Another bitterly cold February morning found me, well wrapped up, with my Erasmus+ cloth bag dangling over my shoulder, walking briskly back to the office - full of my own thoughts.
A young man, aged around nineteen maybe, crossed the road nearby and called out to me for any spare change.
As usual, I braced myself to explain I had no money, as sadly, I have done many times before.
The teenager began to stride along beside me, "I hate to ask for money," he said, "but what else can I do?"
I looked up and saw the desperation in his eyes and sensed he was on the edge of tears. He had a different demeanour and manner to others I had come across in the past. My defences were down.
"Please", he said, "I need £10 so my friend will let me stay in his house tonight. If I don't have the money he won't let me in."
"He isn't much of a friend, then" I responded and a dialogue began.
"He might not be much of a friend, but he is the only hope I have. My Dad has a new partner and he has kicked me out. I never asked to be homeless."
There was something about the boy that tugged at my heart strings. So young, so alone, so vulnerable.
Another voice began to speak in my head - he is lying to you. He just wants money for drugs. Don't be deceived. But the boy continued talking and I continued listening.
"If I can only pay my rent, he will let me use his address. I have been promised a job if I have somewhere to live. I am not on drugs you know"
He spoke fast, fluent English but with a slight accent suggesting he was brought up elsewhere in Europe. What had brought him to Derby? Were his family escaping war or persecution? Were they economic migrants? Were they sold a dream of UK prosperity that was impossible to achieve?
There was something about him that deeply disturbed me, "What job will it be?" "It can be any job, I just want to work and not to have to ask people with a good heart for money"
He must have seen something in my eyes too - maybe shock that young people like him are existing in poverty on the edge of British society in 2018. Would the teachers I know in Pakistan, Palestine or Ghana believe that poverty, both financial and emotional, is common place on the streets of the UK?.
My companion was fighting back tears again. I found my hand plunging deep into my pocket, reaching into the small amount of loose change I discovered lying there. I pulled out a £2 coin and passed it to him. Despite my misgivings it seemed the right thing to do.
He emptied his pocket out to show me a smattering of low value coins. "This is all I have," he said. He continued walking with me a little further, telling me further details about his life. Or should I say his existence, before we went our separate ways.
I thought of our meeting little more at the time, but it was a vivid encounter. I don't know his name. I never thought to ask. But I do wonder, where is he sleeping tonight? Are his dreams of a job real or fiction? Was I just easily duped?
Whatever the truth, it haunts me that young people are forced to survive like this, with little opportunity to escape from the 21st Century poverty trap. It is a sobering thought indeed.