THE BLOG

I Lived On Trains For Five Years

20/04/2017 10:12 | Updated 6 days ago
DenBoma via Getty Images

I became homeless after my marriage ended and I lost my business. Dressed in a suit and sleeping on trains, I remained in denial and hidden from outreach services for five years. I was finally helped by Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, which today marks the start of its 50th anniversary year.

I had a fairly normal childhood in many ways. I was good at sports and at school I got a scholarship into a private school. I went to university, became a psychotherapist and started up my own business. Homelessness happened when I divorced my wife. I lost my business - I lost everything.

My kids were suffering and in the turmoil I couldn't bring myself to say 'take half the house' as that would mean the children having to move and would have effected their development - and they were young.

I was meant to go and stay somewhere but that fell through and so I started staying at this 24-hour internet shop. I never believed I was homeless. I just used to think I was using the computer - but I was in fact homeless.

I stayed there for a week or two - and then I started sleeping on trains. I did that for about five years. I would walk around a lot during the night and then sleep on the trains during the day. The outreach workers wouldn't reach me. And I was dressed in a suit. My family thought I was staying with friends, and because of the way I was dressed, they thought nothing of it.

I remember once sleeping on a bench at the Embankment by the Thames and I heard some outreach workers say: 'What about him?' and one of them said: 'No, look he's just a guy who's gone to work and fallen to sleep on a bench.'

And if they had asked, I would have said: 'No, I'm fine.' I was in denial and I was ashamed.

When you spend enough time on your own you become insular. One minute you're in normal society going to work and seeing friends and family regularly, and then you're on the trains and you're on your own.

You have some bad experiences and that makes you become even more insular. One time I was sat in Leicester Square having a chat to a man and I admitted I was homeless and the next thing he'd thumped me in the side of the head. It was startling and something I'll never forget.

I remember encountering a young girl who had been sleeping on the ground and then a guy walking past just kicked her in the head and I remember hearing of people trying to get into other people's sleeping bags for sexual gratification.

People just don't value homeless people because our society is all about money, and if you don't have any money value, then you are not valued - you become worthless.

That is why the work of Crisis is so important because when you're isolated, it brings you together with others. When you are invisible, suddenly you are seen.

Realising I was homeless was a slow process. It took time for me to be able to hear that I was.

For me, it was coming to a Crisis at Christmas that helped start the process. I spoke to a housing adviser and he planted a seed that this situation could change and I could be under my own actual roof. Crisis made me feel valued. With Crisis' support I went straight into accommodation and I got a job.

The effect of feeling valued gives you the ability to get up and to rise up and to take advantage of opportunities. That's why I feel being valued is key.

When you feel encased in doom and gloom, you're unable to look out of the window to see what's on the horizon. Crisis is like the window, the light in the attic. Shining the light in the darkness. That is what Crisis is.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS