Issue 84

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Page 10 of 57

GUESTLIST 2016 / ISSUE 84 11 GUESTLIST Thursday lunchtime in Central London. On my lunch break, I went in search of a homeless person to find out what life is like out there in these temperatures. At Aldgate East tube station I see a lady in her 40's sat in the corner. I walk down the stairs and give her a smile, and open with "Excuse me, I work for Guestlist and I'm looking for people to talk with to gain a better understanding of what it's really like to be homeless." She looked up at me and said "Erm okay..." but she looked skeptical. I'd like to buy you lunch for your time. What would you like? Really? Ok erm, a ham sandwich and a coke. She said it politely with a huge smile on her face that money couldn't buy. I rushed off and came back as quickly as I could and so, we began. First of all, let me start by thanking you for taking the time to talk to me today. It's alright. Tell me, how long have you been homeless? Since last February, so about a year now. Alright, and how did you become homeless? I had a rented flat, but I walked out of there. You walked out? Yep. I wasn't evicted. I lived with a bloke, but things just broke down. Ok, so it ended up being safer for you to live on the streets? Yeah that's right. Do you feel safe on the streets? Not really, but I do have a partner to look after me now. Ok, well that's good. The streets really aren't a safe place for anyone, never mind women. Does he sit with you often? Yeah, yeah he does. Great, and where is he now? He's just roaming up and down the streets now looking for change and food. Alright. So how much sleep do you get per night on average on the streets? Erm, probably only around 6 hours. Wow, that's more than I get sometimes (We both laugh) And about 10-12 hours when the train stations close. So where do you go when they close? Round the back of Aldgate East tube station. Toynbee Hall, it's called. There's more of us and we normally just all crash in there. That sounds safer doesn't it? I imagine it's worse in the Winter for you all? Yeah, it is. 'They' put us in somewhere last week. Who, the Council? Yeah, the Council. It was emergency accommodation because it was so cold. They only put us somewhere for 6 days. It was an office, they just pushed the desks back and put two mattresses on the floor. Ah, that's good then at least you were warm. Was it just you and your partner? No, there was a few other people there in the emergency accommodation, but after 6 days they just said, "you gotta go" and it's not stopped raining ever since. So it's just in really cold temperatures that the Council will put you up in emergency accommodation? Unfortunately yes. Well I guess it's good in a way that they helped you when it was really cold. Yeah, but if they can help us for 6 days, why can't they help us for a longer period of time? Exactly, yeah. They said that we're top of the list, but every time we go round to the outreach team, they're never in or the person we need to speak to isn't there or they're working the night shift. My next question is, can you tell me what 'home' means to you? A house… A flat. So it's not about family, it's simply a roof over your head? Yeah that's right. Why do you think people become homeless? Maybe it's just their situation isn't it? Losing their housing benefit or having a fight. Ok, whats the best thing anyone could say to you when you're sitting there? Erm, probably "have a nice day". And the best thing anyone could do for you? Probably someone being nice and giving me food or a drink like you did. That's nice. You're welcome. Thank you for speaking to me today – enjoy your lunch. Thank you. Have a nice day. " Yeah but if they can help us for 6 days why can't they help us for a longer period of time? " "Got any change mate?" Guestlist take to the streets to find out what it's like to be homeless from their point of view Support UK Homelessness by purchasing your copy of 'The Big Issue' next time you see someone selling it on the corner of your street. By: Vanessa A HOMELESS PERSPECTIVE OUTSIDE IN

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