Sept 2002

  This is my way of life

My name is Jackie I’ve been on the streets since August last year. This is my way of life. There are plenty of soup runs here. We get up in the morning and are moved on. Sometimes it can be as early as 3 o’clock in the morning. We go and have a shower and get a change of clothes. I became homeless because my geezer used to beat the hell out of me. He threw me out one night and changed the lock. These people are my family. We help one another. They are better to me than my own family. I’m a mother with four children. My life used to be reasonably steady but its not now. We live from one day to the next. Each day we can have a shower and change our clothes. We can have a breakfast with a baked potato and sausage.
  Homeless for 7 years

My name is Brian I’m 37 and I’ve been on the streets for the last 7 years on and off. I’ve been married twice and have two kids. I became homeless through drink. I was about 18 when it all started. I’ve been in two detox centres but they didn’t work. I don’t like rehabs they don’t work for me because they’re too restrictive. I didn’t feel free like I do out here. I’ve never been in prison. The Old Bill has never caught me. After saying that I’ve only done a bit of petty theft like stealing from a supermarket. I don’t even do that now; I would prefer to beg. It’s easy money and depending where you set your pitch, you can make a few quid. I get pissed almost every day. My first drink is usually about 5 o’clock in the morning. If I’ve had a good night begging I’ll buy a few cans at about 10pm and make sure I’ve got a can when I wake up in the morning. Some days I get that pissed that I wet my pants. I just fall down anywhere and can be asleep for hours. The Old Bill move me on but when I’m pissed I’m out of it. I like to beg round the Victoria area. There are many offices round that place and people can be generous but not often. There’s this woman who gives me five quid each week. I think she feels sorry for me or she might be a Christian. Sometimes I beg when people are coming out of Westminster Cathedral. When I’ve got nothing better to do or I’m tired I try and have a kip inside the church.

Junkies are everywhere and I don’t f…. like them. You can’t trust them. One minute they can be your friend the next minute they can stab you in the back. All they want is money to buy gear and they don’t care how they get it. Us drinkers are different; we stick together and look after each other. We’ve got a code between us. There’s this old guy named Johnnie who I hang round with. He’s been on the streets for about forty years. He is a wise old geezer and I look after him. We drink together and share our beg. At times he can f… get on my nerves so I piss off and leave him. But we always make it up. He’s a bit like a Dad to me. I got married when I was nineteen to Pauline she lived on our estate in Brixton. We went to school together. That’s when we used to go. Must of the time I would hang out at hers’ during the day and she would come to mine. My old man pissed off when I was about seven and left me and my mum. My mum started drinking heavily and she didn’t really care about me. When I was twelve she used to give me drink but then I didn’t really like it. Pauline and me got married because I think we were bored and thought it would be fun. At first things were not too bad. But she also liked the booze and things just didn’t work. I pissed off and left her to face the music. My second wife I met in a hostel. I was twenty four and she was about twenty eight. She had three kids who were in care. I liked Michelle and we managed to get it together. We got our own place but again we liked the booze. I had two kids with her and lived with her for ten years on and off. But each time the kids were taken into care. I’ve never seen my kids for about seven years.

The problem with drinking is that you have no privacy. Everyone kips out at your place. In the end we were both evicted. At first we stayed together. But she was Scottish and went back to Scotland. I haven’t seen her for about three years. My life is up and down. I find more and more junkies are living out here and they can be an f….. pain in the arse. I’m OK I can look after myself but you get fed up having to keep looking behind all the time. On the streets you can’t have anything of value because it will be robbed. I don’t know what I’m going to do in the future. As long as I have a few cans each day I’m happy.
  LONDON My mum used to beat me up

My name is Pauline and I’m 42. It all started when I was about five. My Mum used to beat me. My Dad I never knew. There was just me and my older sister Emma. My mum was ill. Her mind was all over the place. She could have her arms around you and be showing affection and then she would go wild and beat the shit out of you for nothing at all. My geezer was the same. He beat the hell out of me. He used me as a punch bag. He got me onto crack. At times he would lock me in the house and not let me out. That pissed me off. I hate him. I think if I saw him now I would f….. take a knife to him. What he has put me through still gives me nightmares. My three kids were taken into care. Its not all his fault. I’m a crack addict and I’ve also used gear. But I still love my kids. Its hard to be separated from your kids. Motherly instinct and all that, it remains with you.

Someone tried to rape me the other day but I managed to get him off me. It’s hard being a women on the streets. I’ve never worked as a prostitute. I have more respect for myself. I would prefer to beg or do anything other than that. It’s not for me. I no longer take crack but I now drink instead. We all stick together. Each night I make sure I’m with a group of men I trust, mainly for protection. Most geezers are only after one thing and if they don’t get what they want, they can become nasty. My life has been disaster from the beginning. All that has been good in my life is my kids and even they have been taken away. Some nights I can lie awake surrounded by some of these old farts snoring, and all I can think about is my kids. I wonder what they are doing. David my oldest, is no-longer a kid, he’s now 25. I saw him a few years ago. He’s doing well. He seems to have his life together. He works in a pub and has a little nipper of his own. He lives with a really nice girl. I hope things work out for him.

I try and keep myself clean. I make sure I have a shower each day. I still have my respect. Crack has destroyed my life but I’m getting better. I no-longer use the f….. stuff. If I could only turn the clock and live my life again, I wish life was better. But its not and I’ve got to live with what I’ve got. I’ve been on the streets for almost a year. I managed to escape from that f…… b……

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, especially, if I hear noise, and I think he’s coming after me. But I’ve never seen him and I don’t think he’ll come after me now. I think he is probably glad I’ve left him. He’s just a p…… b….. and I don’t want to see him again.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I would like to say I’ll get it all together and fine myself a gaff but I don’t know. It’s not that easy. Anyway I feel safer out here, we all stick together.
  A Nervous Breakdown Has Left me Homeless

My name is Andrew and I’m 29. I had a breakdown when I was studying law in Bristol. At first it was not too bad. I responded to treatment and I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Medication was a life-safer for me. It really lifted me up and helped turn my life around. I went back to University and everything seemed to be going well. The depression got worse and I just couldn’t cope. I decided enough was enough. I lost faith in the medics and decided to drift. I dropped out of University and decided to travel. I speak French and German and travelled round Europe. My Mother and Father grew up in the hippie era and understood my free spirit. At first they thought the idea was good that I go out and spread my wings and discover life. That’s OK when you’re in your early twenties. But I’ve been drifting for the last nine years.

I don’t seem to be able to commit myself to anything. At times I get work, mostly causal work in restaurants. I don’t beg. I’m a street entertainer. I play the guitar. I’ve met some incredible people here on the streets of central London.

I was born in Newcastle in 1972 done well at school and enjoyed sport. I’ve always loved art and sometimes I paint water-colours. I like Pink Floyd, U2 and really every kind of music with a message. I write my own lyrics. I don’t touch drugs but I do smoke a joint. I don’t class that as a drug. If society says its OK to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, I think cannabis should be legalised.

I hang out with buskers. I don’t class myself as homeless. I see myself as an artist living on the streets. I love poetry and music. My closest friend is my guitar and my dog Freedom. I found her roaming round Acton three years ago and she’s been with me ever since. When I travel I leave her with some of my friends who live in a squat. I also live in different squats. I move around different parts of London. I like clubbing and smoking weed. I only come into central London to this soup run when I’m short of cash and I’m hungry.


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