A soup run scandal
Posted on October 20, 2010 by aibaihe
There is a lady that I have mentioned previously – when I tweeted about some of those on
benefits actually making more than I did when you added all the different benefits
together. She comes to all the soup runs and particularly likes to collect clothes (which I
always found a bit weird as she tends to wear the same things). Anyway she was at the
Marlow? Run last night at Lincoln’s Inn and all the guys said “Here she comes, straight to
the front of the queue”. J turned to me and said “You know what she is up to, don’t you?”
“No”. “She sells the clothes at Brick Lane Market.” He went on to explain how annoyed
she made everyone else because she also collects men’s clothes as well and, seeing as she
always pushes to the front, she manages to get the pick of the best things. She already has
her council flat, is on the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance, gets most of her food
at the soup runs and the rest she buys at a highly subsidised rate at the daycentre (in what
way can she possibly be categorised as homeless?) She also still continues to ply her
trade with the gentlemen (I’m trying to put that as delicately as possible!) I was
appalled. J said she is not the only one pulling the same scam. If you get the clothes free
and take them to Brick Lane for selling, then it doesn’t matter what you sell the clothes
for because it is pure profit. J started pointing out others who were doing it. I noticed
men walking away with carrier bags full of clothing.
What really riles some of the guys is the greed amongst some of the people who attend the
runs. J said the correct thing is to take what you need immediately and no more. You
can only wear one pair of socks so never take more than one pair of socks – when you
need more you get another pair. He also hates it when people criticise the volunteers or
complain about the food – he thinks what they do is wonderful, no matter what their
motivations for doing so. Everyone gets angry if someone grumbles about a soup run
turning up “late”. As the British retort, “There’s no such thing as a late soup run, it comes
when it comes.”
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Why women shouldn’t get involved in men’s affairs
Posted on October 19, 2010 by aibaihe
10/10/10 turned out to be an interesting day, all told. It was of course World Homeless
Day, my birthday (when I achieved half my traditionally allotted portion of lifespan – all
downhill from here), celebrated eight months living on the streets and five months of
dating B. B of course had the task of organising my birthday festivities except, as we all
know by now, B didn’t seem to think it was worth actually turning up. I wandered over to
the South Bank and right on time my phone rang – it was mum calling to wish me a
happy birthday. But I didn’t feel like taking the call and I turned off the phone. Then I
switched it back on and called J. He said he would be with me in a couple of minutes.
When he turned up he took me for a coffee. He had in fact been in the vicinity because he
had gone to the assistance of one of his friends who had called him up threatening to
throw himself off one of the Hungerford Footbridges. J had dealt with this in his usually
phlegmatic manner: telling the man to hurry up and do it or come down. He offered to
jump with him but the man changed his mind.
So anyway he was very close by when I called him. We sat down for a drink and I told him
that B hadn’t turned up. J said he was surprised he had done it but I should bear in mind
that I wasn’t aware what things B’s ex-partner had been saying to him. During the
conversation my sister sent me a text message wishing me a happy birthday. J said I
should phone her back and thank her. I said I didn’t know what to say so he took the
phone off me, dialled her number and as I spoke to her he kept passing me little notes
reminding me to say I loved her and how nice it was she had thought of me on my
birthday etc. We ended up having a good chat and when I got off the phone J said I
should make an effort to speak more to her and be nicer to her. Then my mum rang again
and J made me take the call. So after that I felt a bit more lifted in spirits.
It was shaping up to be a beautiful day but I was so tired I asked if we could go to the
park. J said he would leave me there whilst he went and ate lunch and he would come
back later. I really wanted to sleep though so I headed to my usual street so I could get
inside my sleeping bag. Later that afternoon J and Nipper came by to cheer me up –
which they both did a great job of. The next day I got Nipper to ring B’s ex on my behalf
and find out what was going on. She apparently asked if he was ringing on my behalf
(which he denied), was very thoughtful and then said they were sleeping together and she
was working on getting him back for good. That was the only confirmation I needed to
put an end to this nonsense. As you know I then sent a text wishing them all the best
(mainly!) I’ll see if I still have the text on my phone to copy out…yes I do.
“I hear you and Bradley are back together. I think what you have both done to me is
horrible and deceitful and cowardly. However I am a better person than you both and all I
have to say is that I wish you both the greatest joy and love together and that you enjoy
your family life and raise lovely children. I hope Bradley is happy with his choice. Take
J said I shouldn’t have said the first part because they will know they have upset me and
will be happy about it but I replied that I don’t mind people knowing that they have
gotten one over on me. I happen to think other people’s actions don’t reflect badly on me.
Obviously in between acting rationally I did happen to flip a little bit but luckily J and
Nipper were on hand to sort me out. J has been meeting me every day after work and I
have been hanging out with his friends. Although J pays his rent every week at the
starvation army (£31) he doesn’t partake of any of the food in the hostel in protest at the
catering contract. He gets all his food from the soup runs. I think it is also because he has
been out so many years (since he was 13 – now 49 – though he has also spent periods of
time where he has worked, including in the army). Almost all his friends have been out a
long time on the streets (though some are now in hostels). They do seem to have great fun
together and they are all pretty fit and active from all the walking (various addictions and
other health complaints aside). I have to say it is all a little bit “Last of the summer wine”
– they are all like naughty boys who don’t like being inside because they don’t like the
rules and being told what to do.
Last night they took me to the soup run at Temple for the first time. There were a lot of
people there but it was completely different to the Strand and Lincoln’s. For a start
people queued properly. Despite the crowd it was very organised and civilised and the
people waiting did this themselves, they didn’t need to be told. They were almost all
British as well and any foreigners that were there were mixed in with the British and on
speaking terms – not separate. A lot of them were alcoholics and had been on the streets
for quite a while and quite a few of them were ex-soldiers (though if an ex-soldier wants
help there is a lot on offer to them from dedicated organisations). The food was good too:
rice and spicy veg and a goody bag. Then we walked up to Lincoln’s for the late Monday
run (which I think is a Catholic one). They handed out sandwiches, bottles of juice, cake,
tea, cigarettes and clothes. All the men went and collected loads of cake and crisps and
put it in a big carrier bag for me even though I kept protesting that I am meant to be on a
diet for my sponsored run.
Suddenly there was a commotion and we noticed that two guys were having a shouting
match. One of the men was threatening to kill the other. He went to hit him so I ran
round and put myself in the middle. Someone grabbed my arm. It was J. “MOVE” he said
in a way that showed me meant business. I took two steps back. “MOVE” he said again. I
walked back to the guys. I said “I don’t understand why I can’t help. He was trying to hit
him.” J started rolling his eyes and asked the others to explain. They all said together
“You’ll make it worse”. I explained that I was trying to stop the fight. J got exasperated.
He started throwing his arms in the air and swearing. He said women always make it
worse. They always want to get involved. He said “Look. That guy who was threatening
the other guy is a decent bloke. He must have a reason for being angry. It’s down to the
two of them to sort it out. But if you go in there and he throws a bad punch that
accidentally hits you then every guy here will be obliged to jump on him and kill him even
though it wasn’t him who started it.” I was really confused and said “But if it was an
accident then why would he get killed.” All the guys started gurning and shouting
“Women! She doesn’t get it!” J just said “All the men would have to kill him whether it
was an accident or not. That’s just the way it is. Listen, when two women fight, men don’t
get involved.” I exclaimed, “But we love it when men get involved in our fights.” That
elicited a few swear words from them all and they all started laughing. “Just let them
fight,” J said. I said: “I don’t understand but I promise I will try not to get involved
again……unless it is a really big guy threatening to hit a really small guy. Then I would
have to intervene.” J’s face contorted into a grimace. Then he relaxed, laughed and said
“You’re going to get us all killed, girl.”
J said later with regard to the soup runs could I imagine what would have happened if
the soup run had been inside. He said he has seen lots of fights inside and they are
invariably worse because there are tables and chairs to be thrown. I said the soup runs
would need to consider safety and security if they got indoor premises.
There was a guy at the strand a couple of nights ago that I have become friendly with. He
is very sweet but clearly suffers paranoid delusions. He tapped his nose in a
conspiratorial way. He said he was working undercover. I said for whom. He said he
couldn’t tell me. Of course I wasn’t going to accept that. After much persistence I found
out that Peter Bird of the Big Issue had recruited him for a TV programme that ITV1 were
thinking of putting together. He said he didn’t know exactly what was going to be done
but they were going to stop them outlawing rough sleeping and he was being made into a
registered charity and all these other things and that ITV1 would be following him. None
of it made any sense because it was peppered with all these delusional things about the
police and the daycentre being out to get him. However, the registered charity thing
seems a big clue. I have heard that some people had the idea of getting around the soup
run closures by getting individuals to become registered charities in order to collect food
from shops (Pret and Eat will only hand food over to registered charities) and then hand
it out themselves on the streets. Are ITV1 trying to do an expose of how the police handle
it by using homeless people as “undercover investigators”. If that is what is being done,
can I perhaps suggest they investigate the mental health records of the people they are
choosing to do it. This particular gentleman, along with his mental health problems, has
just come out of prison for ABH and might not be in the best frame of mind right now to
be doing this kind of thing.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
Posted on October 18, 2010 by aibaihe
[I am going to set this out as simply as possible so that someone who has no familiarity
with the law in this area can follow it. I removed a couple of little tips on delaying
removal as I decided it would amount to encouraging fraudulent applications.]
Many people have the idea in their head that free movement within the EEA is absolute
and unqualified. This is not so. People do have the right to travel freely for a specified
period of time as detailed in Regulation 13:
“Initial right of residence
13.—(1) An EEA national is entitled to reside in the United Kingdom for a period not
exceeding three months beginning on the date on which he is admitted to the United
Kingdom provided that he holds a valid national identity card or passport issued by an
(2) A family member of an EEA national residing in the United Kingdom under
paragraph (1) who is not himself an EEA national is entitled to reside in the United
Kingdom provided that he holds a valid passport.
(a)this regulation is subject to regulation 19(3)(b); and
(b)an EEA national or his family member who becomes an unreasonable burden on the
social assistance system of the United Kingdom shall cease to have the right to reside
under this regulation.”
What this Regulation does is sets a limit upon the length of time that an EEA national can
spend in another EEA state without becoming a qualified person. In practice many
people spend longer periods than this without being bothered by the authorities because
they are in effect self-sufficient and are having no recourse to public funds. There is still
technically an onus upon these people to register and become qualified persons but many
people never bother to do so. To take one example, many British pensioners in France
and Spain find themselves in trouble when trying to access medical services because they
find that the European Health Insurance Card does not qualify them for treatment in the
way they believe. It is not until they try to access local services that they find they are in
breach of the same EEA laws that are applied throughout the Union and are now being
examined in regard to homeless EEA nationals on the streets of the UK.
So, we have a right of movement within the EU but in order to become resident in
another EEA country for longer than three months, the next step is to become a “qualified
person”. This is the definition of a qualified person as set out in Regulation 6 of the
Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006:
6.—(1) In these Regulations, ‘qualified person’ means a person who is an EEA national
and in the United Kingdom as—
(c)a self-employed person;
(d)a self-sufficient person; or
Elsewhere in the Regulations (there is no need to go into the specific details to any great
length here) it gives further explanation of what these categories entail. It is important to
note that a worker is not someone who earns cash-in-hand money – they absolutely must
be paying tax and national insurance on their earnings to qualify as a worker. I am
guessing that one of the routes that someone might seek to challenge removal could well
be with regard to the category of a self-sufficient person but again if someone does not
have private medical insurance, is relying on homeless day centres and living on the
streets, then it is absolutely certain they will fail on this point.
It is important to note here that someone does not have to be a qualified person in their
own right, they can also be dependent on someone by virtue of being a family member or
extended family member of someone who is a qualified person, even if they are an illegal
immigrant and in this case they will be awarded a family permit. It could not happen
though that someone would be regarded as a family member or extended family of an
EEA national exercising Treaty rights if they are not physically forming part of that
person’s household and are choosing to live on the streets.
I should think that the biggest challenges to removal would be in the cases where
someone has previously exercised Treaty rights but is no longer doing so:
“Extended right of residence
14.—(1) A qualified person is entitled to reside in the United Kingdom for so long as he
remains a qualified person.
(2) A family member of a qualified person residing in the United Kingdom under
paragraph (1) or of an EEA national with a permanent right of residence under regulation
15 is entitled to reside in the United Kingdom for so long as he remains the family
member of the qualified person or EEA national.
(3) A family member who has retained the right of residence is entitled to reside in the
United Kingdom for so long as he remains a family member who has retained the right of
(4) A right to reside under this regulation is in addition to any right a person may have to
reside in the United Kingdom under regulation 13 or 15.
(5) But this regulation is subject to regulation 19(3)(b).”
The areas of interpretation that might come into play are where the person has previously
been exercising her Treaty rights and is temporarily unemployed, but even within the
Regulations it is clear to see that there are clear limits on for how long that period can last
and what the person should be doing in the meantime as set out in Regulation 6(2):-
“(2) A person who is no longer working shall not cease to be treated as a worker for the
purpose of paragraph (1)(b) if—
(a)he is temporarily unable to work as the result of an illness or accident;
(b)he is in duly recorded involuntary unemployment after having been employed in the
United Kingdom, provided that he has registered as a jobseeker with the relevant
employment office and—
(i)he was employed for one year or more before becoming unemployed;
(ii)he has been unemployed for no more than six months; or
(iii)he can provide evidence that he is seeking employment in the United Kingdom and
has a genuine chance of being engaged;
(c)he is involuntarily unemployed and has embarked on vocational training; or
(d)he has voluntarily ceased working and embarked on vocational training that is related
to his previous employment.”
In round up, there are several “milestones” that an EEA national passes with regard to
residence in another EEA member state:
• They may enter without hindrance another EEA state.
• They may stay there for up to three months.
• By the end of that three month period they MUST become a qualified person through
one of the ways set out in Regulation 6 (or they must be a family member or extended
family member of a qualified person as set out in Regulation 6).
• They must remain a qualified person until they have achieved a permanent right of
residence after five years.
The only challenges I can envisage to removal are in those areas mentioned previously
such as where an EEA national has previously exercised their Treaty rights, or they are
able to claim status as a family member or extended family member of another EEA
national who is exercising Treaty rights. Outside of that, they also have recourse to
human rights legislation (provisions, for example, such as Articles 3 and 8 of the
European Convention on Human Rights).
BUT: Here is a really important principle of the Immigration (European Economic Area)
Regulations 2006 that homelessness services should be advising their clients of. Unlike
non-EEA nationals who can be deported and administratively removed from the country
purely on the basis of their past behaviour, EEA nationals can only be judged on
indications of future risk. That means at any time they can turn things round by starting
to exercise their Treaty rights and by becoming a qualified person within the meaning of
the Regulations. Homelessness advocates would be doing a far better job for
their clients by advising them that their best option is to get off the streets
and get into work than by giving them false encouragement that the United
Kingdom has an obligation to allow them to live howsoever they choose on
the streets. Many of the EEA homeless that I have talked to on the streets say they are
not too concerned that they are going to be deported because they have been stopped on
numerous occasions by the police and nothing has happened. That would make alarm
bells go off in my head because it is exactly such a log of recurrent stops that the police
will be using to establish that that person is making no effort to become a qualified
person on the basis that past behaviour is indicative of future risk and the more examples
of this that can be shown, the greater the indication that there will be no change in the
There is now sufficient case law in this area to say with confidence that an appeal would
not be let through by a person claiming that they have the right to reside in another EEA
state indefinitely without becoming a qualified person. As an example of this, there was a
recent appeal case where a Dutch national was arrested on arrival to the UK for
trafficking drugs. He was arrested and sentenced to several years in prison. At the end of
the sentence, he sought to fight removal from the country on the basis that, as he had now
been in the country for more than five years, he had established a permanent right of
residence. The ruling was quite firm on the point that as he had not been a qualified
person under the Rules, it did not matter how long he had been physically present in
the country. The only thing that mattered was whether he had been exercising his
Treaty rights which clearly he had not been. With regard to the EEA Regulations and a
right to reside, it is important to understand clearly the difference between those two.
When looked at in this regard, schemes such as Routes Home go above and beyond any
legal requirement for the United Kingdom to deal with the problem of EEA nationals
sleeping rough. One may choose to be cynical about it. I would prefer to regard it as both
a pragmatic way of dealing with the problem and a humanitarian gesture to those who
would be better served returning home to their own country and culture where they can
reconnect with family members and – if it is possible and desirable in their case – for
them to regroup and return in a much better financial and mental state to make a life for
themselves in the UK.
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Posted on October 1, 2010 by aibaihe
The route to becoming “comfortable” on the streets as told through one case study – me!
I knew I was going to be sleeping on the streets some time before it happened. I was
living on the campsite and my funds were rapidly dwindling. I considered all the options
and I couldn’t face going through the scenario of defaulting on my financial commitments
and the only alternative seemed to me to sleep rough. I researched on the internet about
places to sleep in London (which is where I found out about places like Westminster
Cathedral piazza being a hotspot for rough sleeping) but I didn’t know anything about
any other resources that were open to me. When I had been illegally evicted from where I
had been living up until June 2009, I had in fact been accepted as homeless by
Walthamstow Council. The lady who dealt with my claim to be housed was lovely and
very sympathetic. She regularly called me to check on me and see how I was doing and
knew I was living on the campsite. She encouraged me to get a report from the doctor
explaining about my physical injuries from the accident I had been in (I am not suffering
with it so much at the moment) and with regard to the fact that I had been having
seizures around that time and had been depressed. One day when she called me, she
asked how I was doing on the campsite and whether I still wanted housing. I said I was
fine and she persisted in asking me a couple more times. When I reassured her that I was
fine she sighed as though I had said the wrong thing and she said in that case I would be
removed from the list of homeless people waiting to be housed. At the time it didn’t
bother me because I didn’t believe as a single person I was entitled to a flat anyway.
So it happened that at the end of January 2010 I knew that the moment was finally
arrived. I packed up all my things and got a unit in a self-storage place.
The first few nights were horrible – and I laugh now at how ill-prepared I was. For a start
I only took a sleeping bag with me (it was concurrent with that horrible winter we went
through last year) that had cost me about £3 from Tescos. I was too embarrassed to start
looking around for cardboard so I lay straight down on the ground. It took me about an
hour to dare to lie down at all. I stood against the wall with all the people passing by and
pretended like I was waiting for someone. Then I squatted down. Then I sat down. And
then I quickly pulled out my sleeping bag and wrapped it round me (during my research I
had watched a programme where a homeless man said he never zipped up his sleeping
bag so that he could leap up and protect himself at any moment – bullshit – zip the bag
up or freeze to death!) I was wearing a scarf wrapped tightly around my face in case
anyone recognised me. [I needn’t have bothered – it doesn’t take long before you realise
people try their best NOT to look at you and your own mother would look straight
through you.] After an hour I was frozen and so I got up and walked around for the rest
of the night.
The second night I brought my air bed with me (if you have seen a homeless person with
an airbed in London it was probably me!!) As I took it out of my bag, a man appeared
behind me and I jumped. He offered me a sandwich but I was so scared I said no thanks.
A couple of minutes after lying down two young boys put a McDonalds burger by my head
but I panicked and shouted at them to go away and they took it away again. I can’t
adequately relate how scared I was, even though I was in a very public area. The airbed
helped but it was still freezing.
Over the next couple of weeks I gradually tweaked things until I started to get more
comfortable in my new bed. I learned some really important things. The most important
thing is to insulate from the ground. The second is that it is better to remove a damp
article of clothing and wear less than to think that layering works with wet clothes. This
is especially true for socks. You feel a lot warmer if you remove your socks and shoes
before getting into your sleeping bag – if it is cold I put on a pair of slippers.
Outreach didn’t come across me the entire time I slept in Victoria or in Bloomsbury, the
other place I bedded down during this period.
After a couple of weeks, getting washed started to become the most pressing issue. I
could use wet wipes for my body but I have waist length hair and it needed washing
properly. I researched on the internet places to get washed and I came across the website
of a homeless daycentre. I noticed that they had an evening session and resolved to go
then. I rang the bell and a member of staff happened to open it and said they were
closing very soon. But he looked at me and said come in. And that began my
involvement with the daycentre. They at first didn’t believe that I was sleeping rough (I
think) because outreach hadn’t come across me (I have been spoken to by outreach teams
only about 6 or 7 times in the eight months I have been sleeping rough, most of those
were quite recently). I felt very comfortable at the daycentre and using the showers was a
thrill. I decided to start sleeping outside the daycentre because (a) it would prove to them
I was in fact sleeping rough; (b) I felt safer there; (c) it was close to my place of work.
On the subject of outreach, this is a typical conversation at the soup runs between rough
“Hi, where are you from?
“How long have you been out?”
“Couple of weeks”
“Are you getting help?”
“No I am waiting for outreach to find me”
“Where are you sleeping?”
“No mate, you don’t want to sleep there. If you want to be found by outreach you have to
The first couple of months I hardly talked to any other homeless people. If someone tried
to engage me directly in conversation, I would say the absolutely minimum. The first
person I properly talked to was B. He annoyed me with a continuous barrage of
questions for a two hour period one Sunday morning and try as I did to ignore him in the
end he just bulldozed his way through my defences.
The second time he saw me I smiled and said “Hi” – this is when he says he fell for me.
The third time I saw him was at LIF and relates to the tweet about feeling like
Huckleberry Finn. B was one of the people I was with, J was the other. I know now that
B was in fact there because he was looking for me. Once you get admitted into the inner
circle of the long timers on the streets you start to get taken more seriously by all the
others. People start saying they will look out for you then and sleeping rough starts to
feel a little safer.
As a woman there is a choice to be made as to what kind of abuse you want to put up with
from the public. If you cover your face, people assume you are a man and you get kicked
or shouted at a lot. If you uncover your face you risk being sexually assaulted. I have
endured both. Sexual assaults are committed by other homeless and the general public –
in my case about half and half. I have never reported an assault to the police.
In the beginning I didn’t attend soup runs at all. Firstly because from my research I only
knew about them theoretically but there is a big difference between that and actually
knowing the exact spot of where and when to wait for them. Secondly because I was
ashamed and considered myself different to the other rough sleepers. In the beginning
sandwiches were regularly left at the side of my bed and I have a suspicion they were
actually left there by staff from the daycentre or a soup run had been tipped off by the
daycentre about my presence there but I have never asked about that. I was encouraged
by the daycentre to attend the soup runs and eventually gave it a go. It takes a while to
take the knowledge and develop it to the point where you actually have a plan for
somewhere to eat seven days a week.
The biggest problem for me in the first few months was coping with the weekend. Over
time it has become easier because I now know places I can go to for food and if you pace
yourself you can go from soup run to soup run getting a cup of tea and meeting people
you know so that you get through the day reasonably easily. I also tend to go to bed really
early at the weekend out of boredom. I can easily sleep 12 to 14 hours on Friday and
Those first few weeks and months I regularly felt unwell, distressed and desperate to do
something about my situation. Now I realise that I could live out indefinitely and it isn’t a
pressing problem in my life.
I am at the stage now where I know most of the regular people at the soup runs and they
know me, I know how to keep warm at night and I know dry places I can go to sleep
(though I don’t much mind sleeping in the rain). I have places I can go and sit, I know
the cheapest places to buy a hot drink on a cold day. I know what you can get away with
in different parks in terms of how homeless you look. LIF is the worst – they jump on
any behaviour that looks homeless related (the same is true for other small parks that are
well-attended); Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are the best – you could lie in your
sleeping bag in the middle of the day and not be disturbed. Places like St James Park are
in the middle – you can’t get in your sleeping bag during the day but you won’t be
disturbed at night unless you are in a group and drinking. Trafalgar Square they don’t
bother you in the evening but when the national gallery is open the security guards harass
anyone sleeping on the grass outside (the homeless Butlins we call it because it is a real
sun trap!) It is a process of acquiring more and more experience and knowledge of what
you can get away with where that gradually makes the life more and more comfortable
and removes the impetus to start trying to resolve your problems: you just end up drifting
Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments | Edit
Posted on October 1, 2010 by aibaihe
Last week I went to an organisation to get help with applying for other jobs. They clearly
have a discriminatory employment policy at that place because every member of staff was
very tall with a good head of hair. The session boosted my confidence a little but now I
have fallen back again but I am going to start trying to apply for things and just see what
comes of it.
On Wednesday B and his mates told me that one of their good friends had died suddenly.
He had previously been an alcoholic but had put that behind him in recent times, was
living in a hostel and awaiting permanent accommodation. Things had seemed like they
were turning round for him. He was re-establishing links with his former partner and
their children but this week, whilst visiting a friend he had suddenly collapsed and blood
had poured out of his nose and mouth. He died aged about 42. Everyone was very
subdued. It started to rain and three of us walked to St Martin-in-the-Fields church. B
and his friend checked the prayer request board. Earlier that day they had drafted a
request for a prayer in their deceased pal’s name and placed it on the board. The prayer
had already been said and the men were touched that it had been done so quickly. We sat
down on one of the pews and they talked about their friend and how they felt about it – it
was very moving. Later B had lots of questions for me about death and I tried my best to
reassure him that his friend wouldn’t have suffered too much in his final moments.
There have been a lot of familiar faces back at the soup runs recently. Danny D stepped
off the train from the north and came straight to the Strand (remember my previous
comments about soup runs being magnets). Later I met some of B’s friends he hadn’t
seen since meeting me. Again, the soup runs were the hub for these reunions. One of
them has coeliac disease and has difficulty getting appropriate food at the runs. I said he
should mention it to Fred who would be sure to prioritise him for one of the few salads he
brings. I also said I wasn’t sure but I had read somewhere that people with coeliac disease
can get a prescription for gluten free food and he said he would check it out asap. When
Fred came, this guy got an egg and cress sandwich from him and I said “No he has coeliac
disease” and Fred rolled his eyes, tutted and said he couldn’t eat that and would give him
something more appropriate.
Last night some Irish men turned up with a truck and started offering work to the men
waiting at the Strand for food. The guys who have been on the streets a while were
chuckling to themselves. They said you might get paid but you have just as much chance
of getting a hiding and being ripped off for all your earnings. The men were offering free
room and board and £30 a day for building patios/laying driveways etc. One of the firms
I saw was called J & M Murphy. A couple of the newbies went with them. B was laughing
and saying “We’ll never see them again” but some of the guys said that as long as you kept
your head down and didn’t talk back to anyone you had a good chance of getting the
money. But the moment you start giving one of them lip you will be out on your ear
without receiving any of your pay. Shortly after, another truck came by offering work –
this time they were prepared to go up to £40 a day. For the work they were offering, the
amount of pay is scandalous. On a side point, today I passed by Bank of America in the
City and there was one of the frequent anti-animal testing demonstrations taking place. It
made me think what would happen if animal testing were outlawed completely. At the
moment, volunteering for testing on humans is quite popular with backpackers and
students and other people with blocks of time free. But codes of practice mean that the
kind of experiments they are involved in are relatively safe and anything dangerous has to
be done on animals first. But if you took that away and ALL testing was done on humans,
you can bet that medical companies would find it nigh on impossible to find human
guinea pigs to sign up for the trials – would we then start to see trucks from
pharmaceutical companies turning up at the soup runs looking for vulnerable and
impoverished people to exploit. You can bet they wouldn’t get too many lawyers or CEOs
willing to sign up. Just a thought.
We came across Churchill again. She is allowing herself to be sexually exploited in
exchange for alcohol (she is an alcoholic). It is tragic and everyone on the streets is quite
hopeful she will be sectioned sooner rather than later.
The Strand was very busy last night. That gentle Scot that I have mentioned before
brought some cartons of hot food left over from St Giles down. It got out of hand though
and people were grabbing frantically at the cartons.
This morning I woke up and mine and B’s sandwiches from the soup run that we had
decided to save for breakfast had been stolen from beside our heads! Because I had been
paid today, and because B has been feeling depressed recently, I used my milk money to
buy B a sausage sandwich from a Wetherspoons pub. He ate the sandwich with his knife
and fork and when I laughed and asked him why he said he liked to use a knife and fork,
he said when he was a child his parents didn’t have cutlery in the house (or food come to
that) and so he always ate with his hands. One day his aunt invited him round for dinner
and they all stared in horror at him when he began to eat the hot food with his fingers.
She gave him his own knife and fork to take home with him and taught him how to use
them. He was 11 years old. And I was curious as to what the meal at his aunt’s house was
as well, so I asked him: it was spaghetti bolognaise…oh darling B! That answered a
question for me as to why he had such good table manners – considering his family
background – it was something he took pride in so as to distinguish himself from his
B has been told by the daycentre that he has used up his chances with regard to a hostel
place and he now has to wait six to eight months before he will get referred again. He is
very depressed about it. We have a meeting together on Tuesday (both B and I) at the
daycentre to discuss things.
I was shocked last night to witness first hand the relentless verbal abuse that
deadly_sirius has to endure (including from my very own B who referred to her as “it”).
Deadly_sirius, despite this, showed the most incredible compassion and understanding
in their defence. Not to condone it in any way, but I think there is something of the prison
yard about the way the men conduct themselves – and the way they attack perceived
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Response to a comment
Posted on September 30, 2010 by aibaihe
[I have shifted this from the comments sections on begging and soup runs because I have
decided it is too important to be left there where it might get overlooked.]
These are really good questions. You’re putting me to the test (which is great by the way –
nothing like a few well-aimed questions to test the strengths and weaknesses of an
On the issue of consent. If you have read everything I have written, you will be aware (I
think I wrote about it) that I have been sectioned myself. At the time it is frightening and
one of the most disturbing experiences you can experience; to be out of control of your
physical self-determination just at the moment when you are also losing control of your
thoughts. Things have moved on, and are moving on rapidly (in my opinion), in this area
of healthcare but striking an appropriate balance is, and will always be, an incredibly
difficult exercise. I suppose in some respects it can be compared to offering treatment to a
coma patient – the patient is unable to give consent and there is simply the presumption
that, as it is possible to recover from the illness/injuries, the person involved would want
as much as was reasonably possible to be done for them on their behalf.
Here is actually a far more interesting scenario/thought experiment for you than the one
from the radio programme. My friend “P” – that I have mentioned frequently -hates
taking her medication (injections for schizophrenia). I presumed that was because of the
side effects of the medication (which are really awful – I have previously been prescribed
anti-psychotics myself even though I am not schizophrenic). But one day she admitted to
me the real reason why she didn’t like taking the drugs. It was because when she
recovered some of her mental faculties under the influence of the medication, she had an
inkling of just how much she had lost in her life and would be unable to reclaim and the
thought made her cry. That was one of the most devastating things I have heard in my life
(in fact tears are coming to my eyes as I type this). She was in fact using non-compliance
in much the same way as an alcoholic abuses drink to blot out their painful feelings. I
guess the real problem in that situation is that there is insufficient assistance to people in
her position to participate fully in society but in the meantime it does throw up a really
fascinating complication in the free will debate.
Sometimes when interested parties spend years wrangling over interesting philosophical
points that seem unwinnable by either side, they forget to stop and think whether there
are simpler questions that are answerable and negate the need to even contemplate those
more complicated points. Rather than agonising over free will and the right to interfere in
another person’s life, consider instead this: out of all the people I have met on the streets,
who might be out there for any one of a number of reasons (be it relationship breakdown,
mental health issue, personality disorder, financial concerns, escape from an abusive
situation) NOT ONE of them really wants to be there (and I mean that). They all admit
that they want to be housed, it is just that the process for returning to housing might be
easier for some than for others. So the question of free will is really only hypothetical in
the whole debate.
Lastly, on the question of imposing our views on someone who listens to the debate and
claims to understand it while still persisting in doing the opposite, I could only
understand taking that stance if the debate were more ambiguous. There is simply too
much consensus of opinion on this point.
And, of course, begging is illegal and so the giver is enabling that person’s criminal
actions (which is a slightly weaker point, I admit).
Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments | Edit
Sponsored sleep outs
Posted on September 30, 2010 by aibaihe
Charities need to raise money but they also need to strike a balance between their need to
achieve their funding targets, in order to be able to carry on their vital work, and their
doing so in a sensitive way that doesn’t undermine the overall, long-term message. All
charities, be they large or small, are in fierce competition to get hold of the public pound
and most have cottoned on to the fact that they can gain valuable funding from offering
“experiences” for which people, who possibly have no deep abiding interest in the
charity’s aims, might desire to join up. We have all seen numerous advertisements for
sponsored bike rides, abseils, bungee and parachute jumps and in my opinion the
majority of people who sign up for these charities are going for the exciting experience as
the primary goal with fundraising a secondary consideration. I say this with authority
because I myself have done charity challenges in the past and have “shopped around” to
find the charity that sets the lowest minimum fundraising target or has the lowest
registration fees. That is not to say that I didn’t take the fundraising side of things
seriously or that I didn’t read the information that came with the fundraising pack to find
out more about the charity on whose behalf I was completing the challenge. The charity
fundraising experience is a bit of a saturated marketplace and it is difficult to stand out
without resorting to driving the “price” down against your “competitors”. So a charity
supporting a particular cause that has a unique experience related to the charity itself
that can be “sold” in order to raise funds without being drowned out by the competition
has a conundrum. Should they risk alienating people by seemingly trivialising the
charity’s aims or should they exploit this small advantage. I think on balance they are
entitled to exploit it and I don’t think there is any need to be po-faced about the whole
thing and expect people to have a miserable time in the process. Surely no-one who goes
on a sponsored sleep out really thinks they are coming within a million miles of genuine
rough sleeping. I think people are extremely curious about what it is like to sleep on the
streets of a city and I don’t think they need to be embarrassed about their curiosity – we
are, after all, an inquisitive species. A good charity that points out with sensitivity the fact
that those participating in a sleep out aren’t even coming close to how it feels to be alone
and frightened on the streets at night should not feel troubled about resorting to these
methods for raising money.
ON THE OTHER HAND…
I also understand why people like Jeremy Swain get so frustrated about them. Before I
was homeless I had no idea of the services on offer to the vulnerably housed and
homeless. Rough sleeping is just a tiny fraction of what these organisations are involved
in. The vast majority of people classified as homeless never spend one night on the
streets (partly thanks to the very work of such organisations). They might however be
vulnerably housed or at risk of becoming homeless. They might need assistance with
access to education or training for work etc etc. Many of the people being helped by such
organisations have previously slept rough (whether it has been for a matter of days,
weeks, months or even years) and are now in the long drawn out hostel or supported
housing system on the way to achieving their own permanent accommodation and in the
meantime are being prepared for eventual independence.
I can imagine how someone in Jeremy’s position gets really frustrated that all the
attention is focused on the (forgive me) “sexier” side of the business because society is
inevitably drawn to what they perceive to be the most horrifying end of the spectrum that
sleeping rough inevitably represents.
This, of course, is all just my opinion. Please feel free to play devil’s advocate.
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments | Edit
Posted on September 28, 2010 by aibaihe
Begging denies homeless people the opportunity to develop crucial life skills
like budgeting in preparation for independent living. (Actually this also ties in
with the soup runs but I forgot to mention it yesterday though it fits well here too.) A
substantial number of rough sleepers that are moved into hostels end up being evicted
through non-payment of their service charge. This is particularly true of the long timers
on the streets. And how can they be convinced to work with the system in terms of
learning to live within their means and pay their service charge (which pays for hot
meals) when everything on the streets is free. There is no need to learn to budget for
meals, drinks or clothing because there is an abundance of people handing it out for
nothing or throwing money at them.
Begging – once again many are not in fact homeless. If someone tells you that
they are begging for a room for the night – rubbish. There are emergency night shelters
and a revolving supply of hostel beds available. If they say it is to pay for food – there is
plenty available free or incredibly cheap at the various daycentres and churches dotted
around London. If they say it is to pay for a ticket home – the police stations and
daycentres hand out on demand a travel warrant for a train home to anyone who needs it.
The money is spent on alcohol and drugs. This is a fact. I know my attitude,
before I knew better, used to be that people who begged had little option as to help from
government services and at least in the meantime I was content to pay for their addiction
to keep them going until they could access the assistance they needed but I can tell you
from what I have seen that the homeless have swift access to rehab. It isn’t like the access
that the general populace have, where it is not uncommon for people to be put on a
waiting list for months or even years. A more common timeframe on the streets is a wait
of days or a couple of weeks at most. In fact, because the addicted way of life is so
sustainable on the streets through begging etc almost every person I have talked to that
has said they are going into rehab from the streets admits they are only going in for
respite and not at all to permanently deal with their addiction – they are rather going for
the good food and comfortable surroundings because they admit they are close to the
edge and need to pull back for a while (many street homeless have used rehab like this on
multiple occasions). Maybe if it wasn’t so easy to sustain an addiction on the streets
through begging, they would be forced to take rehab more seriously and less like a holiday
camp before returning to their old ways (thus freeing up more beds for other sectors of
the population). Giving to beggars is truly the definition of killing with kindness.
Begging is fraudulent because the giver doesn’t have a clear picture of the
circumstances of the person asking. I know before I was homeless I thought that
sleeping rough was the most horrific thing that could happen to a person and I felt unable
to pass someone without giving to them because there circumstances were unimaginable
to me. There is in fact a whole network of support for the homeless and a multitude of
services covering every area – not just in terms of housing, but also healthcare,
employment, arts and crafts, music and other activities. It is a very well resourced
sector. You don’t need to assuage your guilt at not being in that situation by
giving money. Really.
Leads to non-engagement with homeless services (see comments on soup-runs).
All that money could instead be directed to homeless services – the sums of
money involved are massive. I have read figures like £300,000 a week and from
what I have witnessed I can well believe it. Think what could be achieved with that
money! People really do make major sums begging (read my previous tweets and blog).
A successful beggar can make a couple of hundred a day – all of which will go on booze or
drugs. The ones who look the worst off make the most money – this is definitely a “trade”
where having the “right look” pays dividends. Beggars with dogs rake it in and dogs are
rented out for that purpose. There are in fact plenty of services for the homeless
providing support (for veterinary care, food etc.) for dogs as well so there is no need to
give especially to them.
Many rough sleepers have children and families living elsewhere. They need
to be directed towards being more responsible for their lives and caring for their
dependants through being productive in legitimate ways. Begging is undignified. This is
not a criticism – it is a recognition that rough sleepers are people that are capable of
being productive members of society even if they don’t realise it themselves.
Leads to mentality of “us and them” and that it is ok to take from “them” rather
than the homeless considering themselves as normal members of society who need to
play their own part and the way that the beggar needs to play up to an expected role as
pitiful and weak to “earn” the drop (a drop is a payment of money) is infantilising and
There isn’t much to say on the positive side except perhaps that it is undoubtedly really
touching when someone walks up and, unasked, gives money. This is the only good thing
to be said on the subject.
I know how difficult it is to walk by without giving anything – I always used to give money
without fail. Something needs to be put in place to replace that. Maybe a really
recognisable pin badge that shows solidarity with the homeless and represents a donation
to one of the frontline homeless services that is visible and shows a beggar that a person
has given directly to charity in their honour. This could be quite easily advertised in the
daycentres, hostels and other homeless organisations that come into contact with the
homeless to emphasise that a person wearing such a badge supports their cause but will
not give directly to a beggar – enabling people who find it difficult to walk by a “let out”
that they can point to on their lapel without them appearing rude or unsympathetic.
There is already considerable dialogue between the various agencies so I don’t see that
something like this (or some suitable alternative) couldn’t be organised.
Don’t give money to beggars! Have I made that sufficiently clear?
Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments | Edit
Soup runs addendum
Posted on September 28, 2010 by aibaihe
Further to what I said before, I want to offer a little illustration about the necessity for
soup runs to come indoors and be linked up in some way with the mainstream homeless
Penfold, Stitch’s one time drinking buddy (whom I have previously mentioned),
reappeared for a couple of days this week. We thought he had gone home and been given
a council flat and, seeing as we both come from the same town, I had made plans to visit
him at Christmas. It turns out he had lied about this. Unbeknownst to anyone he has
been sleeping rough in the fields and suburbs just outside London. He turned up last
week looking in extremely poor health and after a couple of days he disappeared again,
having said he was going back to the same place. He has been drinking excessively and
taking drugs – he has a habit of taking anything he can get his hands on, no questions
asked. His behaviour is incredibly self-destructive. Of course, his first port of call for
meeting up with his old buddies was the soup runs. He has disappeared now and Stitch
and I are in despair that he is very close to the end. He is probably going to die and
maybe the homeless services don’t even know it is happening because there was no need
for him to seek out his friends at the daycentre because he knew he would be able to meet
them at the soup runs. He is 52 years old and maybe not going to see his next birthday
and it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can say that the soup runs provide a vital service and I agree that they do but they
could do a whole lot more – without most of the drawbacks – if they were provided in an
altered format. And wouldn’t you want all that food to be better directed towards the
people who need it most (perhaps through social services referrals) and wouldn’t you
want all those incredibly vulnerable men and women (who are at heart decent folk) being
under the watchful care of those who are trying their best to help turn their lives around?
It seems a no-brainer to me.
Please feel free to disagree in the comments section.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
Posted on September 27, 2010 by aibaihe
This is a really emotive subject and I have given it a huge amount of thought since
becoming homeless but I have to be honest with myself and my opinion is that the
movement to close the soup runs whilst encouraging the best of them to operate under a
different model is correct.
I know if I said this openly on the streets I would be shouted down by every other rough
sleeper or person that uses the runs and possibly by a lot of people who are interested in
homelessness but never had cause (thankfully) to experience it first hand. On the other
hand, this is exactly what the main homeless service providers and government
departments with any interest in the subject have been vociferously calling/campaigning
for. But the fact I support the closures is entirely down to my own observations. I want to
tackle some of the points against them but also highlight some of the difficulties that will
be thrown up by their closure as well.
In no particular order:
Most of the people who use soup runs are not homeless. Not only are they not
homeless in the sense that they are not sleeping on the streets but they are not homeless
in any sense of the word. This varies in terms of which soup run we are talking about. In
my experience Lincoln’s Inn Fields (LIF) has the lowest percentage of rough sleepers
using it (though many do go up from time to time “for a change”). I often engage people
in conversation at the soup runs and most of the British that use the soup runs at LIF are
permanently housed. This is particularly true of the women (in fact in general almost all
the women you see at soup runs have permanent accommodation). I have conversed with
people who come from council estates as far afield as Ilford and Peckham to collect free
food there (thanks to the joys of the Freedom Pass). LIF is also frequented by a large
number of foreign nationals, particularly East Europeans. If an observer were to arrive
about half an hour before the first soup run were due to turn up they would witness large
groups of builders remove their fluorescent tabards, chain up their bikes and wait
patiently for their free evening meal. I am not taking moral issue with this (after all I
work) but I am stating the facts for anyone who wants a clearer understanding of what is
going on. For those who are not in work, the soup runs provide an opportunity to discuss
work opportunities like which agencies to get work from, who is looking for leafleters or
cleaners etc. (since the East Europeans come from many different countries they often
converse in English). This is the worst soup run for seeing people collect large bags of
food to take home to other people – the quantities collected can be quite obscene. The
rule seems to be that the later in the evening the soup run, and the fact of its location in
one of the “hotspots” e.g. LIF and the Strand, the more likely it is to be frequented by
non-homeless. The exceptions to this rule are the “hidden soup runs” for example “the
chocolate run” is hidden well away and is exclusively rough sleepers and the drops that
the Simon Community do in the various small side streets is also mostly rough sleepers.
The early morning runs are 100% rough sleepers/emergency night shelter occupants
(around 6 to 7.00 a.m. in various places).
They teach people how to become entrenched in the rough sleeping lifestyle.
It took me a couple of weeks before I dared first attend a soup run. Before I attended one,
I knew no-one on the streets, and talked to no-one out here. I was too intimidated at the
daycentre from engaging other people in conversation. But the open atmosphere of the
soup runs makes you feel safer and makes you feel more confident in conversing with
others because escape seems more possible. It was at the soup runs that I picked up lots
of handy hints about sleeping rough and about other soup runs I could go to. This is both
a really positive and really negative thing for obvious reasons. It provides a safety net for
rough sleepers but it also makes the life easier and more sustainable just at the time when
homeless services are trying to encourage the newly homeless to engage with them and
get them quickly off the streets. I have read statistics that a rough sleeper becomes
entrenched within two weeks of starting to sleep on the streets. I disagree. A rough
sleeper becomes entrenched the moment they have a full timetable of soup runs they can
visit over a seven day period. The soup runs break up the day and make living on the
streets more palatable. Everyone counts the hours until the next available meal and the
benefits of one run over another are debated with great interest. It gives a semblance of
essential routine to life outside which would be unbearable without them. On an
interesting point, soup runs are more popular and attract people from further away if
they offer hot drinks.
They provide people with companionship and support and have the potential
to encourage users to be linked in with organised services. People are drawn
back to the street because they are often lonely in their individual accommodation. Once
a person has permanent accommodation, they are often barred from the daycentres and
the only way of keeping in touch with their old friends is through the soup runs.
Daycentres don’t have the same easy way of encouraging conversation with other people
because chairs and tables tend to encourage static groups and it is not as easy to drift up
to another group of people and chat to them as it is when you are all standing outside
together and can shift from one group to another. The soup runs provide a
psychologically easier and “safer” way of engaging with others.
The soup runs can be chaotic and dangerous. A lot of the people who use soup
runs have serious criminal records and/or are on the run from the police here or abroad.
Almost all the runs occur close to busy roads (even LIF has significant traffic because it is
a rest area for taxis). Not only that, the numbers of people attending the soup runs can be
really high (at LIF I have seen over 200 at one time). Particularly when multiple soup
runs are in attendance, people start running all over and crossing the roads and other
people I know have witnessed both volunteers and soup run users being pushed to the
ground and I have witnessed near accidents involving cars. I have also witnessed fights
and there is a lot of racial tension at some of the runs as well.
People with no status or with status but poor English skills may feel or be
excluded from indoor facilities. I have met a significant number of people at the
soup runs who clearly have no immigration status but are desperately poor and unable to
feed themselves. Even if they have a right to access indoor services, engaging with them
to let them know this could be nigh on impossible. I have particularly met Chinese,
Vietnamese and other South East Asians that this might be true of.
People may be too scared to move indoors to use the services. Many homeless
people can be very intimidating in an enclosed space. This is one of the reasons that the
hostels can be such frightening places. Added to the fact that – like the soup runs – the
majority of people who use the daycentres are not actually homeless (this is particularly
true of many East Europeans who are taking advantage of the free or cheap facilities on
offer). What provision is going to be made for the especially entrenched rough sleepers to
use the facilities on a regular basis? Recently it has become very difficult for people to
access more than one daycentre and that makes sense for all kinds of reasons, not least
logistics and continuity of care, but when you are used to visiting different parts of
London for your meals and having friendships all over, being forced to get all your meals
in the one place might be overwhelming for these people (many of whom have real
psychological problems that might, for example, put them off visiting one place for a time
because of a problem they have with a particular person or member of staff there).
The sheer number of soup runs is incredible and the amount of food wasted
is obscene. Of an evening, people travel from LIF down to the Strand via Covent Garden
collecting from all the soup runs as they go. At the end, the favourite food is kept or eaten
and anything surplus to requirements is handed round or binned. A vast amount is
wasted. This is particularly true of sandwiches but less true of the hot food handed out on
plates for immediate consumption. I have to admit I have occasionally thrown away food
in the past because I picked up more than was necessary for my own needs. It can happen
that you get four or five soup runs serving the same spot in quick succession. It is totally
unnecessary. I know there has been some question about the quality of the food on offer
but generally the quality is very good and this should not be the route taken to shut the
soup runs down. I have never had an upset stomach from anything I have eaten from the
soup runs. I have heard people complain that they got an upset stomach from food they
were served but of course it was never the fault of the ten beers they had beforehand!
The soup runs operate at a wider range of hours than the daycentres. Most of
the daycentres offer food and drinks only in the morning and don’t open until 9 a.m.
Obviously the daycentres are not wanting to encourage the rough sleeping lifestyle by
operating by timetables that seem to encourage it.
The hostels provide insufficient food. Even the hostels that provide food only do so
for a maximum of two meals a day and the portions are universally deemed to be
insufficient. Many of the residents don’t like the food that is on offer or they become
bored of the same food constantly (it can be very repetitive) and when they face being
stuck in the hostel system for several years at a time it is understandable this is an
important issue to many and one reason that many hostel residents supplement their diet
with food from the soup runs.
Some of the soup runs are poorly operated. Some of the runs, particularly those
that do not come equipped to feed everyone in attendance end up indirectly favouring the
strongest and least in need over the weakest but most genuinely hungry. This is the most
frustrating thing I have seen. Some of the soup runs are also operated with an insufficient
number of volunteers to make them operate smoothly and fairly. On another point, some
of the volunteers make totally unfounded judgments that they are not qualified to make. I
have been refused food by one particular soup run and pushed back in favour of men who
“looked” more homeless than me when I knew for a fact that they weren’t homeless and I
Money problems. The soup runs are free and the daycentres are not. All rough sleepers
have regular delays with receiving their benefits. In the first instance, activating a claim
can be complicated for people whose identity papers are not in order. Secondly, benefits
are continually being stopped and started as people are shifted from one benefit to
another – i.e. from ESA to JSA and each time this shift occurs there are delays in
You don’t get barred from a soup run. People are constantly being barred from
daycentres for various (legitimate) reasons. In the meantime what are they supposed to
do for food, particularly if their benefits are yet to be sorted.
I prepare to have my say
Posted on September 26, 2010 by aibaihe
Over this coming week I am going to put up a few posts that aren’t about my personal
circumstances but are rather about what I think about the situation of homeless people in
London, my take on the rumoured changes to the services and my opinion on what can be
done to improve the lives of rough sleepers in London. So you might well ask what are
my qualifications for presenting my opinions on this subject. If I were to offer myself as a
genuine expert, then obviously I am totally unqualified. But I hope my posts over this
coming week (and I am going to try to stick religiously to one posting a day on a different
subject) will be taken in the intended spirit of a reasonably well-educated service user
who is pretty lucid in their thoughts (and fairly articulate with it) who gets to see things
from “the other side”. And that’s pretty much it really.
Before I begin, I want to stress a couple of things. I am not on anybody’s “side” in this
debate. When I say that something is a good or bad idea or an improvement can be made
in such and such an area, I am trying to be as objective as possible as someone who sees
first hand the consequences of a particular policy. That doesn’t mean that I am right in
any stance I happen to take because no one person is privy to the whole spectrum of
experience of homelessness. However, I really want it to be understood that I am an
extremely HONEST person. Anyone who has followed my tweets since the beginning will
know that I have gotten into all sorts of disputes with other service users and staff
providing homeless services. Many of you don’t know me so you are going to have to take
it on trust that I give a very truthful account of events that happen to me. I also recount
truthfully things that I have been told (though that is not to say that the person telling me
those things is relating facts).
By the way, my twitter/blog name “aibaihe” is my Mandarin Chinese name (I used to live
in China and I speak the language). I was trying to be discreet but there is sufficient
information about me in my postings now that the moment anyone who knows me reads
them I will be immediately recognised. The name is roughly pronounced “I buy her” (with
a very hard “h” in “her”).
I am going to try to cover all the major topics in detail, particularly whether soup runs are
a good idea and who genuinely uses them, whether you should give money to beggars or
even give unsolicited donations to rough sleepers, the practicalities of sleeping rough
(including recounting my experiences of the transitional stages I went through, from my
first nights out on the street to observations on how I settled almost comfortably into the
way of life), the hostel system, the “types” of homeless sleeping rough and more besides.
Tomorrow I will be posting my thoughts on the soup runs.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
A month flies by
Posted on September 22, 2010 by aibaihe
I don’t know where I am up to now and I can’t be bothered to look back over what I have
written. But I think I left off with B disappeared and me having been to the police station
to register his disappearance. Oh, I know now – the police had rung me and told me he
was alive and that was all. As I think I had said before I had not taken my medication for
over a week and I went absolutely crazy for a few days. I have looked this up on the
internet. My prescription was for 100mg sertraline once a day which is quite a high dose.
If you stop taking it abruptly it causes all kinds of withdrawal symptoms. I can tell you
from my experience that it is the closest I have come to something resembling a really
extreme form of PMT. I had an uncontrollable urge to kill myself – not that I wanted to, it
was like being possessed. I would start crying suddenly and then get aggressive.
I tried phoning the numbers of B’s friends to find out what was happening but they
ignored me – the homeless can be incredibly selfish people if you don’t have something
they want (you know all those fundraising events, or interviews on the radio where the
homeless talk about how grateful they are for help received – they get paid to appear at
those otherwise they wouldn’t turn up) and I began to think he was ignoring me because I
had called the police even though it had been something we had prearranged. So B hates
people knowing his business but I am going to tell you what had been happening. As you
can guess B up until a couple of years ago had been a very bad boy indeed. In the process
he had made a lot (and I mean a lot) of enemies. Naturally some of them were keen to
take revenge on him. When I first started hanging round with B he used to say that
nothing mattered because he would be dead soon anyway. It took me some time to get to
the bottom of it but it turned out that the reason he was anorexic was that (amongst all
the many threats against his life) there was one particular man who was actively hunting
him down to kill him. This man had enquired about him from his former friends and even
around the homeless hostels in the Victoria area. Seeing as B thought it was only a matter
of time before the man tracked him down, he was slowly letting himself go because there
seemed no point in making an effort. He was unable to visit his children in daylight hours
and had to be taken there in the early hours of the morning by being picked up in a car
from the station and driven right up to his front door. This particular weekend, B had
arranged to visit his children and L had said she would be there. When he got there late at
night he had decided to risk making his own way there. However when he arrived there
was no-one home and B rang L and asked where she was. She had in fact gone away for
the weekend. What a bitch! So B realised he had to leave. On the way home this man
happened to see him and attacked B (the last time they had come into contact, B had been
stabbed twice before managing to escape). B apologised and explained that he had moved
on. The man wouldn’t accept it and challenged him to a fight to settle it once and for all
the following day. This is what we had been discussing and preparing for the night before.
We had discussed paying off the man but we both concluded that it would not work and B
simply had to take a bad beating and let that be that.
But B didn’t call by the prearranged hour which was supposed to mean that he was dead
or seriously hurt. But of course this hadn’t happened. What had in fact happened is a
friend of his had a “friendly word” with the guy at the designated meeting place and it was
all settled that the man would leave B alone and he would be allowed to come and go
freely from L’s house. So why didn’t he call me? Because just as the man turned up, B
panicked and rang the police because he thought the guy was armed. When he realised
his mistake he threw his phone chip away (I have since pointed out to the boy what a
pointless action that was as the police would still be able to link the call to him – we have
agreed that this lack of thinking through his actions is further proof of why he is destined
to give up crime!)
I had spent a lonely and scared few days sleeping in the rain getting thoroughly soaked
through and had developed a chest infection.
Anyway after a couple of days he did contact me and I crumpled. I couldn’t stop crying
and he was very apologetic about it and said he needed to look after me better. A couple
of days later we met for lunch and I started randomly crying again. He had a keyworker
meeting just after but he had to blow it off to look after me even though it meant him
getting another warning for it. We both agreed I should go back on my medication.
The Saturday that B had the arranged meeting, I had had dinner with my middle brother
and his wife in London after they had come down to the capital for the weekend. I
explained about B to them and told them something of his background and they said it
didn’t matter to them and it was his own business and he didn’t need to share it with
anyone else. They also invited us both for Christmas dinner. They will be the perfect
introduction to my family for B because they are very open minded and easygoing. B was
really pleased when I told him about what they had said about his background being his
own business. It gave him a lot of confidence. I of course didn’t divulge to my brother my
own living situation. I possibly haven’t made clear that I am not estranged from my
family – in fact I get along with them very well and they are lovely people - it’s
Soon after that my elderly aunt who lives in Essex needed someone to stay with her for a
few days so I headed off out that way for 11 days which was no respite at all because the
commute killed me, though at least she covered the cost of it. She was very good company
though and it did clear up my breathing difficulties.
After that B and I began spending nights together again, sometimes in the park and
sometimes sneaking me into his hostel room…..
Which brings us to the latest major update. The hostel had been putting B under pressure
to pay his service charge at the hostel and threatening him with eviction. Of course his
benefits still aren’t sorted. When he told me he had been given notice to leave, I phoned
the hostel without telling B and arranged to pay a sum of money to cover some of the
arrears. Last Monday I finally had a small amount that I could pay. That evening, I tried
to sneak in again but I got caught. Once again I had stopped taking my medication for a
few days and I was starting to go a bit doolally. I was fine at first but then all of a sudden I
became really angry and I walked back to the hostel and I threw the rubbish bags in front
of the hostel at the windows. The staff came out and tried to calm me down but I was
really angry and shouting at the residents to get jobs instead of sitting around all day
spending taxpayer’s money and telling them they were a disgrace. I also shouted about
them accepting my money but not letting me in. The staff apparently called the police but
the duty manager – who was lovely and deserves an award for conflict resolution –
convinced me to leave before doing anything really serious. B came downstairs and
refused to hug me or get involved and told me he was dumping me and so I shouted at
him as well and left. We spoke again on the phone later when I had calmed down. The
next day B was given notice to leave the hostel within two weeks because of breaking the
rules and trying to sneak me in. He in fact made arrangements to leave within 24 hours.
He doesn’t want it to be known where he is so I won’t tell you that.
But some good news to lift the mood. B’s teeth are fixed. The dentist arranged a payment
plan so that we could do the emergency work straightaway but I could pay the money
over a few months. The final bill was £1400. But he did a fantastic job. It turns out B had
three large abscesses and a badly infected jawbone. His mouth was so infected and filled
with pus that the anaesthetic injections didn’t work at all even though he was given
fourteen of them. In the end the dentist just pinned him down and extracted the two bad
stumps of teeth that couldn’t be saved. The cosmetic work he did on his cavities was
incredible though and everyone was impressed. There was so much tartar on some of his
back teeth that when the hygienist removed it, it came away in the shape of his entire
tooth! He has so much confidence in his smile now that it is a joy to see. The dental team
think he is adorable. The practice is located in the city and they are used to dealing with
rich bankers and then B waltzes in all “hello sweetheart”. All the nurses were flirting with
him and the dentist thought he was funny. He did unfortunately bite the hygienist and
call her a cunt when she tried to clean his gums but he did apologise for that. And he told
the dentist he hated him and was going to kill him but the dentist just kept looking at me
I explained about twenty times to B how he was to look after the extraction sites, i.e. to be
careful of the blood clot. He chose to ignore this advice and started sticking pens into the
hole to clean it out. Consequently he spent about two weeks in agony with pus running
out of the holes but it is starting to get better now and his gums have nearly lost all their
swelling. When I first met him his gums were so swollen that it looked like he was
wearing a gum shield all the time – it was horrendous. The dentist said all his remaining
teeth will be fine now.
B got a new phone from the tooth fairy (i.e. me). I thought it would be cheaper in the long
run for him to have a pay monthly phone as we managed to get him a good deal. He
managed however to run up a £100 bill in phone downloads in the first three days – that
boy is so exasperating. The phone company said they could start blocking downloads
from the start of the next month but after some discussion they have agreed an
immediate block. What with the phone and the dentist, I have done my accounts for the
next few months to anticipate future problems and it transpires that I do not have one
penny – and I mean one penny – to my name outside of paying bills until January 14.
I am meeting up with a different homeless organisation today to discuss improving my
income through better paid work, so hopefully something should come of that. I also have
my weekend cleaning work which I am using to cover all the little bills that come up – I
am also really struggling to pay my mortgage at the moment and have had to borrow
some money from my mum which I hate to do but I will pay it back quickly. Things
should be sorted by the new year though.
B and I have been talking over the last few weeks about where to live. I knew that I
couldn’t live with him permanently if he got a place because he would lose not only his
housing benefit but also his other cash benefits which would have been too much for me
to make up. A couple of days ago we were chatting about finding him a private flat and I
realised he was skirting the question in some way. I suddenly realised what was the
problem. “I know what it is,” I said. “You want me to get a place to live and then you want
to come and live with me. But you want it in my name so you don’t feel obliged to be
there. Is that it?” He looked relieved and he said yes that was it. I said that’s no problem. I
might be able to afford a place to live in six months time if I can improve my income and
he can come and stay whenever he likes. He said no he wanted to live with me not me
with him – I think he feels if it is his place I can walk out anytime but if it is the other way
round he has his freedom but I can’t leave so easily. I said ok he could live with me and I
would look after him if that was what he wanted.
So last Friday B moved out of the hostel and disappeared for a couple of days (though I
know where he is). Sunday 5pm I went to sleep by the vents. I was tired and I had no
money so I decided to go to bed really early. At about 10pm I noticed a man peering over
me. I looked up. It was Stitch. He was with a woman – he has a girlfriend! We had such a
good long chat about everything. Here is some of the homeless news at the moment –
some of it from Stitch, some I know from other sources.
Nipper is in prison for 56 days for beating up one of the other hostel residents. I guess
that means he loses his hostel place.
One of the younger guys on the street is in prison for alleged rape of that young girl I was
telling you about. More about this later.
Russ is back on the hard stuff. He had been hanging round one of his friends who was
still on it and he caved in under pressure.
One of the hostel residents tried to throw himself out of the window and has been
removed to hospital.
The daycentre I used to go to closed for three days for the pope’s visit and all the night
shelter residents were turfed out. One of them, a very middle class man (Stitch’s
namesake) was in that period beaten up on the streets.
The guy who has three dogs (and begs outside the McDaycentre near Charing Cross
Station) that he rents out, lent them to a homeless woman who was crossing the train
track and two of the dogs were struck and killed by a train. The police presented the guy
with a bill for cleaning up the remains of his dogs.
I can’t decide on which side of the border of “all there” Stitch’s new girlfriend resides. But
I guess since Stitch is an occupant of that geographical region himself they make a lovely
couple! He is looking really well and is making good money on his sand sculptures – £70
on Sunday for a few hours’ work. He has my phone number now so he can call me.
That’s enough for now. Will finish this off tomorrow. Have much more to say.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Posted on August 22, 2010 by aibaihe
My phone just rang – it said unknown number. I thought it might be B but it was the
police. The man asked if I had been informed about B yet and my heart stopped. No, I
said. The policeman said he is ok but could say no more. I have to wait for B to call me. I
have known B more than five months and we have never argued but, depending on what
he has to say when we next speak, we could be about to have our first.
I stopped taking my medication more than a week ago because of some of the side
effects. Last thursday I suddenly start crying and this weekend has been a nightmare but
I don’t want to give in and start taking it again.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Posted on August 21, 2010 by aibaihe
Fuck – his phone’s switched off. B, please be ok. I can’t even talk to anyone about this –
just sit here and wait and search the internet for news.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Posted on August 21, 2010 by aibaihe
7.28pm and still waiting.
I am going to call him at 9pm. And after that? I am not sure what to do.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Waiting for the call
Posted on August 21, 2010 by aibaihe
I am waiting anxiously for the phone to ring.
B made a brave decision to move on with his life but that doesn’t mean that his past won’t
catch up with him. He has gone to meet a reminder of his previous life today and he’s
scared. Will it be accepted that he is not the same person he used to be and will bygones
be allowed to be bygones?
I went to give him some money to take and he said he didn’t want or need anything from
me. I said there is not much I can do but this I can help with. I gave him cash and a
spare pack of burn and some cigarettes. I said whoever is your friend today and stands by
your side will not buy their own drink or smoke their own tobacco because it is most
gratefully on me.
He promised to ring by 7pm and he agreed that if he doesn’t ring by 9pm I am permitted
to make the usual phonecalls.
It is 6.57pm now.
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Long time coming!
Posted on August 18, 2010 by aibaihe
The week before last I arranged to meet B on the Friday (6th August) at Russ’s place to
stay overnight. He didn’t turn up and so I wandered down to the hostel to check where he
was. They didn’t know where he was either and so I figured he had gone to see his
children. I had got lost trying to find Russ’s place in the dark and I was absolutely
exhausted. I had also left some of my sleeping gear in my storage locker and only had my
sleeping bag with me. By the time I got back to Trafalgar Square I decided I would risk
having no waterproof covering and insulation because I just felt unable to go a step
In the night it rained heavily but I was too tired to move. A short while later I woke up
and I had been covered by a couple of large plastic sheets. I vaguely recalled the camping
shop man saying something like “Dear God” and putting something over me but I had
thought it was just a dream. Someone had also left some milk and some lemonade by my
head. I went to the air vents to dry out my sleeping bag. Whilst I was there a police car
stopped and did a background check on me. The woman officer remarked that I didn’t
seem the usual homeless sort. She asked if I had tried a hostel. I said I had but had left.
She said yes she had heard they weren’t very nice places (every police officer says the
same thing). I didn’t say it was because of money.
I went down to my gym to get a shower because I have come off the waiting list now. The
showers there are lovely. I walked to embankment park to relax on the deckchairs and
saw someone I knew. He said Stitch was looking for me but I was so exhausted I said I
would speak to him later.
My phone battery died on Saturday night and I turned it on by chance Sunday evening. B
had been trying to get hold of me. He said one of his children had had to go to A&E. I
remarked that they have to go to A&E rather a lot and had he not thought that his ex was
deliberately nobbling them to try and get him to go over. He said it had crossed his mind.
We arranged to meet the next day. B has become even more loving recently. He said he
had sorted a lot of things out in his head, particularly with regard to his need to disappear
all the time. He said he didn’t want to do it from me anymore. This was the first time he
had felt that way. His record is when he disappeared from his ex for more than a year,
just wandering up and down and staying different places. We have been together just
about every night since then, alternating between sleeping in the park, staying at Russ’s
place and getting cheap hotel rooms on the internet on a last minute basis (exchange rate
starting to work in my favour again).
On Monday 9th August B was very uncomfortable. He said he had something in his
mouth. I looked to see. He had the most gigantic abscess you have ever seen. It was
nearly the size of a golf ball. I said he needed to get it sorted at the dentist ASAP because
abscesses could be fatal. He confessed that when he had been to see the dentist he had
been told that he needed to have all of his teeth pulled out and hadn’t wanted to tell me (I
had told him before he went to the dentist that under no circumstances was he to let the
dentist pull his teeth). I said not to worry I was going to make an appointment with my
own dentist and no matter what we would find the money to sort it out. In the meantime
I went to the shop and bought neurofen plus, anbesol, cordosyl, throat lozenges, and
toothpaste (he has been using tesco’s basic toothpaste, the silly man). Later that evening
the abscess safely burst and the painkillers really helped with the pain.
Friday morning we went to see the dentist. He said his teeth weren’t two bad and he just
had two stumps that needed extracting that were completely below the gum line. He said
the corsodyl was good and to keep using it twice a day. B only needs two fillings and then
we had a choice between capping one tooth or removing it. Seeing as there was not much
left and he was in a lot of pain with it we decided to have it removed. He is seeing a
hygienist first and then starting the work next month. The total cost of treatment is about
£1,500 and I have to find the money. This week I applied for a cleaning job with an
agency and hopefully I am starting this weekend with that. It won’t be regular so I am
just going to have to take what hours I get offered and if that is not enough I will have to
find some bar work or something. In the overall context of how much B is costing the tax
payer already, you would think that the money could be found to help subsidise this cost
considering he has already used resources of several million pounds in his lifetime of care
and detention by various agencies, but I guess it is down to me. B has been in almost
continuous pain with his teeth since I met him so I am hoping this will have a major
impact on his general health and temperament, as well as making him look the part when
he is finally ready to start looking for work. B has been in such a great mood since
hearing from the dentist. He said he has had toothache for decades and remembers his
mother really suffering from it. I said no-one has to suffer toothache and afterwards if
you regularly go back to the dentist you will never have toothache again and he seemed
really pleased at that. He is also putting on weight at last. He has added nearly three
stone. He is still really lean though and he occasionally still misses meals at the hostel
but I have been buying him food regularly so that he at least has something during the
day to munch on. Which brings us neatly to the subject of…
Benefits. You would not believe how long some homeless people have to wait for their
benefits to be sorted. B received a couple of payments and then they stopped again. He is
owed a lot of money now. Or should I say I am owed a lot of money. I now live on a
budget of ooh about £0 because every spare penny I have goes to him. B has been getting
into trouble with other residents at the hostel fighting over money that has been lent to
him. I have paid off these debts, banned him from borrowing any more money, been
buying him food and have been giving him a couple of pounds each day so he has
something in his pocket for drinks and snacks. The downside is I have nothing for
myself. I have been living off the balances on my reward cards from Boots and
Sainsburys! It is hoped that he should get the money back at the end of this month and I
really hope so because I keep having to extend my overdraft to fund him. It is a real
possibility that he will get thrown out of the hostel for fighting and for the sake of a
couple of hundred pounds it is just not worth it (I am not seriously in debt anyway having
always been good with money – my total overdraft and credit card balance is only £1,800
in total so don’t worry!). B is not the only person I know who has waited for months to
get paid – it seems to be quite a common scenario.
It seems to me that if B is to have a normal life, it is down to me supporting him to get it.
Certainly he cannot rely on his keyworkers, the hostel or the daycentre to assist him with
it. All I can hope from them is that he does finally manage to get a permanent flat simply
by staying at the hostel and waiting for as long as it takes.
On the subject of the hostel:
I am now not allowed on the street where the hostel is located. If I do, they will prosecute
me for unlawful entry of the building. Wow. That place is full of people with serious
criminal records and this is the way they choose to spend their time. It was also they (I
am sure) who called the police that time when I was lying down on the pavement opposite
the hostel one evening waiting for B because they had previously threatened to do so.
Now I arrange to meet B round the corner.
Other news from the hostel. One of the residents was found unconscious with the needle
still hanging out of his arm. Apparently he was close to death. It is said by the residents
that he had been unconscious for three days before being found. So much for daily room
checks. Now, the length of time that he had been lying there may or may not be true. But
I can say from personal experience that I did not get my room checked daily when I
stayed there and I recently, through my scaffolding escapades, spent a three day
continuous stretch in B’s room without the room being checked so it is absolutely
Churchill is continuing with her routine of being sexually used by many of the male
residents. She waits for Nipper to fall asleep and then goes off to one of the other rooms
for more. One of the men that she is sleeping with has a girlfriend who is widely believed
to have HIV. I know that someone who takes their antiretrovirals correctly has very little
chance of passing the virus on, but this woman is an intravenous drug user and
consequently may very well be leading a chaotic life that means she does not take her
medication well enough to protect herself and others. There is nothing more to say on
that point except that B and I often sigh that it would only take one person in that circle
to get it and most of the Westminster homeless community could end up infected, even
those with long term partners seem to sleep around.
Like I have remarked time and time again: how come I am the one deemed so dangerous
I need to be banned from this place?
I have also decided to take away responsibility for something else from the hostel and
authorities. I am going to help B with his literacy and numeracy skills. I used to teach
English to foreigners so I guess I should be able to do the same with B. I am coming up
with a plan at the moment as to how I am going to test his level and how I am going to set
homework and things. I want it to work well from the beginning and show progress
regularly as that always worked well when I taught before as it stops the students from
getting frustrated if they are unable to measure their progress from day one. I have also
come up with a reward scheme. I have a huge box of DVDs that my previous landlord
didn’t find when he went through my things as they were all sealed up. I am going to
reward B with one every time he completes his homework. I hope to start with him in the
next couple of weeks.
B and I have been sleeping in the parks regularly. One night in Hyde Park we went to
sleep in what we thought was an isolated spot but when we woke up it looked like an
impromptu refugee camp – there were people asleep all around us!
This weekend just gone, I decided to treat us to a couple of nights booked on the internet
at cheap hotels. We went to Peckham Lodge for one night and Queens Hotel in Crystal
Palace for the other. Peckham Lodge is not bad as a budget hotel if you are looking.
When we got closer to Queens Hotel, B said “It’s this way”. I said “How do you know?”
He said he had lived there for ten months when he was younger as lots of homeless
people are put up in the hotel. As we took buses through South London B pointed out all
the places he had lived and been placed by the council and how you could get a room in
the various hotels. Basically you go into a hotel, ask for a statement showing how much it
costs, take it to the housing benefit people, wait a couple of weeks for confirmation and
then you can go and live there with the room being paid for directly through housing
benefit. We had a really fun weekend. I hurt my arm though during the pillow fight and
subsequent bed leaping contest – which basically involved lining the beds up and seeing
how many you could jump over in one go.
We have spent so much time together recently that I suggested we take a few days apart.
He rang me up saying he was hungry though so I had to go and see him on Monday
evening. I had to walk and only had a couple of pounds left so I bought him Sainsburys
Basics food – lots of biscuits, packets of 10p noodles and cheap chocolate to last him. He
was exhausted so I sent him back to bed and then walked to my locker. All in all it was a
12 mile round trip. I had also walked about 4 miles that morning registering at the
agency for cleaning work so it was quite a tiring day. I am going to see him again this
evening (I have borrowed £5 from a colleague) but I am not going to let him stay out with
me because the weather is very variable at the moment and I don’t want him getting sick
if he is having teeth extracted – it might lead to an infection or a bad cold if his immune
system is low.
I will update sooner next time without such a long delay.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Posted on August 4, 2010 by aibaihe
Oh dear. You might have noticed that in my last post I made little mention about my
nights out and in particular where I slept at the weekend. There is a very good reason for
that. I have in fact been staying at B’s hostel and, for obvious reasons, was not able to
mention it. The hostel has been undergoing renovations to the façade and the front of the
building is covered in scaffolding. With the collaboration of several residents, I have been
climbing the scaffolding to the first floor (the women’s floor), then being let in through
one of the women’s bedroom windows and then going up the stairs to B. The only hazard
was a single CCTV camera that I had to pass but other residents had been engaging the
security staff in conversation when I had to pass the camera. So anyway I spent the whole
weekend in B’s room playing the Wii! B has got a verbal warning for it (we think
Churchill grassed) and his room is going to be checked more regularly as a result. I guess
that means I have got a lifetime ban. But we all found it great fun and a bit of an
Last night B’s friend moved into his new place which is supported housing with no on site
staff in the Paddington area. B has been helping him decorate it and as I said before this
guy has given me permission to stay whenever I like – actually I think having B and I
there is good company for him. I think this supported housing is a step on to
independent living for people with drug addictions. We helped him unpack his stuff and
make the place look like home and then B and I popped out to get him a house warming
present. Unfortunately no big shops were open so we got him some food, drink,
chocolates and tobacco (and B got him some cleaning things because both he and this guy
are cleaning product freaks). It is really nice to see the two men together because he acts
like a big brother to B and is one of only a couple of people I have seen tell B off without B
getting angry. Instead he makes B go all goofy and giggly. The guy (Russ) was talking
about drug addiction and how difficult it is coming off the drugs and having to shoplift to
pay for it. At one point Russ said he had to drink a bottle of something and B said
straightaway “Is that your methadone?” Russ said yes and explained to me that it really
helped him come off the heroin though the methadone in itself was more addictive and
worse for your body than the heroin – at least it saved you having to shoplift all the time
and with it you could more easily wean yourself off the drugs (although he said it doesn’t
work for everyone). (B knows all about heroin because both his parents were addicts and
he started off robbing in order to buy food because there was never any in the house and
eventually his parents encouraged him to do it in order to pay for their drugs – this is the
main reason he hates drugs.) I think Russ has a serious illness. His fridge was full of
medication but B said he didn’t know what it was. Whatever it is, I hope he gets better
because he is a really decent man with a bright future ahead of him – he is a qualified
carpenter and also loves landscape gardening. He got an award at the Chelsea Flower
Show this year for the homeless garden. Russ thinks B will be waiting over two years for
a permanent flat – oh my God can I wait that long?
I forgot to mention that one morning last week I was woken up in my usual sleeping spot
by a policeman from the Homeless Unit. It was about 7.00a.m. He did the usual welfare
checks. Afterward he said “There is no rush to get up. Just try to be away before people
start coming by on their way to work.” I know there is a lot of talk about how heavy-
handed the police are but I really have never seen an example of that. It can’t be
forgotten that a lot of people sleeping rough are heavy drinkers and drug users and many
have serious criminal records. The only example I can think of is when I saw Nipper
arrested outside the police station because I think in the circumstances that was a bit over
the top – although Nipper is well known to the police and gets arrested several times a
week so I guess they thought they knew where it was all headed.
Talking about the police: during the “democracy village” demonstrations when a group of
protesters moved to in front of downing street and had a sit down protest, the young
autistic boy was among them. Most of the protesters that were arrested on this occasion
were homeless. One of the group told the police not to arrest the autistic boy and the
police said not to worry they had no intention of doing so and in fact in the end they
released one of the protesters so that the young man wasn’t on his own. I know all that
because I went down to watch the arrests in case any of the group needed to leave
belongings with someone or pass on a message. It was all very civilised.
I found out something about J. Nipper said he is at a different hostel now that lets you
drink. He is drinking heavily but not out of control. In fact Nipper said it is doing him
good because he was too tense before and he has really loosened up now. I am not sure I
trust Nipper’s sense of how much alcohol is enough but he did say J will be coming to the
daycentre Tuesday and Thursday evening so I am hoping to see him tomorrow and have a
chat. Of course all that has to be taken with a pinch of salt, not least because I don’t really
understand anything Nipper says – Russ says he needs subtitles coming out of his ear
when he speaks!!
B told me that because he has been spending so many nights away from the hostel he now
has to sign a register every morning and evening to confirm that he is around. I don’t
know what they think I am going to do to the poor boy. I am actually looking after him
quite well and when he is with me it can be guaranteed he is not getting into trouble.
They should be happy for us to be spending time together, not treating me as a bad
influence. Oh, it’s all so Romeo and Juliet!
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
Love and all that.
Posted on August 3, 2010 by aibaihe
Last Tuesday, just as I was cursing B and entertaining myself by mentally plotting
revenge (which I assure you I wasn’t going to carry out) I got a phone call. “Hi, it’s me.
Are you ok?” Of course it was the boy. I said I was fine and asked how he was doing. He
sounded quite subdued. He said he was fine and then there was a pause. I said “Before I
forget there were a couple of things I needed to ask you. Firstly, I would really appreciate
it if you would return some of my things that are in your room – like my dressing gown –
because it upsets me the thought of another woman using them. If that’s ok.” B jumped
in “I’m not with her.” “What do you mean?” “I only said that so you would leave. She was
in a really bad mood. She had asked to stay over because she was going out clubbing with
her friends and would miss the last train home. I was going to take you up to meet her
but then I got worried she would hit you or something. She is really big.” He asked if I
wanted to go and meet him and I said ok. I didn’t believe a word of what he had told me
but I love his company and so I thought that I would get back together with him but keep
things platonic and then organise a “tactical withdrawal” maintaining the friendship on
both sides. I decided I would stay overnight and left all my sleeping things at work. As
my period had just started I thought I had the perfect excuse not to do anything physical
and then after that I would invent some mysterious feminine complaint for a few weeks
that prevented me from doing anything before I could break things off amicably.
When I got to the hostel I was informed that I was in fact still barred. I got upset. The
weather was looking bad, I had no sleeping bag, my period had just started and I had
nowhere to go. I walked out and for once got angry with B. “It’s not right that she is
allowed in whenever she wants and I am not.” B just looked down. I said “Sorry, let’s
make the best of this and go and get a coffee. I’m just down because it is my period.” We
went for coffee together and had such an in depth chat. B apologised profusely to me. He
said he is going to stop visiting his ex at her home and he is probably not going to let her
stay over at the hostel anymore either. He said in fact he had not been cheating on me. It
was when I said I knew he was cheating that he panicked that I would fly off the handle
with L and start a big row and she is so much bigger than me she could have done me
some serious damage. I said but weren’t you scared that you wouldn’t be able to convince
me to come back again. He nodded sadly and then smiled and shook his head
vigorously. We both laughed – he knows me too well. I forgive too easily. I said I should
have left as soon as he asked me to and he said yes I should have and I apologised for
that. The reason for the dressing gown was that he has been walking around topless
because of the heat in the bedroom and the fact that he has been eating tonnes recently
and doing weightlifting to get his muscles back – that was the reason why he was shaking
so badly as well – he had just finished doing loads of reps with the heavy weight and was
B said: “I’m not with her. You’re the breeze.” I looked at him quizzically and he said, “L
is a wall. You can’t get round her or over her and you can’t get inside. Even when I
wanted to love her she wouldn’t let me do so. But you’re the breeze – you just go straight
over me and make me feel fresh and alive.” I told him that was the most poetic thing I
had ever heard. We chatted for hours and resolved to spend the night together no matter
what. That little resolution of mine didn’t last the night!!! Heh heh!!
In the morning B walked part of the way with me and said “I have so many issues and you
stay with me. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder; I have a sack of potatoes.” I asked if he
minded if I chose one of the potatoes to throw away. I selected a small one and he
decided to join me by throwing one away too. I said “Don’t worry. We’ll get there.”
The next day I sent him the music in the post I had bought at the weekend, some tobacco,
chocolate and his favourite toiletries (he is still not getting his benefits paid regularly –
because of dispute over whether he is entitled to incapacity or not) to cheer him up and
inside I put a note “Just in case you’re having a bad day”. He called me up so excited and
thanked me over and over and said how kind and thoughtful it was. They were only
cheap little gifts but I know how nice it is to receive a present out of the blue and I am
glad it lifted his spirits so much. He asked me to go round Friday.
Wednesday and Thursday evening I spent with Stitch and his mate. Stitch had brought
me a glittery bouncy ball and for himself a hard hat with earphones. I said where did he
get it. He replied, “I found it”. I said “Did you by any chance find it on a building site?”
and he replied, “As a matter of fact I did.” He makes me laugh. He is shameless. Stitch
and I went for a drink with a homeless Austrian who actually has a lot of money (his
father sends him a monthly stipend) but chooses to sleep rough due to his alcoholism (I
only had water).
Thursday was film night (Avatar). Stitch didn’t get his dole until after the weekend and
so we decided to postpone our forest adventures for another week.
When I went round to the hostel on Friday B told me I still wasn’t allowed in the hostel so
we went to get a drink. Again we chatted so comfortably and easily. B actually drank two
vodkas and he asked me “Do you really see yourself staying with someone like me
forever?” and I replied “Definitely”. I told him that in all the important things we are the
same but in the ways in which we are different we compliment each other perfectly: filling
gaps in the other person’s personality. For example I can be really lazy but he gives me
the energy I need to get up and do things. I plan for the future but he reminds me to live
for today. I don’t need material things from a man, only the reassurance, love and respect
that I get from him.
Ok that’s enough mushy talk!
Other news: the 18 year old girl has been “raped” by her ex-boyfriend who is also
homeless. She went to hospital and said she is not going to testify against him. This is
the second member of our group to “rape” her. Neither B nor I like her because we
recognised straightaway that she has a problem with needing attention all the time. She
is forever running away and getting people to search for her and accusing others of
having done things to her (this is also the girl that has been accepting money to sleep with
men but not have sex with them – a very dangerous game). As I told her very bluntly
some months ago: “Everyone on the streets has a problem. You’re no different. If you
need help go see a doctor but don’t be dragging other people down who need to be
looking to their own problems. What you are basically saying to everyone by your actions
is that your problems deserve more attention than anyone else’s. You’re young and that
makes you vulnerable but you’re also an adult and you need to start acting like one. If
you carry on like this you’re going to end up with genuine problems and you will never be
able to turn back the clock.” Since being released from hospital she has been arrested for
fighting with another girl over the allegations.
I saw a group of young adults give a fair bit of money to the guy who has three dogs and
sits on the strand. Beggars with dogs make so much money. You can “rent” a dog from
one of them to go begging with so you can increase your earnings. You don’t need to give
money to people with pets – all their vet bills are free and they are on benefits and usually
selling the big issue as well. Having said that, being homeless is not unfair on the dogs –
they get to do what dogs love best: spending the whole day outside with their “pack
B’s hostel news (this will probably get me barred for another month!!) Nipper has been
moved into the hostel. As I mentioned before he had been staying at Fraggle Rock (the
much larger sister hostel to B’s) but he had moved out and had been drinking and
fighting a lot and constantly getting arrested. The police told him if he did not go back
inside he was going to get an asbo and prevented from coming to covent garden so he
decided to go to B’s hostel. He is back with his woman (Little Miss 5 BJs) who as I keep
mentioning her I will have to name. Everyone secretly calls her Churchill so I will use
that name here too. So Churchill and Nipper are back on but she is also still doing a
couple of the other guys in the hostel too. Please will somebody get Durex to sponsor the
homeless community as a matter of urgency!
Nipper came to talk to me and B and I joked with him about him trying it on with me. B
said he would kill whoever tried to touch me but we were all laughing and I promised
myself to Nipper if things shouldn’t work out. It is funny how everyone fights but gets
over it really quickly – it is such a tight knit group you can’t have people being ostracised
B has been getting into loads of fights at the hostel now his health is returning. He has
made good friends with a Scot who is a recovering heroin addict and is as tough as he
looks. He has a conviction for attempted murder. B and he were trying to figure out who
had the worst criminal record and I think the other guy just pipped him. B is not
naturally violent though. His violence is born of frustration and internal rage. He is,
however, so incredibly (and sometimes frustratingly!) gentle with me. The aggravating
factor is that he is a very intelligent man who has never exercised it properly. This Scot is
getting his own place this week and he has said B and I will be ok to stay there together
when we need to be alone.
Churchill got arrested for shoplifting and had to be taken to the hospital because she went
mental when they tried to arrest her. One of the others in the hostel that was on curfew
has also been jailed for violating his curfew. B has to attend an identity parade for the
burglary. I said why didn’t you ask them to speak to me so I could explain that we were
together (I made a mistake – the burglary was in the house next to the hostel not next to
his ex-girlfriend’s house) and couldn’t possibly have committed it but he said he didn’t
want to involve me. I realised afterwards that he was actually enjoying the thrill of being
interrogated by the police again now that he is no longer committing crimes himself.
Sunday I went to IKEA on my own and carried out my plan of turning my locker into a
small study space. It has worked really well but my arms are covered in bruises from
carrying the things across London. And also take it from me – never ever sleep in St
James Park: the insects there do serious damage to your skin. Stitch and I are covered in
the most horrendous itchy sores.
Monday I went to the colonel run. I was talking to Peter who offered to take me after the
colonel run round to the chocolate run that I have never been to but had heard was good.
It is really hidden away and consequently most of the users are the long-termers and
British. It has a really friendly vibe. I don’t know who the people are that do it but they
are very middle class. They serve: drinks/soup/hot
food/salad/biscuits/cakes/sandwiches/savoury snacks/chocolate (hence the
name)/juice/stew and whatever else they happen to have. It was very nice. I saw that
softly spoken Scottish man that I had met a couple of weeks back and we greeted each
other warmly. The homeless get stuck in and help with this run and the organisers
seemed to know nearly everyone’s name.
I almost forgot something really important. B found out that the daycentre is going to be
closing and relocating south of the river. Some of the soup runs are being paid off to relocate
to other areas too. Come next year, people found sleeping rough in Westminster will have to
move or face a 28 day ASBO. B is shocked and says it is discriminatory. I said it was
actually rather clever. They want people off the streets by the time of the Olympics and they
are not going to leave it until the last minute to achieve that. It makes sense that they will
choose to make big progress the year before the games themselves. Forcing people to
relocate for homeless services to the London Bridge area from the Covent Garden area may
well mean that many people (especially the hangers-on) give up with the street way of life
because being homeless in Covent Garden is easy - there are so many sheltered spots and it
is mainly pedestrianised with plenty of people with cash in their pockets for beggars and late
night and 24 hour shops for selling alcohol and of course a couple of McDaycentres that stay
open until the early hours. It makes a lot of sense and is the most obvious thing that can be
done to improve the statistics very quickly - only the most hard core people are going to keep
sleeping rough in an area unfamiliar and most probably more hostile to rough sleepers. As
for myself, I can easily relocate and find somewhere hidden if I am still out around that time
and as I have already started putting into action things that prevent me being dependent on
the official homeless services I believe I will easily survive the changes.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment | Edit
Posted on July 27, 2010 by aibaihe
Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.
I have just read over my posts. Well, firstly may I apologise for any mistakes and poor
English – especially repetition. I want my blog to be as honest as possible so I am not
editing them as I type. That does mean if I say anything foolish I will simply have to live
with it circulating the internet forever, but never mind.
What I really want to say is: oh my! For a woman who has never revealed her thoughts to
anyone before, I am amazed at how many words pour out of me when I do get started.
Secondly, I wish I had started keeping a diary years ago because it is only upon reviewing
your actions that certain traits are reflected back at you. I am basically walking around
asking people to use me and in return not even offering any criticism of them. But it is
my fault too. I make myself an easy target. B did want me and everyone said they can’t
believe he dumped me when he talks of loving me so much but he went with the other
woman because he found it easier to dump me than her: basically because she won’t let
him see his kids unless she is in control and he is not man enough to stand up to her.
Well he did make that choice and I never want him back now but I really should not date
again until I get to grips with the way I conduct myself. I need to find a way to toughen
up without hardening up if you catch my drift.
I am finding this blogging thing very therapeutic just sitting here talking to myself!!
The addict I met at the weekend that joined us for ping pong called up UCH Hospital at
9.30 p.m. last night and was told to come straightaway as they had a bed free for detox.
He spends three weeks there and then six months in rehab. He was beaming from ear to
ear. His exact words were “I’m going to live! I’m going to live! I’m not going to die!”
Stitch was so happy and was hugging him and wishing him luck. Stitch said he was
getting to the edge with his heroin habit and felt that he was close to death and that the
other homeless who deal “the brown stuff” had practically been forcing the stuff on
him. Sunday he had to leave us to spend several hours shoplifting to fund his habit.
Talking of drugs, I heard word that a few more of the new people that had come on the
streets even after me have now taken up heroin (not injecting it) and are even dealing a
little. When Stitch told me I pointed out that the end windows of Charing Cross Police
Station are always open and if you look closely there is a video camera with a recording
light turned on permanently fixed on where the homeless gather for the soup runs. He
put the word about. Hopefully those young ones will come to their senses before they get
in too deep.
Slept in St James again with Stitch but it is forecast to rain heavily tonight so I will go on
my own somewhere else and I will send him to his hostel.
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Bad to worse!
Posted on July 26, 2010 by aibaihe
I hate weekends so much. This past one has been another classic example. And once
again I am going to have to “take you back to the beginning”. As I mentioned previously,
I have been avoiding the soup runs because I wanted some time on my own and nor have
I been to the daycentre. But Saturday morning I was such a mess and my hair was so
limp and greasy that it became unavoidable. So Saturday morning I went to get a shower.
All the usual gang were there and asked where I had been and I said I had been spending
some time on my own. B’s friend that I had met the night he didn’t come back to see me
was there. He asked if B had found me and I told him no he hadn’t and mentioned that
that night he hadn’t turned up at all. He said he knows because B told him about it –
when he had gotten back to the hospital to collect the jumpers he had been arrested. It
seems that the house next to where his family live had been broken into and as a matter
of course he had been picked up for questioning. He had been held at first and then
released but had been on reporting conditions and he had been trying to ring my phone
but my phone is broken at the moment. He had been trying to work out where I worked
so he could come and meet me there but he wasn’t sure exactly where that was. His
friend said he was to pass on the message that I could go and stay with him when I
I was so thrilled to hear all this – he hadn’t stood me up, he had in fact been on his way to
meet me. I said I was going to get myself washed, complete some errands and then go
and meet him at his hostel. Of course I had also arranged to meet the Lancashire guy
from the hostel Saturday. In good spirits I walked to the coffee shop and waited for the
man. Of course he didn’t show up! But I wasn’t annoyed. I realised as soon as I sat down
in the café that I had made an appointment with a chronic alcoholic with neurological
problems and there was a very good chance that he would completely forget all about it.
When he didn’t show, I just laughed it off and went down to my storage locker. I
collected all my dirty clothes together and walked a mile to the nearest laundrette, then a
mile back and then I set off for B’s hostel (another 4 miles). When I got there I asked one
of the other residents sitting outside if B was in and he said he would go up and find out.
B came down the stairs in his dressing gown (actually it is mine and I had lent it to him).
He said “L__’s upstairs [the other woman]. I was just about to take a shower.” I knew
straightaway what was happening. I said that’s ok I don’t mind and anyway I have a
present I want to give you (it was some music I had bought for him – some of the classic
stuff he loves that Sainsburys had been selling really cheaply). He said ok. Then he said
oh god L___ is going to shout – she is meant to be staying here tonight – and you’re
going to shout. I said I’m not going to shout. B was shaking at this point. He said come
back in half an hour and I will get rid of L___. I said it’s ok I will wait here. He repeated
it and I said I didn’t mind waiting. He said ok then. He disappeared inside and a couple
of minutes later he reappeared and said he couldn’t do it she was going to shout at him
and please for me to come back in half an hour. I said “listen B I know you have cheated
on me but if you stop this now we can put it behind is and I won’t mention it again”. He
paused for a moment and dropped his head. He said “I love you but I have to break up
with you. It’s for the children. I have to be with the children.” I said “I support you
seeing your children and you have a right to see them. You’re a good father but the
children are going to grow up and L___ doesn’t look after you like I do or love you like I
do. Think about what things will be like in ten years.” I started crying. He was shaking
really badly and he repeated that he loved me but he couldn’t do this to me anymore and
he had to be with the children. He said he would come to see me the next day and he
turned to go inside. I said “Well I suppose I should be an adult about this and wish you
both the best of luck.” But I am sorry to say I didn’t really mean it though I tried to say it
as genuinely as I could. B went inside.
I left to go back to my storage locker. I had left my sleeping bag and everything there and
I would need it now I wasn’t staying with B. It took me so long to get there. I had no
strength in my legs. I kept stopping every few yards because I couldn’t find the
motivation to move forwards. I was crying openly and wanted to fall to the ground and
say “Enough. I have had my share of this. It isn’t right that so much falls on one person.”
But I kept going. I wanted to die or slash myself or throw myself in a car but I just kept
saying to myself “Grow up don’t be so ridiculous – what does that prove – that you love
him? – everyone knows you love him and it will make no difference. Just get on with it –
he has made his choice and he has every right to do so.”
It really helped having the task of collecting my sleeping bag to carry out. It at least gave
me something to concentrate on. When I had picked it up I set off to walk back to
Trafalgar square. I had already walked about 12 miles in total that day so I decided to use
my emergency oyster card for the bus back. I went to get it out of my bag and I realised I
must have left it in the toilets at Sainsburys earlier on. Luckily the driver saw I wasn’t on
top form and he told me to just get on.
When I got to Trafalgar square I saw the whole gang on the grass. B’s friend was there. I
went up to him and told him what had happened. He hugged me and said he couldn’t
believe B had done that to me and he was going to punch him out if he saw him. I was
crying so much. He told me to go and stay with him under waterloo bridge but I was
starting to feel a little uncomfortable about the way he was hugging me and so I said I
needed to be on my own.
It was 9pm when I got to my usual spot. I couldn’t sleep though. I lay awake until 4a.m.
I just kept thinking about that woman being in the room and using the things that I had
bought for B. I had bought pillows for him when he was sick and a fan because his room
was so hot. I had given him music so he wouldn’t be bored, towels so he could dry
himself on a properly sized one after a shower, the dressing gown, and countless more
things besides. I could only think of her using them. The worst thing is that I know he
loves me more and he told me such horrible things about her. Now I know you should
never trust someone’s judgment of an ex but it has all been confirmed by people from the
daycentre who have met her or been to her house – they say anyone would hate her
within five minutes of meeting her she is just so rough. She is a typical council estate
benefits mum. She has never worked and has three children and has been arrested
countless times for apparently assaulting people in the supermarket and other places.
She is also apparently barred from most of the shops in the neighbourhood where she
lives. But he has made his choice and that’s that.
When I eventually fell asleep it happened to coincide with the time that finally the rain
that has been promised for days arrived. I woke up an hour later soaked through. I just
lay there all wet though. I didn’t have the will to move. Later on I got up and decided to
go the daycentre and see maybe if stitch was around.
Everyone was in the queue for the daycentre when I went round. I told everyone the
news and they said they couldn’t believe he had done that to me of all people. That friend
of B’s came up again and I was quite certain this time that he was trying it on with me. I
saw Nipper in the queue and let him know about B. He said he was going to beat B when
he saw him. I told him the news about his girl giving the blowjobs to all the guys at the
hostel and that apparently a lot of the guys there were using her for sex. He said he had
already broken up with her and didn’t want to see her again. He is really difficult to
understand but I think he said her children are in care and she was trying to get access to
them but that the hostel will make a note of everything she gets up to and at this rate she
will never be allowed to visit.
I went inside the daycentre and sat with some of the girls I know. There was a woman
there who is also part of the eco-village plans. They have found a wasteland near to
Greenwich and they are all going to be moving there. This woman said she had been with
the democracy village on parliament square since being chucked out of the simon
community. She said they were homophobic and had tried to get rid of her by labelling
her a troublemaker and saying she was difficult and that she was giving an interview to
the Guardian about how bad the simon community is and she would not rest until it was
shut down. When she had left I turned to my friend and said “I have only known the
woman five minutes and I already think she is a difficult person myself!”
I went upstairs and I saw stitch on the phone. I patted him on the shoulder. He said to
the person he was speaking to on the phone – “Ah this is my best friend Tom” and he
passed the phone to me. I spoke to the guy on the other end of the phone who turned out
to be Stitch’s cousin back home in Cumbria. I told him I would try to keep Stitch out of
trouble and he laughed. When Stitch got off the phone I told him everything and he was
really angry. He said I was never to get back with him again and I promised. Then he
told me he had been looking for me and had nearly gone to the police. He has finally
broken up with his girlfriend and has decided to stay in London. He has moved into a
hostel (though he has a shared room) and he is going to get a private flat hopefully quite
soon. He said I could go and live with him when he did. I said I would come and stay
from time to time but as a working person I couldn’t live with someone who was in
receipt of housing benefit because it amounted to benefit fraud. Later when we had
collected some more people and were going to head off to the embankment park, B told
me I needed to become harder or people would continue to take advantage of me. I
nodded at first and then said “No. I don’t want to become harder. This is who I am. I
would rather be open to being hurt than become a hard hearted person.” And Stitch said
“Too right young Tom. You should be true to yourself.”
Stitch, his friend the gambler, and another guy who has only been out for a couple of
weeks since being evicted from his council flat for drugs problems, and myself set off
together. This guy was waiting for a place in rehab. I have noticed that although there is
much comment in newspapers about the difficulty of getting a place in rehab, the same
does not seem to be true for the homeless. I have noticed that anyone who says they are
ready to go into rehab seems to get a place within a couple of weeks.
Anyway we walked down to embankment and we noticed that some new ping pong tables
had been placed there for public use. We managed to track down the person who was
responsible for the bats and balls and we had a good long game. Then Nipper caught up
with us. He had won £50 betting on the horses but had over £200 in his pocket in total.
Stitch told me later that Nipper had made it the night before begging and that he “had
the right face for it”. Nipper said he was going to spend it all on alcohol. We went to the
Simon Community street café at St Giles for lunch and on the way Nipper bought a 1.5
litre bottle of vodka. After lunch we sat on the grass and Stitch and Nipper drank the
entire bottle of vodka between them. I was so exhausted from not sleeping the night
before that I fell asleep. When I woke up I had four lots of pigeon poo on me and as I was
cleaning it off I got pooed on for a fifth time. Well they say it is lucky and you all know
how lucky I am.
We were all chatting and the subject of J popped up in the conversation. I asked Nipper
how he was doing. He replied that he was doing very badly. Soon after J had last spoken
to me he had apparently started drinking again and had left the hostel where he was
staying. Nipper hadn’t been able to find him. I was shocked and distressed and told
Nipper he had to find out where he was and we would all go and get him back on his feet.
I couldn’t help thinking back to mine and J’s last conversation when I had said that I had
started dating B because I didn’t think J was coming back. I now couldn’t help
unfavourably comparing the two men and thinking that in the beginning it was J I had
liked and how I had used to get irritated with B’s hyperactivity. I had resisted B for so
long because I hadn’t been sure about him but had not trusted my instincts. Nipper
promised to look for him. I felt I owed J that much at least.
Nipper convinced us all to go to a pub though I said I wouldn’t drink. He however
insisted and so I asked for a half a pint of shandy and told the barman to make sure it was
at least 50% lemonade. It was foul. The others drank pints but Nipper, for every pint the
others drank, had a cocktail containing five full shots of spirits. He kept hinting he
wanted me to be his girlfriend and Stitch had to keep fending him off but I also overheard
Stitch and his friend talking and I realised they were talking about me and Stitch was
saying he liked me too. I only managed half of my half pint which being only half
strength amounted to about an eighth of a pint of lager. Even so I was starting to feel a
bit woozy from the alcohol. I estimated that Nipper in particular must have drunk about
30 units in the space of an hour and a half by this point and he was loud but not even
staggering and he is the tiniest man. I said I needed to go to my locker and change my
clothes for clean ones and I would meet them back at the strand.
It took me nearly three hours to get there and back and they weren’t there. Fred had just
finished giving out sandwiches and he saw me sitting there and walked up. He said he
was sorry he had nothing left but there was a van across the street giving out hot food and
tea. I was starved by this point and so I went to get something. I had not seen this van
before but they do several drop offs including down at Victoria. I got rice and veg curry,
some biscuits, an apple and a cup of decent tea.
I was aching from my walk and so lay down on the pavement to wait for the others. The
autistic boy came up to talk to me and he asked me out. I just thought how ridiculous
that everyone wants to be with me except the one I want. Now let’s get this straight – I
am not exactly the best looking woman in the world so do not ask me what all these guys
see in me except perhaps that I am very easy going in the company of men due to the fact
I have three brothers very close to me in age.
Anyway Stitch eventually appeared. He was completely off his face. I figured by this
point he must have drunk more than 50 units because he said they hadn’t stopped. He
had managed to get away from Nipper. We walked to St James Park where we were going
to sleep. In his drunkenness he kept dropping very unsubtle hints about liking me but I
trusted implicitly that he was not a man to push boundaries so I didn’t feel uncomfortable
being alone with him in the park. On the way he went into tescos to buy more beer and
an orange juice for me. The security guard wouldn’t let him in though so I had to go and
get it for him.
I set up the bedding in the park and he was indeed the perfect gentleman except I was
exhausted and he kept singing like a comedy drunk all night and the police kept walking
by with flashlights so I hid stitch’s empty beer bottle.
In the early hours a couple of guys tried to sneak up on us but I sat bolt upright and they
moved a couple of metres away and proceeded to smoke some crack. I prodded Stitch
awake and he said not to worry about it. I said later that I thought the men were going to
rob us and he said they were probably going to do so and it was a good job I was awake.
Then a police woman walked up. Stitch was in fine form and soon had her laughing. She
took our details and issued us with a stop receipt. She was really nice and we had a good
chat. She is called Molly. Whilst we were talking, another man who had been rough
sleeping about 50 metres away came over. He has been sleeping in the park for six
months. He gave us some breakfast and we had a chat. He’s from Nottingham and was
well known to Molly. Stitch said later that if you are friendly with the police they will
usually be fine with you and I said I agreed and I always tried to be polite because they
were only doing the job they had been assigned – there was no need to be rude to them.
Stitch and I are going to go camping in epping forest this coming weekend with whoever
we can get to go with us. I assure you we are not going to be camping wild illegally and
are going to use proper sites – ahem!! But for once I deserve a weekend that is fun and
free of drama.
Today I have been having to keep disappearing to the toilets at work to cry and my chest
is starting to ache again – I am also feeling a sense of rising panic. I just need to keep
active and keep holding it together.
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments | Edit
Lessons from literature
Posted on July 23, 2010 by aibaihe
There are a couple of books by Charlotte Bronte that I read, one after the other, a few
years ago so I find them rather interchangeable because they are both set in Belgian
schools. One is called “Villette” and the other “The Professor”. I read them when I was
living alone in Paris not so long after leaving hospital (Charlotte herself based the books
on a miserable and lonely time she had spent in Belgium as a student). Although they are
not particularly famous novels, I did learn two very profound lessons from them: one an
intended message from Charlotte and one unintentional. In one of the novels (like I say, I
forget which), there is the story of two friends, one of whom is beautiful and the other
plain. The novel follows the seemingly classic trials and tribulations of the standard
frothy romantic tale with regard to the beautiful girl whilst on the sidelines the plain girl
professes not to be interested in the handsome leading male. But not too far from the end,
just when she is professing for the umpteenth time that although she appreciates the
man’s good looks and fine temperament he is not the sort to interest her and the reader is
thinking okay, okay, we get it, enough already, there is the sudden realisation that she
does like this man but she knows he is out of her league. It is a breathtaking moment as
the plainer girl goes on to complete her own simple love match based more on practicality
and compatibility than high flown romance and she concludes that there are indeed a
very small number of people on this earth for whom, although there may be the
occasional minor setback, their lives truly are like something from a novel in that they are
gifted with every advantage and success in their lives and the minor upsets that they
might occasionally have to suffer only serve to remind themselves and others of how
blessed and fortunate they are. But as for the rest of us, we must be content to take what
small pleasures we are able to derive from life and not be dissatisfied that we have not
been bestowed with such luck.
The novels are rabidly anti-Rome – even to the extent of making Dawkins look like a
papist. I am a Catholic so it struck me particularly. Charlotte does not miss an
opportunity to rant against the flamboyance and extravagance of the Catholic faith in
comparison to her own quiet and reserved way of expressing her faith. I just treated it as
an annoyance to be read through as quickly as possible before continuing the proper story
(a bit like Tolstoy’s tedious lectures in War and Peace). However, towards the end of the
book I concluded something quite different. I realised that at the time she wrote Villette,
she had lost her sisters and she was writing about a time and place when she had been
alone and isolated in a foreign country and I know from personal experience that when
you are suffering great distress you cling on tightly to the little comforts you have to such
an extent that all other ways of coping seem wrong, as though it is only through an
unflinching belief that your chosen method of coping is the correct way that enables it to
work. What I am trying to say is that when under stress you develop coping mechanisms
that can blind you to other perspectives. I was thinking about this yesterday and thought
it is important that in my own distress I should not try to be too hard on people who have
developed their own methods of coping that seem nonsensical to me – like drinking or
taking drugs or becoming dependent on others – because in all probability there are
those who consider the way I go about coping make just as little sense to an outsider.
Here endeth the lesson.
Yesterday evening, walking back from my storage locker – I am rearranging things so I
can put a chair in to carry out my plan to turn it into a sitting room – when a man in front
of me fell over. He was clearly an alcoholic but the way he fell over gave me the
impression he had fallen due to a neurological disorder as opposed to directly from the
drink itself. I asked him if he needed help and he said no but when I insisted he said he
just lived opposite. I guessed straightaway it was a homeless hostel but I didn’t say
anything. After I had stopped another two women came forward and offered their
services but I said I could manage on my own. I offered to help the man across the road to
where he lived and he accepted. We had to walk really slowly because he was very
unsteady on his feet. He asked me where I lived and I confessed I was homeless and I
asked him if it was a hostel he was going to. He said yes – Graham House which is a
Thamesreach hostel. He said he would speak to them about me and then I explained
again about my unusual circumstances which meant the onus was on me to sort myself
out. We had a good laugh about him being a proud Lancashire man being saved by a
Yorkshire lass! We had such a good chat that we are meeting for coffee on Saturday. He
has been in homeless hostels in London for about eight years. I felt really good afterwards
– it really lifted my spirits. I am going to try and be friendly with someone without sorting
out their problems, lending them money or becoming a crutch in their lives. I consider
this a test case.
There were a couple of things I had forgotten to mention about my last stay in the night
shelter last week. One is that there are an awful lot of older men staying there at the
moment who seem quite well educated and well spoken. It might just be one of those
strange coincidences. The other notable thing is that there were a lot of western
Europeans staying there as well – I wonder if this is going to be a growing trend because
of the problems in the Eurozone at the moment – there have been over the last few
months quite a few Spanish but I have also seen Italians, French and even Germans.
I was told on Monday by the outreach team who are now dealing with me that I can no
longer access Joint Homeless Team support – which basically means the psychiatrist. It
made me realise I might need to prepare for being cut off from the daycentre services
completely. However I have found a gym in Vauxhall which is on the way to my storage
locker called “The Gym” which is very basic but is open 24 hours and has showers. There
is no contract and the cost is only £14.99. I have gone onto the waiting list for it because
that would be perfect for me. I will be able to get a wash at any time of the day or night. If
I re-jig my credit card repayments I should just about be able to afford it. Also if I am very
careful with my laundry I should be able to get away with only doing it once a month in
one big load. That should come to about £7 or £8. I should be able to make this work.
I passed by the Houses of Parliament last night. I saw some of the homeless still forming
part of the “protests” that have moved to the pavement. A lot of the younger homeless
that joined in the protests have now decided to become full-time eco warriers. From what
I gather they are going to save the world by lying around all day chain smoking the most
environmentally destructive cash crop on the planet whilst spending their benefits on
mass produced, rain forest destroying burgers. But all movements have to start
somewhere, so let’s not be cynical.
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My new favourite game
Posted on July 22, 2010 by aibaihe
My new favourite game – testing for personality disorder traits. I am apparently now
extremely paranoid which means that I feel that everyone is lying to me and trying to
cheat me (but they are lying to me and trying to cheat me so that is a major flaw in the
test) but it is fun how different tests give radically different results. Here are a couple to
My particular favourite result is that in the space of a couple of minutes I managed to
overturn my dependent personality disorder – such dependence manifesting itself in the
most unusual schizoid version of not wanting to be dependent on others - and instead
turned into a narcissistic sociopath. This is my new favourite toy!
Disorder Rating Information
Paranoid: Very High more info | forum
Schizoid: High more info | forum
Schizotypal: Moderate more info | forum
Antisocial: Low more info | forum
Borderline: Moderate more info | forum
Histrionic: Moderate more info | forum
Narcissistic: Moderate more info | forum
Avoidant: High more info | forum
Dependent: High more info | forum
Obsessive-Compulsive: Moderate more info | forum
Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid |||||||||||||||||| 74% 49%
Schizoid |||||||||||||||||||| 82% 53%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||||| 66% 53%
Antisocial |||||||||||||||| 62% 47%
Borderline |||||||||||||||||| 78% 47%
Histrionic |||||| 22% 43%
Narcissistic |||||||||||||||| 62% 41%
Avoidant |||||||||||| 46% 39%
Dependent |||| 14% 37%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||||||| 66% 40%
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
A little background reading
Posted on July 21, 2010 by aibaihe
Saved from the threat of rain last night but it should be here before the end of the week –
and it is expected to be really heavy as well. I am going to start packing my plastic sheet
just in case. It is actually a heavy duty tent ground sheet and I simply wrap myself up in it
which is very simple but very effective. There is a slight problem of condensation though
and I am not sure how comfortable it will be in this warm weather.
Last Thursday I had to resist the incredibly strong urge to run to the daycentre and say “I
have changed my mind. I want to sign on for benefits and get a place of my own. I don’t
want to live like this anymore.” I managed to get past the moment though. This past
Monday I was reminded again about stopping work and claiming benefits and they
seemed to think I wanted to be given a free place to live. Okay I need to deal with this
point because it must seem that I am going backwards and forwards and not achieving
very much and it may be that people get the impression that indeed I want something for
I need to go back a little bit. Twelve years ago I had a breakdown. I am not going to
explain the build up to it but present it as a fact. It was pretty severe though I was in
denial about it at the time. I had just started university and was living in my own house
(the mortgage was very low and would have been covered by the loan for maintenance). I
felt really bad – I was sweating really severely and had to keep going to the toilets because
I was always on the verge of fainting and I had to always be holding onto something
because I couldn’t walk in a straight line without some kind of assistance. I also started
to find it immensely difficult to speak – I would open my mouth knowing what I wanted
to say but the words wouldn’t come out. Eventually I stopped leaving my house and
stopped paying my bills and all my utilities were cut off. I dragged myself to the GP one
day and the receptionist took one look at me and told me to wait. The nurse saw me
straightaway and then she took me straight in to speak to the doctor who tried to get me
to go to hospital which I refused because I was shocked to be told that I was suffering
from depression – I just thought I was having a bit of a hard time but I was basically okay
and the best thing was to just keep going.
I was referred to a social worker who for the next few weeks kept coming to see me until
he eventually convinced me to go into hospital. I might talk about this more some other
time but in a nutshell I was eventually sectioned, the hospital tried to convince me I was
schizophrenic, I was put on a treatment order and prescribed antipsychotic medication
(extremely painful – makes all the muscles in your body contract). My GP came to visit
me and told me that he did not believe I was schizophrenic – that rather I was the most
depressed person he had ever seen in his career as a GP and advised me of what options I
had open to me. I also had the backing of my own mental health nurse keyworker who
agreed with my GP’s verdict. To cut a long story short I took the hospital to Tribunal and
won, leaving the hospital the same day after approximately four to five months inside.
In this time my house had been repossessed. I had started a claim for assistance a long
time before this that my social worker was meant to have been on top of but had
neglected to send off. I eventually got permission to collect some of my private
belongings but by this time – because the house had already been sold at auction – the
current owners had been through all my things and sold off anything of value including –
and I don’t know why it sticks in my mind so much because it is so silly – my awards and
trophies from sport I had participated in as a child and my Brownie badges – of all things
how silly to get so upset about those things most of all!
I was left with very little of value and I spent the next few months just lying in bed.
Eventually my claim for incapacity benefit came through (which now amounted to more
than £2,000 I had been waiting that long) and I deposited the cheque in the bank. The
bank swallowed up the money to pay for bank charges – which now incidentally are
illegal because they were charges resulting from going overdrawn once due to a single
£25 bank charge – and promptly closed the account so I got no benefit from that either.
One day (after several months) I realised that if I didn’t do something myself I would
never get back on my own feet. I had a mortal dread of going back to a doctor at this
stage and in fact it wasn’t until very recently that I dared see a doctor again. So one day I
sold everything I had left that had the slightest value and bought a one way ticket to Paris
on Eurolines. I had in cash £300 to support me until I could earn. My thinking was that
if I were forced by necessity to concentrate on the basics of feeding, housing and clothing
myself then over time I would become less depressed because I simply would not have
enough time to dwell on unhappy thoughts.
It turned out to be a quite brilliant plan. Although things weren’t perfect I managed to
find a place to live in a government hostel for immigrants (sharing my room with North
Africans who introduced me to parts of Paris the tourists never get to see) and I got a job
at the very first place I tried. And in part it really worked – because I gradually cried less
and less. I realised that I have enormous capacity for picking myself up off the ground
and getting on with things. This began a different period of my life and over the next few
years I did an enormous variety of things that were certainly interesting and people
would say how brave I was because I knew no matter how bad I felt about something or
isolated or worried that if I stuck at it things would get better. I spent two further periods
in different parts of France, I lived in London, I studied to be an actor and formed a
theatre company with a friend that toured regional theatres, I spent three and a half years
living in different regions of China where I was a TV presenter with three TV shows,
edited a magazine, was a voice over artist, wrote text books and ran an arts company and
it was all very interesting but I never got back that sense of being really connected to
anything or anyone.
When I had been really ill I had this sense that I wasn’t myself anymore – that the real me
had died and I had been replaced by a stand in version of me like a kind of guardian
angel. My “memories” didn’t feel personal to me at all. It took several years to overcome
this sense of me not being “the real me” and several years more before I realised I had
gone a couple of days without crying once.
I did however land up with a new problem. I had come up with this brilliant method of
surviving – cutting myself off emotionally from other people and ploughing on with
difficulties no matter how insurmountable they seemed – but it meant that I wasn’t really
leading a full life in the sense of deriving any real enjoyment from things. Rather I
appreciated what I had without feeling any real attachment to it.
When my stay in China was cut short because of a serious accident in which I badly
injured my back (at first I couldn’t walk but being the determined person that I am I
overcame that difficulty as well) I came back to England. I went to stay with my sister
(who hates me and takes every opportunity to remind me that I am mad – no really she
does do that but I just take it all – there are occasions when even I know it is pointless to
stand up for yourself!) But trouble was brewing with my parents and I discovered that
my father was facing bankruptcy. Despite the fact that I was very ill and in a lot of pain
and found it difficult walking I resolved to move back to London and find work which I
did very quickly. I insisted that my dad retire on health grounds and we came up with a
plan to make the banks happy.
The plan was basically that I would pay the banks a regular sum monthly (about £500). I
have a small (though it is 100%) mortgage on a house that I own in France (I have lived
out of suitcases since my house was repossessed and I was desperate to have some kind of
base and I took out a loan to cover the renovation works and also an additional one to
cover the purchase costs (which are about 15% in France). On top of paying rent in
London that meant that the two jobs I was working covered all the things I needed to pay
with a tiny amount left over for all other living expenses (ranging from £9 in a bad week
to £50 in a good one). I spent as little as possible and saved the rest of the money which,
of course, I then lent to a certain “friend” who couldn’t pay her university fees despite the
fact she had the latest iPhone and Apple computers and MP3 players etc. Except, of
course, the recession hit and I lost one of the jobs. At the same time my landlord illegally
evicted me (I was not in arrears) and I ended up living in a pop up tent on a campsite in
North London through that terrible winter we just had until I was also unable to afford
But I got through it all (and in fact I have glossed over a number of bad things that I had
to go through during this period) simply by picking myself up and getting on with it.
That is fine but I can’t seem to switch out of that mode. It has become my default mode
– a kind of cruise control – and I don’t seem to be able to re-engage with life and other
If you are interested the figures for my salary and loans are this:
Salary: £1,240 (as long as I am not sick)
Loans/bills in France: approx £1,100
Storage costs in London: £63
Internet (contract – can’t cancel yet): £15
Left over money: approx £60 for minimum payments on credit card.
Spare: £0 (though I end up putting things on my credit card again)
I don’t want something for nothing. I just want to hold on and decide what I want
without making any changes until I am sure. I have worked so hard to support everyone
else and have had little back in return from other people. When I first went to the
daycentre I was very honest and said I knew I was not entitled to any help but I just
wanted to use the shower. It is they who started dangling other things in front of my eyes
that I was then tempted into taking advantage of – it is not I who sought those things out.
As you can probably guess from some of the details above I am more than capable of
living for an indefinite amount of time on the street and I have also been left with the very
distinct impression that the only person I can rely on to truly look after my own interests
is myself. Added to that is the fact that I am not even sure I want to get better - I am sick
to death of other people using me and that I am a better friend to others than they ever
are to me.
Anyway that is enough doom and gloom for now because there are a couple of other
things I want to talk about.
Some of the homeless people from the “democracy village” protest on parliament square
are thinking of starting an eco village on waste ground in London (forgot where exactly).
The hare krishnas have offered them a 14 person tepee with free delivery to the site of
The person I bought breakfast for at the weekend is the man who had told me that he
received £1,000 each week which he handed out in central London. I found out that this
is not exactly the full story. He had told me that it was his inheritance he received.
Apparently the money is in fact his normal benefit payment and it is closer to being in
the region of £300. Stitch told me that a number of the other homeless people queue up
outside the Post Office when he is due to collect a payment and then come up with sob
stories about needing money and he always gives them what they want without
questioning it. This is why he never has money in his pocket and why I always have to
give him spare change for hot food. He is a very sweet but simple guy and the people who
take money off him are despicable as the ones who take it are spending it on drink and
drugs. I told Stitch that if he sees that gentleman giving money to anyone he is to get
their name and I will sort them out.
Do you remember a few weeks back I mentioned an autistic boy that had been sexually
assaulted and they hadn’t let him into the daycentre. He has been hanging out at the
democracy village for the past few weeks (in fact his picture is in a number of the
newspapers). He is apparently known for saying that someone has sexually assaulted
him so that he doesn’t have to go back to a place (he has a permanent home in a kind of
halfway house). The other homeless have started trying to ignore him in the hope that he
will go home but I don’t know what the answer to that one is quite frankly.
Still working on the other things I was going to talk about. I am feeling really gloomy at
the moment but I did have a funny moment yesterday thinking I could do my own version
of the “four yorkshiremen” sketch with Stitch and the others! Apart from that, I am really
struggling to have a sense of humour about anything at the moment.
Oh here’s something interesting though that I will write more about next time. I have
been wondering what exactly is wrong with me and I have been doing lots of research on
the internet. I took some personality disorder tests and I score pretty highly on lots of
them!!!! However the tests do seem to go up and down depending on the test you take so
who knows what is true. Anyway you will be pleased to note that I score very low results
on all the tests for anti-social personality disorder, histrionic PD and dependent PD. So
basically it can be ruled out that I am a needy, psychopathic drama queen but on the
downside I score extremely highly on the schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders.
However the questions don’t seem to make a distinction between wanting to just be on
your own and wanting to be on your own because you have a very good reason – is there a
difference? More about that another time.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
Killing time and keeping occupied
Posted on July 20, 2010 by aibaihe
Thursday night was film night courtesy of Open Cinema. They were showing the latest
Robin Hood. Stitch and his namesake friend and I managed to get the really comfy seats
to sit on. Stitch had already eaten tonnes that day but they were serving beef and
Yorkshire pudding downstairs in the daycentre café and he couldn’t resist having a large
plateful. Unfortunately, it tipped his stomach over the edge and he kept emitting
seriously bad smells and having to disappear to the toilet for long periods at a time. It
wasn’t helped by the fact that he and his mate were seriously hung over from a drinking
binge the day before.
On one occasion when he left his chair unoccupied, two guys sat down on it even though I
had placed my bags there to show the chair was occupied. They just shoved the bags to
the floor and sat down. I explained that someone was using that chair and he was just
using the toilet. They refused to move and I had to practically push them off the chair to
get them off. Then one of them moved behind my chair and kept kicking it. I punched
his leg a few times until he stopped. You can’t show any weakness here. You don’t know
if you are going to meet the same people outside on the street when you are alone and
vulnerable and so people need to know that you are not scared and have people who will
back you up in a fight. Stitch said I did well to stand up for myself and I was really
pleased that I successfully got rid of them.
Friday I didn’t have time to get a referral for the night shelter so I resolved to stay out for
the weekend and make the best of it.
I have slept so much over the past few days. Friday night I spent 15 hours in my sleeping
bag. I didn’t get up until midday and then went straight from there to the French café.
Stitch was there and I arranged to meet him at St Giles and to pick up some of the free
tobacco they hand out if I got there before him but in the end I didn’t go. I just wanted to
be on my own. I had £10 spare so I went to the Prince Charles Cinema and watched a
French movie. It is so long since I have been to that cinema – I used to go all the time
when I first came to London. I resolved that since I am feeling so down at the moment I
should try to fill my time as much as possible so that I have as few moments to dwell on
bleak things as possible. Saturday night I spent fourteen hours in my sleeping bag and
Sunday another fourteen. I have been getting into bed at about 7p.m. in the evening,
though it takes me a couple of hours to fall asleep. I just don’t have any energy. I plan to
walk to my storage unit and back every evening which is about 8 miles in total as a
Monday I resolved to ask for three nights in the night centre until I could see the
psychiatrist when he came in on Thursday. I asked to speak to my keyworker but after
waiting for about 40 minutes I was told he was no longer my keyworker and I had been
transferred to another team. I have been moved to the (I think it is called this) the
building based services outreach team. I was reminded again that I needed to claim
benefits and until my circumstances changed I could not use the night shelter. I think
that means I have been demoted! It is fair enough. I am a nuisance because I don’t know
what I want and until I do know I don’t want to make any changes in my life. That means
that I am definitely out for the foreseeable future. I don’t know why they don’t just slap
me a couple of times and say “Earn some more money, for heaven’s sake. What’s wrong
with you?” I think that’s what I need but I just don’t have the energy or the motivation to
put it into action.
I have decided in the interim to move all my belongings to my storage unit in
Wandsworth and arrange it like a little sitting room (there might be just enough space for
a comfy chair) and I can turn it into a little study and reading room. That way when the
weather is bad I can just go there and read. I need to start planning now for the bad
weather. There are a couple of clothing items I need to get and I also need to get a new
sleeping mat. The sleeping bag I have now is three season and will be sufficient if I wear
layers to supplement it during very cold weather. It is really important to plan ahead and
be ready as soon as the weather turns bad because you really don’t realise until you do it
for the first time how cold you can get when you are lying down all night in the open air.
You start to feel a difference when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius and it
becomes really uncomfortable when it goes below 5 degrees Celsius. The other advantage
of my storage unit is that there is a really good toilet and sink there which has heating. I
have a bucket in my unit and I should be able to get a fairly decent wash there and even
do my hair at a push. I wouldn’t risk losing the unit by sleeping overnight though – not
that I would want to anyway but when the weather was really cold I did on occasion just
walk down there so I could be in out of the wind for a short while and run my hands
under the hot tap for a bit of respite.
I am going to try and avoid the soup runs as much as possible just for a few weeks
because I just want to be alone for a while.
Forgot to say: Sunday morning I crossed a major line: I accepted money from someone.
A lady came up to me whilst I was packing away my sleeping bag – it was £2 and I
accepted it. I spent it on breakfast for myself and another person at the daycentre. So far
I have only “accepted” money that has been left on my pillow or in my shoe while I am
sleeping – that comes to £12 so far and this £2 makes £14. The other £12 I have given
out to other people who wanted a meal at the daycentre though I may in future donate the
same out of my wages if I can ever think of where to donate it to.
I am working on a description about the types of people you meet on the streets and the
things people do to occupy their time because I think you will find it interesting. It’s just
that I am being really lazy at the moment and finding it difficult to concentrate. I will also
find out where the homeless who had been occupying parliament square have moved
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The full Big Issue interview
Posted on July 20, 2010 by aibaihe
This is the almost complete Big Issue interview that I did with Daisy Greenwell. I hope
she doesn’t mind if I reproduce it here. It saves me having to repeat myself. I just
removed a tiny bit.
1) How did you come to be on the streets? (What happened to your accommodation?
When exactly happen? What feel like?)
I think I am fairly typical in that there were longstanding reasons why ultimately I have
ended up in this position but there were more recent events that acted as the catalyst for
me to take that “final step”. I don’t want to reveal the ultimate reasons, but the proximate
ones relate to an illegal eviction in mid-2009. The landlord wanted to take back
possession of his property to put it on the market and had no regard for my rights in
relation to this. After attempting to scare me (through threats and trespass late at night)
into leaving, he simply changed the locks one day and threw most of my possessions into
the street (although he kept everything of value). I did call the police and the council. The
council were near pointless. I was advised by Shelter of what their obligations were but
there is very little that you can do to force a local authority to abide by their own
guidelines. The police told me it was a civil matter and said I could be arrested for
breaking and entering if I attempted to re-enter the property. As a working person I did
not qualify for legal aid and was informed by a solicitor that it would take fees of £2,000
to initiate action, with a probable further £2,000 needed soon thereafter for enforcement
action, but with the ultimate result that nothing might be achieved. I camped for a few
months but the whole thing was a massive blow to my confidence, and after suffering
further setbacks, I stepped out onto the streets, so to speak.
I have been out for two months now, though I spend occasional nights in a night shelter
free of charge. I knew for several months before it happened that it was coming and I was
apprehensive about it. The first night I only managed to lie down for a couple of hours
before the cold overcame me and I just wandered about and this was the case for the first
couple of weeks. The first night I succeeded in spending the whole night lying down
another rough sleeper attempted to assault me and that caused me to move to another
part of London. Around this time I managed to make contact with a day centre for the
first time and then things got rapidly easier. I was worried that I might be recognised by
someone who knew me and a little ashamed that I was crossing a line, but ultimately you
settle into it and now I am not ashamed of it at all.
2) Describe your average day and night – where sleeping/eating etc
Monday to Friday is a normal working week for me. I get up, make the bed and head off
to work just like any other working person. After work is when things get different. I have
to hang around killing time until a soup run. The first time I used one of these I was really
apprehensive but the volunteers are so lovely that I haven’t felt any shame in frequenting
them and the food is really excellent. Then straight after that I go to bed. I have a regular
place where I sleep. It is out in the open and so I really hate the rain but the
outreach/daycentre workers know where I am and that gives me a certain sense of
security. Initially I slept in the Westminster Cathedral area because I researched places to
stay on the internet and that came up time and time again but it really feels unsafe there
– I refer to it as the Wild West. In my opinion, it has a very different vibe to the other
places where people sleep rough in London. Weekends are completely different. My
experience then is much closer to that of the “average” rough sleeper as I am out on the
streets all day and it is awful. I sleep in the park, go for long walks, anything to kill time.
The other homeless I have talked to pity me for having to live this life while working but I
consider that, in many respects, I am much luckier than them because I have the benefit
of structure in my life five days out of seven.
3) You’re still holding down a job – what is it? (Don’t have to be too specific if worried
about identity) Have workmates noticed?
I work in an office. More than that I don’t wish to say. No-one has noticed. But why would
they? I haven’t missed a single day of work and I am not sitting under my desk drinking
whisky from a paper bag and asking for spare change. My colleagues and I differ in only
this single aspect of our lives.
4) Don’t you have any family you can depend on? Don’t they know?
Never ask a rough sleeper about their family!! It’s complicated.
5) What sort of help have homelessness agencies given you? What else could they do to
help but aren’t?
I initially approached a day centre after being out for a couple of weeks. I merely wanted
to be able to access some of the basic facilities, particularly for washing. I was certain I
didn’t qualify for any other assistance and was open about my work and money situation
(people are going to have questions about money but it is a very complicated situation
that I don’t want to go into). I was referred (unknowingly) to a mental health worker
which astonished me when I walked into the meeting because I thought I was perfectly
fine. They immediately offered me a free place to stay for several months, referral to
specialists and open access to the day centre. I was a little overwhelmed at that time and
refused all offers of help but have since made plenty of use of the day centre facilities and
occasionally sleep in the night shelter. Because of my job, I am unable to be referred on to
more permanent accommodation.
There were, I feel, a few mistakes made in the beginning. Anyone who reads my twitter
will know my feelings about some of the staff! There was a point right at the beginning
when I was scared to sleep out after being assaulted and I tried to come into the night
shelter. However the staff on duty that night were unwelcoming and questioned whether
I had the right to stay there and I ended up walking out. A few similar occasions have
confirmed that the night shelter acts as respite for me rather than a proper stage in my
return to living indoors.
Additionally I don’t have a “key worker” at the daycentre. Technically I can be seen by
whoever happens to be on duty and I hate that inconsistency. There is one person I will
talk to but it doesn’t run on an appointments system – simply first come, first served –
which means queuing for two hours in the morning to secure a spot and I am not
prepared to do that anymore.
6) You’re going through something that lots of people could never even imagine – what
has surprised you most about the experience? How do you feel, emotionally – tired?
It has surprised me how easy it is. I should point out that it is easy for me as opposed to
easy for everyone. My life experiences aren’t those of the next person. I slept rough in my
teens and that was tough as it was in a small town with no facilities (or none that I was
aware of). That was really rough. But the facilities in London for the homeless are
incredible. Not only do the day centres provide fabulous facilities seven days a week with
hot water, free laundry facilities, entertainment, workshops and courses and cheap cafes,
but the soup runs being run throughout the capital cover all the times when the official
facilities are closed. I am surprised by how generous some people are but probably more
surprised at how horrible others are. You’d think it would be rough young men who are
the ones to watch out for but 99% of the people who offer a kind word, food or money (I
don’t accept money) are young men. It’s the people dressed up to kill with the posh
accents or groups of tourists who are the most mean spirited – both in terms of offering
nothing and in terms of shouting insults or spitting at me as they pass.
I am also surprised at how lovely the other rough sleepers are. Some of them have done
some bad things in their time but by and large they are gentle people, the best and nicest I
have met in London (possibly because so many of them are Northerners or Scottish!)
They are complete people with sides to them that have nothing to do with the fact that
they sleep on the streets.
Obviously from time to time I feel down – sometimes very so. Around the time of my
period is a nightmare. Also, I so hate the aimlessness of the weekends and that can get
7) What sorts of characters have you met on the streets?
I have met the best people since being on the streets and it is only a few weeks since I
really started talking to people out here. That was out of my own fear and prejudice. It
cannot be ignored the fact that many of them are off their face on one thing or another
but there are times when it is undeniably fun and carefree on the streets. There are times
when it feels like a long summer holiday at junior school with the only responsibility on
your shoulders being to get home in time for dinner.
This is the first time I have been a member of a group of people and been able to be open
about the fact that I have problems in my life. I don’t have to maintain a façade because
we are all in the same position. Many of the “old hands” say things have changed in the
last fifteen years; that the streets are a much more dangerous place now than they were
because the problem has become more one of drugs and less one of alcohol. But I have
been told by many that they are looking out for me and often someone will tell me they
walked by to check I was safe.
How old are you? Do you have any mental health/drug/alcohol problems?
I am in my 30s and have mental health issues – related to depression resulting from
certain events in my life. I have never taken illegal drugs, am teetotal and don’t smoke.
9) Have you got a plan of action as to how to get yourself out of this situation?
I did have a plan of action initially but I have found such an easing in my levels of stress
since being out on the streets that it is difficult for me to face trying to overcome them. I
had prepared a detailed plan to present to my mental health worker but when I went to
meet with him I was told I would be meeting with a different person that day and so I
chucked it in the bin. Because of my unusual position, it is entirely down to me to sort
myself out and I am not able to face up to that just yet. It would involve getting a second
job initially and saving up a deposit for somewhere as well as possibly changing my main
job for something better paid. It would also mean addressing some of my underlying
problems, but of course that is the most difficult thing of all.
10) Why did you decide to start Twittering? How do you get time on the internet?
I decided to start Twittering in response to a single event. I was lying in my “bed” looking
up at the stars and a couple came and stood by me and, whilst continually looking in my
direction, started undressing and fondling each other. I realised they wanted to be
watched and had chosen me to be the voyeur. I asked them to move on and said there
were presumably websites where you could advertise for someone to join in that kind of
thing and they started shouting abuse at me to get a job and calling me a tramp etc. It
upset me greatly at the time but later I just felt enraged and I wanted to tell someone how
angry I felt about it.
I access the internet through a laptop. I have several months left on my contract mobile
broadband. Even the homeless can’t get out of such contracts!
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I love drugs!
Posted on July 14, 2010 by aibaihe
Monday afternoon, I had been wasting time in the park chilling out and thinking how
good it was to be on these new tablets because I could bear the frustrations of being
barred again from the hostel and still feel relatively relaxed about the whole thing.
Afterwards I went to the soup run on the strand as usual and saw Stitch there. I went up
and gave him a big hug. He has terrible sun burn at the moment and his back was
extremely blistered and sore. A couple of minutes after seeing him, someone wandered
up. It was B. He had come to meet me. I was so pleased to see him because I thoroughly
expected not to see him again for at least another week. We were chatting so happily to
each other and so many people kept coming up to interrupt us and tell us how glad they
were to see us together. B got told off lots for not looking after me properly but I laughed
and said I didn’t mind. Everyone remarked how upbeat I looked and I explained about
the new medication.
B said that he had had a meeting with his keyworker after my phone call with the hostel
and I was no longer barred. They said I was allowed to stay one night. This may or may
not be true. It may well be that they said I am allowed to stay tthe standard two nights
but B only wants me to stay the one and won’t admit it but, like I said, I am not
concerning myself with any of this. I can’t tell who is straight with me and who is not and
so I am just going to take everything that I am told in good faith and not let it bother me if
it turns out not to be true.
A guy I had not seen before came up and said hi to B. It turns out B knows him from a
while back. He has just come back on the streets. He has been on and off the streets
since 1985. We went to Trafalgar Square to sit on the grass and chat. After a few hours B
said he was nipping back to the hostel to get us both some warm clothes and then he was
going to stay out with me in the park. I arranged a meeting place with him. You can
guess what happened next. He didn’t turn up. I waited three and a half hours and I was
freezing by the end (about 1.30 in the morning) and then decided to go to bed in my usual
spot. I felt so silly and annoyed with myself for not realising the signs. He had been
given a one day travel pass. He said it was because he was bored in his room and they
had given it to him so he could get out but of course that could not be true – he must have
asked for one to go see his ex-girlfriend and children who live quite a way away and he
never had any intention of coming back. I felt even worse when it started to rain on me
because I was sleeping in an exposed spot and so I decided to move a bit further down the
street to the air vents where there is still no shelter but the air vents keep the area from
getting too wet. I had some chest pain from anxiety but I resolved not to go back on my
word of being uncritical of him. When I see him next I shall just hug him as though
nothing has happened and say how happy I am to see him – which of course will be true.
In the morning I was so tired from not being able to sleep that I ended up sleeping in
really late. I was woken by outreach – they finally found me!!! My keyworker said they
had been looking for me and couldn’t find me. I said what time do they come round and
he replied that they go round three times a day: in the morning, in the afternoon and in
the evening. I said if they go round at a time when someone is likely to be in bed then
they will find me but if it is daylight hours I won’t be there of course. Well I know now
they come round after 8 a.m. which seems a little late for my thinking. They asked me if I
needed any help and I said no and that was about it. They were very nice though. I didn’t
manage to get up until about 10.45 a.m. in the end.
Tuesday evening I went to the daycentre to get a shower (there were no towels left and so
my hair was dripping wet afterwards – and I have an awful lot of hair) and Stitch was
there with his new friend who is just like him. One of the members of staff had seen him
floating down the Thames at the weekend and she had thought he was doing it for fun.
They were laughing about it.
Afterwards we went to the sandwich run and waited for Fred in the rain. He was very late
and it was a bit cold and wet but it was fun waiting with Stitch as we had a good chat.
I also had a good chat with a guy i hadn’t talked to before, a very softly spoken Scot. He
looked clean and tidy and well-scrubbed. It turns out, however, that he has been on the
streets for years (he wouldn’t tell me how long but gave me the impression it had been a
very long time). He asked me why I didn’t use the night shelter and i explained about
problems I had had with staff and the noise and he laughed and said nothing had
changed since he last stayed there. He told me similar stories about other shelters he had
stayed in. He seemed quiet but reasonably content in his life. He told me about a soup
run that comes to the strand once a fortnight very late on a thursday evening and he says
the people stay late into the night for a good chinwag. He said I should come some time if
I am awake. I asked whether outreach ever found him and he said he found it annoying
being woken by them and so he had found a place to sleep where he was never disturbed
and so he never saw them anymore. We also laughed about how fussy we were getting
because there was such choice at the soup runs between the different foods available.
Stitch convinced me to try going into the night shelter again so I resolved to do so because
I didn’t like the thought of staying out in the rain. This time they didn’t make me wait too
long and they were very nice to me so it passed off okay. It was however still too loud and
bright and I didn’t get to sleep long enough (though they didn’t wake me until all the
other beds had been put away). I am going to go in again tonight because I desperately
need clean clothes.
This morning I had no more medication so this afternoon I went to the homeless clinic on
Great Chapel Street in Soho. They don’t have an appointment system which is a great
idea but it did mean I had to wait quite a long time to be seen. I was seen by the nurse
first for quite a long consultation. The whole practice is geared up to deal with the
chaotic nature of the homeless lifestyle, i.e. if they can do it there and then they will do so,
i.e. she asked me if I had had my Hep B jab and when I said no she gave me one
straightaway. She enquired whether I was up to date on smears and when I said I had
never had one because I had previously had difficulty with it she gave me a speculum to
practise with on my own first so I would know what to expect. The staff are really sweet
and friendly and understanding there – in fact it is the best GP surgery I have ever been
in. Anyway I have my prescription and not a moment too soon. Straight after work I am
going to go and pick it up because I am feeling the chest pain starting to return. In fact I
realise now just how much anxiety I had been feeling throughout the day on an almost
continuous period for years and years. I only realise how strong the sensation was now
that I am no longer experiencing that pain so strongly - it’s why I suddenly feel like I am
floating on air, though I would still like to get a higher dose of the tablets I am currently
Oh, interesting point - sorry this is all stream of consciousness with no editing – I am not
sure if I had tweeted it before but some of the members of staff at the night shelter had
expressly said on repeated occasions that they were volunteers and not paid but last night
I heard someone ask the question to one of them and that person replied that all
members of staff who work the night shift are paid. Curiously it seems that the
“volunteers” don’t appear to enjoy their job as much as the paid staff although you would
surely expect it to be the other way round and this has often been a topic of conversation
on the steps of the night shelter waiting for it to open. Well, I don’t know what to make of
that but I have a few thoughts…which shall remain in my head…though I guess we are all
on the same page with that one!
I am not going to say what I am going to post on next because it isn’t working out that
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Stitch’s latest adventures
Posted on July 12, 2010 by aibaihe
I settled down for sleep in my usual place on Friday night and after having some difficulty
dropping off I finally fell into a deep sleep. In the morning the lovely camping shop man
came out to say hello and offer me a drink but I was still a bit drowsy and so said no
thank you and went back to sleep. About an hour or so later I noticed a very strangely
dressed man pacing up and down near me smoking. I was just thinking “bastard public –
how rude to be smoking so close to where I am sleeping” when I noticed that it was
Stitch! Hello he cried when he saw I was awake. He was dressed in the strangest outfit.
He said I haven’t seen you in ages and have been looking for you and I explained that I
had just got out of hospital. He said he suspected I was heading for something like that
and then said he had just got out of hospital himself a few hours ago, at about 2.30 in the
morning. This is what happened to him…
He had been going back to the beach over the past few days to make money from his sand
sculptures. One day he had made a large starfish, a crab another day and on Friday he
had made a giant tortoise. He had been doing quite well money-wise, making in the
region of £15 to £25 for an afternoon’s work (which he had then obviously spent on cheap
alcohol). On the Friday afternoon, he and some of the others had taken the revenue
gathered so far and bought some drink and then were collecting more money. There was
about £1.80 in the collection bowl and a bystander (who apparently turned out to be quite
well-off), egged on by his friends, had stolen the money from the bowl. Outraged, Stitch
had chased after him. What happened next is a little bit confused. Stitch said somehow
this guy got hold of a machete and tried to attack him with it and then he ran inside a
restaurant and asked to borrow a cleaver for a magic trick he needed to perform and,
wielding it, fronted up to the thief. The guy in a panic turned round and jumped off the
bridge into the Thames and Stitch (feeling like an action hero) decided to jump in after
him. It was low tide so the drop was quite a distance and Stitch had not only been
drinking but he was also suffering very bad sunburn over his upper body from being on
the beach for the past few days wearing very little. The combination of factors meant that
on impact with the water he passed out and started floating down the Thames, pulled
along rapidly by its strong currents. Police boats were called to search for him but it was
a mile further down the river before he was pulled out, having been spotted by the police
helicopter – thankfully floating unconscious on his back. He was taken to the hospital
where he discharged himself the same night against doctor’s orders. The hospital had
offered to wash his clothes but apparently they were a stinking mess and so they had
given him some hospital pyjamas to wear. (Luckily the police decided not to charge him
because he was still on licence.) He had taken a bus up to his squat to get some kip but
the squat had finally been sealed off and so he had made his way back into Westminster,
had seen me sleeping and had curled up by my feet like a pet dog. He was exhausted
when he finished and curled back up again but he couldn’t get comfy so I took him to get
some coffee and breakfast.
Later, after I had had a shower at the daycentre, Stitch and I decided to head down to the
free deckchairs in Embankment Park. I had just settled down when B’s hostel rang me to
say that he had approved me removing my things from their office and I could come
whenever I wanted. I felt a twinge in my chest when I realised he probably didn’t want to
tell me himself and, after steeling myself, I decided to head off and get the job done and
out of the way so I could put it behind me. It was a boiling hot day but I resolved to take
my time moving the things in several loads to my storage locker, remembering to drink
plenty of water at regular intervals. I got to the hostel and collected the first load. I asked
if the letter had been given to B but they hadn’t given it to him yet. I took the first load
down (the round trip taking me about two and a half hours) and returned for the second
As I approached the hostel door, I heard a shout from the window above me and looked
up to see B waving at me in a friendly way. I waved back and said “hi”. He said “what are
you doing?” I said “I am moving my things – did you get my note?” and he said “No,
come up to see me”. I thought, right…time to start as you mean to go on: so keep your
cool and keep it friendly.
B was painting his room and everything was piled up in the centre. He seemed in a good
mood and asked why I had gone off with the first bags without saying anything to him. I
looked at him confusedly. I asked him if he knew I had been in hospital. He said no he
had been looking for me. I told him to be quiet and then related everything that had
happened to me over the past week including what I had been told by his keyworker at
the daycentre. He said it wasn’t true; he hadn’t said that at all. He didn’t want me to
move my things. He did want me to stay and he hadn’t broken up with me.
Now, let’s take a pause here. I am not an idiot and I know B was lying to me at this point
but I said “Oh no, that’s terrible, why would all those people lie to me. They must not
want us to be together.” Then B said he was going to speak to the keyworker and say he
did not want to work with him anymore. Realising the situation straightaway I said that
no he should try to keep working with him because it would be such a lot of fuss to change
things now when he was well on the way to getting himself sorted out.
So you are probably thinking at this point why I could possibly want to be with someone
who lies so blatantly to me. This is going to take some difficulty to explain but I shall try.
Most people when you start dating them put on their best face and over time you discover
their idiosyncracies and defects which may end up being the things that cause you to
separate. B is the opposite. He puts on a show of being an “absolute cunt” (his words not
mine) and then over time to a very select few he reveals his inner self which is the most
adorable, loving, considerate and gentle person. I know and understand how his
defences operate – for example I discovered fairly quickly that he is a compulsive liar and
very good at it too, although he claims never ever to lie (though of course he would say
that, wouldn’t he!)
And now it gets worse and probably a little more difficult for you to understand…I
understand more fully now why he kept repeating to me over and over the last time he
saw me how selfish he was and how he didn’t deserve me. I had an inkling at the time
what this meant but it was confirmed to me this weekend. B has been cheating on me
with his ex-girlfriend. I know this for an indisputable fact (B doesn’t know I know it)
though I am not going to reveal my devious methods for finding out. When I discovered
the proof I felt very calm. I was just relieved that my instincts were operating well and
that I was not being overly sensitive. My reaction was: ok, give him his space. I am
confident of his love for me; confident also that he is good for me and I for him. I think
this relates to his weird method of problem solving and the fact that he is incredibly
impulsive when stressed. The exact nature of what has occurred are unknown to me but I
consider them mere details and unnecessary for me to know about.
I have decided to give the boy his space and let him do all the chasing. He asked me to
bring my things back to his room but I said it was much more convenient for me to take
them to the locker where I could access them whenever needed. That means I will never
have a pressing need to get into his room. He has sold his phone (which was a present
from his ex-girlfriend) which is great because I don’t have to get upset now about not
being able to get through on his phone or about him not calling me.
The only issue that remains is the fact that, of course, he has children with that woman. I
am very supportive of B seeing his children, particularly the oldest (technically his
brother’s child but who calls B “dad”) because I can see B is a loving father and the
children need him and will benefit from his presence. I have often bought B a ticket so he
could go visit them and will continue to do so in future if necessary – though now I will be
doing it with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I am giving him the money to
possibly go off and cheat on me. But I can live with that for the time being and I don’t
expect anyone else to understand that. He also often criticises her in front of me and I
stop him doing that too.
So anyway, I spent all Saturday with B and then set off Sunday morning to take the rest of
my things to the locker. There were massive detours because of the Asics 10K run and so
it took me considerably longer to get there. Setting off back, I realised I had misjudged
my Oyster card and hence lacked the money to return on the bus. I had to trek more than
five miles back to the hostel through the heat and nearly passed out from dehydration.
Back at the hostel I was barred from re-entering. B and I were confused and explained
that we had been told the bar had been lifted but we were informed it was still in place
until Monday. When I asked for something from one of my remaining bags in the office
(and B had stepped outside for a moment) a couple of the staff suddenly turned nasty on
me and began talking to me in an aggressive manner. It was so out of the blue that I
started crying and B came back in. He said he couldn’t believe how nastily they were
talking to me and another resident who had witnessed what was going on – a very sweet
and gentle young man – came up and asked me if I was ok afterwards. I said to B not to
worry – we would sort it all out in the end and then I put a smile on my face because he
gets distressed if I am upset.
[I have just got off the phone with the hostel and they said they are continuing the bar for
at least another two weeks and B and I were so looking forward to next weekend when we
could be together again. The manager also said she had been told I had refused to leave
the hostel which is an out and out lie - but as in all these things there is almost nothing
you can say in your own defence.]
I headed back into central London through the parks. I stopped for three hours in
Kensington Gardens for a three hour nap because I was feeling tired and distressed from
the afternoon. When I got back to the Strand I saw Stitch walking around in his usual
manner of strutting like a cockerel. I went up and gave him a big hug and told him what
had happened. He said he was happy B and I were together. He said the previous night
he had been asleep on the pavement by a hot air vent (he has no sleeping bag) and two
couples had walked past. One of the men had kicked him hard in the neck and run off,
leaving the women sniggering. Stitch had jumped up and chased after one of the men
and given him an almighty punch. He told me he felt guilty because it turned out he had
hit the wrong man but I said he shouldn’t feel badly because hopefully that man would
catch up with his friend and “pass the message on”.
I had curry and rice from the Sunday afternoon curry run but gave my rice pudding to
Stitch who ate a further 4 rice puddings before going back for second helpings of curry
and rice! We headed off to find somewhere to watch the world cup final but in the end I
wasn’t feeling well and set off back to the strand. I resolved to go into the night shelter as
a precaution because of feeling sick. I have been really nauseous since starting the anti-
depressants. I won’t stop them, though, because they have almost immediately taken the
edge of the horrific pain I used to feel in my chest in the order of about 50 times a day
and, although I still get twinges now, they are on such a reduced scale that I feel able to
tackle the feelings without being overwhelmed. I waited until everyone had gone into the
shelter and then asked if I was allowed in. The woman came back after 15 minutes and
asked to speak to me. She and another member of staff started talking to me about how I
was and where I had been sleeping. I was tired and not feeling well but I just answered
the questions. Then she asked me what time I wanted waking in the morning and did I
want an alarm call – I wondered what they were talking about – everyone gets woken at
the same time. She then said they just wanted me to be quiet and not cause any fuss and
I thought “Here we go” so I realised that was how it was all resolved in the end – that I
am the troublemaker. It was they who were causing the noise and aggravating us – I just
stood up to them. But I didn’t feel well and so I said yes of course. She then told me to
sign in and I turned round and saw it was that woman I had had the big trouble with
before and who had been so rude (not just to me but to many people who have stayed
there) and I knew I couldn’t be there so they opened the door and I left and I went back to
sleep in my usual spot.
Ow, I just then got my first chest pain since starting medication (it’s because of that
phone call with the hostel confirming the ban is still in place). I am going to try and ask
for a stronger dose when I go to the drop in clinic tomorrow.
News from B’s hostel. (I shouldn’t be saying this stuff because it clearly isn’t helping my
case. I am convinced that I am being treated this way because I have been making it
public.) The police have had to be called nearly every night recently. One of the residents
is under curfew for stealing from local shops to buy drugs. Nipper’s girlfriend who lives
at the hostel (in full view of the security cameras, on the front doorstep, in this upmarket
area of London) gave blow jobs to five other residents whilst wanking off a sixth one –
they were all smashed on either drink or drugs. And, if you were wondering, she
swallowed each time.
Next time I am going to try and explain why I am so goddamned stubborn and why my
keyworker has stopped smiling when he sees me – no really he has!!
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment | Edit
A new beginning…again.
Posted on July 9, 2010 by aibaihe
Well. There has been a slight delay I admit in posting this first proper entry on my blog
but, when I have explained all, I am sure you will forgive the long wait having initially
promised something nearly a week ago. And how has your week been? I only hope it has
been better than mine. Firstly I should explain that I have just come out of hospital after
three days (and one night in A&E) and so you can see that this is going to shape up to be
yet another example of just what the Chinese mean by the curse “May you live in
interesting times”. Anyway, deep breath, stretch my puffy eyelids so I can see properly
and here we go…
I have to go back again to Monday of this week to tell the tale properly. What I haven’t
said in my tweets is that B has been disappearing for several days at a time since first I,
then he, moved into the hostel, and last week he disappeared from the Monday preceding
(28th June) until I finally heard he was back in town on 5th July (though this turned out
to not be the whole truth of it as he had in fact returned before). He has changed his
phone number for the umpteenth time for reasons that I am not going to go into yet but
are nothing to do with me and so I hadn’t been able to call him but had occasionally left
messages with the hostel for him and with a friend who was also staying there. I had also
been annoying everyone I knew on the streets to let me know if they saw him. Now B has
a number of “problems” which I have touched upon and which – for reasons of
confidentiality – I have to be very careful about what I reveal as a lot of it is unknown to
the daycentre and even his friends. Everything I have mentioned previously in my tweets
he is aware of me having said though he has made it clear that he would like people to
know that it is absolutely not true that I like him because he is gentle and his favourite
film is not Titanic and his favourite TV show is not Glee and his favourite band are not
Westlife. Hmmm. If you say so, B. He would instead like it to be known that I in fact like
him because he is hung like a …. Whatever!!
Anyway so I heard he was back in town, called his hostel and told them I was coming
down. He was sitting on the steps of his hostel and saw me and we went for a walk in the
park and he said he wanted to stay out with me because I still couldn’t go inside the
hostel. I said he shouldn’t stay out because his health is still not great but he insisted.
We chatted in the park and it was nice walking through the gardens in the fading light
(though we had to climb a few fences because we missed closing time). B kept saying how
he loved me and how selfish he was. I said I know you are selfish and I know why you are
selfish but I am not going to get angry at you or even tell you off at all because I know that
if I am patient, no matter how many years it takes, I know that the person you were
meant to be will become more dominant and the other side of him will move more and
more into the background. B has children with another woman (well actually with
several women but he only really sees his youngest). The woman he has them with he has
been seeing on and off for several years. She also has a child with his brother
(sigh…you’ll have to bear with me on this one). B loves his children to bits but he claims
to hate his ex. You will remember from previous tweets that before I started dating B he
kept being thrown out of his ex girlfriend’s place and then disappearing to it again for a
few days at a time. She had left him for another man and this man had then disappeared
because B’s brother had come round and started threatening her and her current partner
had got scared and so on and so on and to cut a long story short she wants him back
again. Now I know B lies to me. He is a very good liar but I know when he is doing it. I
hate liars but weirdly I don’t hate it when B lies to me. I get to see a side of him that I
know no-one else ever gets to see. He cries a lot. He holds me and says I am the love of
his life and how he wishes he had never had children before because he wishes he had
met me before that and he had had children with me. He almost suffocates me in bed
with clinging onto me tightly whilst he is asleep and he is so incredibly tender, never even
raising his voice or complaining at a single thing I do (though I don’t give him much
cause). He says he has never known anyone like me and goes on about what a good
person I am. But anyway hold that thought because I am coming back to it later. So we
were going through the park and he was saying what a selfish person he is and I said
don’t worry I am going to hang on in there and even if we break up I promise to still be
B started to get tired near the crossing from Hyde Park to Green Park so we were sitting
on a bench and then kissing – as you do – and then he said he wanted to sleep in the
park. We were looking around for a quiet spot which turned out to be surprisingly
difficult considering it was 11.30 p.m. and the park was officially closed. Eventually we
found the most perfect spot: a tree with branches that drooped right to the ground and
was smooth earth beneath so we wouldn’t be too uncomfortable on twigs and the like.
We settled down on the ground and giggled when a man walked by very close under the
tree as there seemed to be a path that went under the branches. We were cuddling on the
ground and then our giggles collapsed into out and out laughter as we realised that the
tree we were cuddling under was clearly the spot for cottaging in this part of London.
About 30 men materialised under that tree in the space of 10 minutes before
disappearing with a loud tut when they heard my distinctly female voice. So I said we
should leave the tree to the boys and let them have their fun whilst we found a quieter
corner of the park to sleep.
Well. When the council get round to doing their next rough sleeping survey they should
set aside a few hours and a couple of dozen volunteers to scour the parks because the
place was full of people kipping. We had to walk almost to the middle before we found
somewhere reasonably well away from other people. We managed to both cuddle into my
sleeping bag and we spent a lovely night cuddled together (B practically choking the life
out of me as usual) and we woke up to the sounds of people walking their dogs and
jogging because it turned out we were actually right next to the path.
Anyway so all was well again on planet B and he told me again how much he loved me etc.
etc. and how wonderful I am blah-de-blah and we arranged to meet again later that day.
Later that day after work (now Tuesday) I went to the daycentre for an evening shower
and immediately after I left I just felt really overwhelming feelings similar to the ones I
had on Sunday that I couldn’t cope. I had a funny feeling in my stomach that B had gone
off again and I thought I couldn’t handle this not knowing where I was all the time
although I had said to him I was solid as a rock and I would stand by him whilst he got
himself together. I had an overwhelming desire not to be able to think anymore. I just
wanted to throw myself off a tall bridge and dash my head on the ground below just to be
free from the worry and the stress of it all and so I went back to the daycentre and said I
couldn’t cope. It wasn’t quite that simple of course – I was crying and unable to talk very
much and I just wanted to give over control of my life for a moment and not to have to
think about anything anymore. I was also still down from being assaulted the previous
week and also there had been a man on Sunday (one of the homeless ones) who had been
really creepy with me, following me around, and B told me that this particular man
prayed on women he thought were vulnerable and did really nasty things to them sexually
– one girl had been seen after being with him with blood seeping through the seat of her
trousers and she had told everyone of what he had done to her (for example inserting
sharp objects in both ends). So in the circumstances, what with one thing and another, I
think I was within my rights to “lose the plot”.
An ambulance took me to A&E where I spent 12 hours – yes, 12 hours! – waiting for a
bed. In the end I was sent to a hospital in Chingford called Naseberry Court because my
last known GP (who in fact is no longer my GP) was based in Leyton. It is about 12 years
since the last time I was in a psych unit and if Naseberry Court is representative of how
things are now then things have come a long way indeed. I have to admit with great
shame that when I was first admitted to the building by two African members of staff my
heart sunk because I thought the staff were going to be impersonal, rude and aggressive
and my stay was going to be a nightmare. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I stayed
there three days and the staff were incredible. Every member of staff seemed to have
been chosen with care for that team. They spent very little time in the office. Most of it
was spent engaging with the patients. There was a full programme of activities organised
throughout the day that the patients were encouraged to join in with (even just simple
things like morning exercise, knitting, committees, cooking etc. – I learned to knit
hurrah!) and whenever a member of staff arrived on shift they would walk round and
personally greet every patient on the ward by name (how they managed to learn
everyone’s name so quickly I don’t know). Getting into the hospital was one thing but
getting out wasn’t so easy. The doctor was not happy for me to leave without
confirmation that I was going to stay somewhere else first. In the end they managed to
contact the daycentre who said I had a place at the nightshelter to come to and one of the
staff gave me £10 to get home with. I have also started on antidepressants for the first
time in my life which considering Ihave been depressed for 19 years is about time really
(my fault – not blaming anyone else).
Anyway came back to London and went to the daycentre and spoke to keyworker. He is a
little exasperated with me and someone at the hostel said that I was allowed in to stay
with B. Then I left the daycentre (which technically was closed by now) but I suddenly
didn’t know what to do with myself and I felt all lost again. I started crying and went
back to the daycentre. As it happened B’s keyworker was there and I heard him whisper
to the reception staff that B “doesn’t want her to go there”. I went over and asked him if
that was what he had in fact said and he told me very calmly: that B didn’t want me there
and he didn’t want me to visit him and he wanted my stuff out of his room as soon as
possible because it was driving him mad taking up too much space in his room. So then
of course I lost it again saying I didn’t know where to go or what to do…sigh. But the staff
reiterated that there was nothing they could do for me and I could come back Monday
and do a benefits claim.
I left the daycentre and felt terrible but then I thought okay break this down into little
pieces. Go and collect your stuff from the hostel. The hostel rang me as I was on my way
there and told me that as B wasn’t there I would not be allowed into collect my things but
I pushed on anyway. By the time I got to the hostel I had a plan. I said I had an idea. If
they would supervise me removing all the things from the room that I believed were mine
but left them in the office then B could inspect them later and remove anything he
disputed. That way I could collect them at a time that was convenient for me without
having to arrange a time with B. They said that was a good plan. I left a handwritten note
for B saying how I wasn’t angry and we would still be friends and I thought he was a
wonderful person and to hang on in there (which I consider to be quite dignified on my
part if I say so myself!) and then I left. As I walked back to Trafalgar Square through the
park I felt strange and then I felt a bounce in my step and I thought – I feel happy. I am
glad it is over. I had started to imagine that my life was going to be one way as a
compromise to B but now I could aim for something that was right for me instead. When
I got back to the strand and saw the usual faces queueing for food I thought I don’t want
to see these people at the moment and so I have come to my college library for the first
time in a couple of months and here I am.
Everything is going to be okay. I keep saying that in the vain hope that it might come true
In the next couple of days I am going to blog about a couple of things that you might find
interesting: namely the “types” of people you meet on the streets and separately on
homeless women. But heck, that’s all for now. I’ve said enough.
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Posted on July 5, 2010 by aibaihe
I am going to try and collate the twitter entries into a more readable format and then
create a link from here. Bear with me on that one. However in the meantime you can read
the original here: www.twitter.com/aibaihe. I appreciate it is quite difficult to read with
tweets sometimes running into 15 or 20 entries for a single thought. I had intended to
keep tweeting because I liked that you couldn’t edit the entries which somehow made it
seem more “real” and less like creative writing but I’ll see how this blog goes instead.
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