B – On being homeless and alone in London – Part 1

I meet B whilst walking with a friend in London one night. We stop and I ask if I can take a few pictures. She agrees and we chat to her for quite a while, about her life, homelessness, street-life…

B#1

 She seemed genuine to me, intelligent, friendly and well-spoken. She told me she’d been a hairdresser before she was on the streets. I could well believe that. She had a friendly way about her… She didn’t ask me for any money. She seemed happy for the company and for people to talk to her. Not to judge her, not to ignore her, just to talk to her like a fellow human being. Hell, don’t we all want that?…

B#5

I recorded a few minutes of our conversation… Here’s what she had to say…

Compo: So, how come you’re homeless at the moment?

B: I was with a partner for three years who was violent towards me; he tried to kill me, he stabbed me – and I’ve got 48 stitches in my head, here and here. So I decided to leave because I didn’t want to be in that relationship.

B#8

C: And how long have you been on the streets?

B: I’ve been homeless for 2 weeks now. I’ve gone to the council, I’ve put my name on the list but I’ve been told that I have to wait 6 months to be allocated before I’m actually housed, because I need to be put into the system, so I’ve got to stay out here until then. 

C: And what’s it like being on the streets?

B: It’s horrible. I had everything: I had a car, I had a house, you know… It can actually happen to anybody, you know, anyone can become homeless, literally anyone… 

C: And what about your friends, family?

B: I was adopted all my life so I haven’t actually got any family. When I left my adopted parents I moved into my own accommodation and then I gave that up to move in with this bloke, and now this has happened I haven’t got anywhere and I haven’t got anything.

B#4

C: It’s pretty scary…

B: Yeah. There’s a lot of homeless people though, you know. You go anywhere and you’ll see… A lot.

C: And how’ve you been since you’ve been on the streets?

B: I’ve had a cold (laughs.) Believe it or not in this weather, I’ve had a cold. I got bitten to death by mosquitos, so I haven’t had a very good time to be honest with you, it’s not been good.

C: If that’s the worst that’s happened to you that’s not too bad, though… 

B: No, it’s not too bad, at least I haven’t been attacked or anything.

B#9

C: So where have you been sleeping?

B: Just down there, in the tunnels… It’s warm down there, that’s the main thing.

C: And how did you hear about that?

B: Actually I was begging here and the security guard, he comes past every day, and he asked me where I was sleeping, and I was actually sleeping here, and he said ‘Oh no, you can’t sleep here, you know, because its a public walkway’, so I said, ‘Where else can I sleep?’ and he showed me the tunnels and said, ‘Oh, you can sleep here. As long as you leave early in the morning and clean everything up, you’re alright.’

It’s alright down there, you know, because people walk through all the time as well, so you feel a little bit safer. You know, because after 11 o’clock up here, nobody walks through, it becomes totally dead. You’re like, ‘Where’s everybody gone?’ (laughs.) You’re in the middle of London and there’s literally nobody about! It’s safer down there, because people walk through all the time – at 6 o’clock in the morning you’ve got people going to work and that, and people always going to the pubs and that – you kind of feel safe…  

But I’ll be out of this situation soon, I will sort myself out. It’s not nice though… You know, I used to walk past homeless people and I used to say to my friends, ‘I’ll never be in that situation, that will never ever happen to me.’ And now I’ve realised, it can actually happen to anyone. 

It’s not nice, I’ve seen heroin addicts, crackheads since I’ve been on the streets and I’ve been offered drugs… A guy the other week said to me, ‘I inject, wouldn’t you like to inject?’ And I was like, ‘Why would I want to do that? My life’s messed up enough as it is. Why do I want to make it worse?’… I’ve seen them, they talk to walls, it’s crazy!… I meet some right messed up people when I’m out here (laughs.) Some really messed up people… 

B#6

You meet nice people as well, don’t get me wrong. You do meet, like, nice people. But most, like, homeless people are just really messed up. You know, they just don’t care anymore, they think, like, ‘What’s the worth of living’, so they just give up, so they drink or they take drugs, they just don’t care… 

But there’s more to life than this, I know there is. This is no life, this is an existence. It’s what I’m doing everyday, just waking up in the morning and getting money for food and things, and that aint a life. 

You know, I don’t like living like this: having to ask people for money. It’s degrading… You know, it really is degrading, having to ask people for money. But not for long. Things can only get better (laughs.)

B#2