greece had one last week (3 hours after he said that, there was a 2.5 event in Vrancea!!), He talks about literature, folklore, are, music, God’s compassion, politicians, spies, security, borders, races, origins of language & words.  I’m exhausted just recalling what he discusses.  He was even reading a Hungarian newspaper in the office while those around him worked away as normal. The only part I could read was the date!

He went for a stroll around Brasov for the day & renewed his love of the city. At 9pm I left the office & I took him for a glass of wine & some good food, even though neither of us usually drink alcohol any longer.  He said to me “Ce echipă extraordinară AI.  Personal educat, dedicat, foarte capabil. Tot ceea ce am văzut în București este angajarea unor oameni ‘sexy’, indiferent de capacitatea lor’. Made me smile but indeed, the team at WM are indeed an amazing bunch of people & I’m lucky to work.with them.  It’s the best part about living in Romania.

Saturday morning, Nicolae & I had a junk burning ceremony to draw a line on the past. My plan is to get this guy in his feet some how, with God’s will.  We have a long way to go.  Next steps include, renewing his expired ID.

More details to follow…..