So.. .I was going to post the pics from one of my usual late night wanders round the West End and Soho. I may do later.
I’m just not in the mood.
I spent an hour late last night, just across the road from Chinatown talking to an 18 year old homeless lad. His name’s Chris and he was in shit state. He had a freshly-stitched stab-wound in his side, one front tooth knocked out from being beaten up, and he was just generally in an awful state. He ain’t surviving well on the streets.
He’s from Clapham. His mum died of cancer three months ago, and he was put out onto the streets right after her funeral. His little sister’s in care. And that’s it for his family.
He broke down in tears several times talking to me. He was a nice lad, trying to act tough and not managing it. We chatted. About mums. About life. About where he was going and what he was doing. Bleak outlook on both fronts.
Drink was the only thing holding him together. I don’t judge him for that. Try living that life without something to get you through it. Compared with what’s available on the streets, drink is practically a prescription pain-killer for homeless people. And boy, do they get some pain. In Chris’s shoes, I’d be back on it like a flash. Yeah, I talked to him a little about where to get help, but he was desperate, he’s trying everything- he has already exhausted all the avenues, and the help never comes quick enough.
I thought about what I was doing when I was 18. Motorbikes, college, girlfriends, parties, pubs, A levels, art, photography. And a loving family home. I probably drank more back then than Chris can afford- and got away with it.
There was nothing I could do to help his long term problems. I just gave him a bit of dosh to help with his short-term ones. He cried again and hugged me.
These are human beings FFS. Human lives, people being thrown into a human garbage dump at a young age.
Literally a human garbage dump- have you ever smelt the streets of the West End at midnight? Rubbish bags everywhere, and the whole place smells of decaying trash. If you live among it, that’s what you smell like too. After an hour or so of sitting with Chris, I could feel the grimy stench of the place seeping into my very soul.
There has to be another way. That conversation from last night is still messing with my head- and my heart.
My heart is genuinely breaking for Chris and all his fellow-sufferers of all ages.
When I swear at the government, or take the piss out of the royals, the yoghurt-knitters can always be relied upon to tell me ” this should be beneath us.” or ” we should be better than this.”
NO. The way we treat Chris: THAT’S what’s beneath us. That’s what we should be better than. I am so ashamed of the society in which I live right now.
The author wishes to remain anonymous
Bloke asked me for a lighter last night at the bus stop. I apologised because I don’t carry anything that could start fires. He asked me where the homeless people were in Darlington. Then he burst into tears. He had been staying with a friend but they had fallen out. Didn’t know people in town who could help. “I just need to know where all the homeless people go,” he kept saying. This was a strange conversation for me. Never happened to me before.
Talking to strangers is terrifying. Talking to people I know is even more terrifying. But I did my best to reassure him. The guilt and shame of crying. Crying as a man, in front of a man. The guilt and shame of not having a home of your own. Of being dependent on someone else. No wonder “right to buy” worked so well as a policy for smashing our class. I mean, if you have a “right to own”, you have a right to a home. But the right to own property, well. That’s only been for the people who own the country. And the people who own the country have never been the many, only the few.