Case study: Daniel
Daniel, aged 59 grew up in Cornwall. For a number of years he was in the RAF, later becoming a lorry driver. He divorced after 23 years of marriage and ended up homeless in London. His real words are spoken by an actor in a film produced by"iceandfire.":http://iceandfire.co.uk
An extract from his interview:
Because of my age, and the fact that the country was a in a deep recession at the time, I could only get temp work ... they would not employ anyone over the age of 45. So, I eventually became unemployed, I was living on jobseekers' allowance and I found it difficult to pay all of my household bills ... So one morning, I packed a shoulder bag with a change of shirts, some paperwork, and virtually nothing else. I posted the keys back to the landlord and got a bus to London.
Being on the street now in my late 50s, I've realised there's no point in me chasing high profile jobs. One - I have no skills. Two - my age. Reality dictates that I am not going to get a decent job ... But, the sort of wage that would pay would not allow me to pay my rent or pay the bills. I'd been in that position before, and the thoughts of the anxieties and sleepless nights involved with a low income, convinced me that my street life was a better alternative than having to wrestle again with a low income and rising prices.
It takes a while after you first come on the street to know what services are where - We call this 'The Knowledge'. Where to get a meal, where to get a shower, where to get cardboard to sleep on, etc ... I would never live in a hostel even if they paid me. There are many people on the streets with a mental illness of some degree of severity, there are many drug users and there are many alcoholics. And when you put all of those people under one roof, it's a recipe for violence, theft, anti-social behaviour of all description, and I did not want to be exposed to that sort of behaviour or to be a victim of that sort of behaviour. The pressure to live in a hostel is very, very high.
One of my biggest criticisms of the state-sponsored services is the way that a lot of the paid staff members are so arrogant and rude to homeless people. Some of them have a huge superiority attitude. I know how to take care of myself. And I don't want to be spoken down to, or patronised, or verbally bullied by someone who thinks that they know what is best for me. I have control over my life, if that does not fit in with the political desires of the day, then so be it. Homelessness is not a crime.
Maybe I'm not perfect, but what's so wrong with my behaviour? ... sometimes the politics behind it may be well-intentioned; people shouldn't be living in doorways. I would agree with that in the broad sense, but for someone to be isolated in some flat without social contact, a pittance of an income and no furniture... It seems to me that the present system can accommodate flesh of a homeless person, but it does not accommodate the spirit.
Street living is not an easy option as some would have you to believe. The reality is that for many homeless people, living on the streets is the only real option.
Posted on 12 October 2010