World Homeless Day 2013 – Doorway guests share their thoughts

10th October 2013 – World Homeless Day. World Homeless Day has been marked on 10th October each year since 2010 (the same date is also used for World Mental Health Day). The concept was that “On the 10th of October 2013 people around the world will mark World Homeless Day in many varied ways and change the lives of homeless people in their local community.”

This year the day was a Thursday, so coincided with a Doorway drop-in session. During this session, Support Services manager Kevin had a sponsored head shave and leg waxing, but that’s another story….

We took the opportunity of World Homeless Day to ask our guests what homelessness meant to and for them. It’s not as if we don’t talk lots and lots with them at other times about these and all sorts of other issues, but we wanted a snapshot on the day itself. We decided to ask specifically those who were rough-sleeping or sofa-surfing, or had been very recently, rather than those of our guests who are (often very precariously) tenants. They were given a blank piece of paper, pens, crayons, and were told they could write down their thoughts, use me to write them down (many of our guests have literacy issues) or draw a picture. Nobody took up that last option.

In the session we had three guests who are rough-sleeping, two who had been sofa-surfing the night before, and one who was in the hostel but who has been rough-sleeping for a long while before that. One of the sofa-surfing said he was happy to take part, but then left very suddenly with two other guests, for who knows what urgent purpose…

These are their thoughts:

I: (Living in hostel – final night tonight. Rough sleeping for a long while before that)

“It’s like I’m living but I’m dead”

“And then I  find myself homeless, no food, no money. It’s like I’m living but I’m dead. Back home [rural Jamaica], I could produce my own food, but here, I don’t know what I’d do without this place”

L1: (Sofa-surfing last night and usually, but sometimes rough sleeping)

“The thing I hate about homelessness is because I have boys and I cannot have them with me. They want to live with me. I cannot go for custody of my other four as they are in care, but it had nothing to do with me that they were taken into care.”

L2: (Rough sleeping)

“People who are homeless lose more than their homes”

S1: (Rough sleeping)

“My life is shit”

“I’m classed as a high risk criminal. I went down to Amesbury, a lot of things went wrong, I was doing heroin, and I burned down my flat when I was drunk. I was done for reckless arson, and I did 2 and a half years. Since I came out, 2 years ago, I’ve been living on the streets, or sofa-surfing with people I don’t want to live with, people with bad ways. I’ve been drinking heavily. I don’t know what I’ll do when I leave here.

“Housing refuse to help me because of the arson. They say go to Bath, or Bristol, or Swindon. But I’ve got no links there, so they won’t help me for more than a few days at a time. I think the Council here is just trying to get rid of me.

“My life is shit. I’d just like to be able to go home, put the TV on, and relax in my own space.

“I know I’ve done wrong things, but I’ve done 2 and a half years in prison and then 2 years on the street.

“What will I do when I leave here? To be honest, I’ll probably go and try to steal some drink. I drink now to cope. My life is shit. And nobody seems to want to help me.”

S2: (Rough sleeping)

“How do they expect people that are homeless to talk about it? Most people won’t talk, like I don’t. They should think about what’s important and help people and not let all of us be EXPLOITED.”

All bar one agreed to be photographed

“People who are homeless lose more than their homes”

Thanks to our guests who took part. We value your thoughts. we value your company. We value your friendship.

It’s good that we mark World Homeless Day. It would be much much better if we didn’t need to have one.

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