Timeline: - Tuesday, March 26th 2013. 16.48 hours.
This was the day I became homeless. It was a chaotic day. I was carrying several bags, and was not sure what or where I was going. I went to a café, had a coffee and decided to see what happened. Not much of a plan, but I had never been homeless. Eventually, that night, I slept in the A & E Department at St George's Hospital, Tooting.
Timeline: - Monday, March 17th 2014. 20.17 hours.
Sat in the Jacuzzi at The Marriot Hotel, popped another couple of French Fries into mouth with my beautiful girlfriend next to me, contemplating whether I should get out and have another go in the sauna. Decided to stay in the Jacuzzi!
Yes, it has been an interesting year. I will now tell you about my journey through the last 12 months, and where I go from here.
In December 2012, due to mistakes by myself, I lost my job. The next three months I proceeded to stick my head in the sand, and refused to face the problems I was having at the place I was living. Looking back now, I feel I had depression. Three months later, I became homeless.
To help me write this blog, I decided to re-visit one of the places I slept when I was street homeless, and also to re-visit the park where I would sit until I thought my 'neighbours' would be asleep, and I would not disturb them when I made my way to my sleeping spot. I wanted to reflect on chaos of the first week of being street homeless, and then how I got my thoughts together on how I was going to deal with this situation. I wanted to remember the nights spent sleeping on night buses, or catching a few hours' sleep in various A & E departments. In those first few days I seem to have habit of falling asleep suddenly during the day; a sort of temporary narcolepsy! Once I found the first of my sleeping spots, things improved.
It was then that two things happened in quick succession that made my life considerably easier. Firstly, I went and hired a locker where I was able to store my possessions, and gain easy access daily. Secondly, I found out about a place called Spires from a fellow street homeless person. Here, I started using the rough sleeping space and was able to have showers regularly, breakfast, and the chance to relax and feel 'normal' for a couple of hours. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff I encountered at Spires. They were non-judgemental, and just made you feel like a human being again after the occasional hard night sleeping rough. I will never forget the expression on the face of the Project Worker when she received an email confirming I had an interview for The Robes Project. This project is where seven churches, from a variety of denominations, each take it in turn to offer shelter and hospitality to a group of homeless people one night a week for the coldest months of the year. She was so excited that
I had the chance to come off the streets. This happened in November 2013
As I started to adapt to being street homeless, and begin to get some kind of routine in my life, such as applying for jobs, and trying to sort my situation out. I started to take a more active part in Spires, in that I started using some of the facilities such as computer access available on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Along with using public libraries, I found my reading and using the internet more than I ever have.
In December, I had an interview for a job as an area sales manager. After a second interview I was offered the position, and on Monday, 6 January 2014, I re-entered the world of the employed again. I stayed on The Robes Project for a further seven weeks, so as to save enough money for a deposit and a month's rent. On Saturday, 8 March 2014, I moved into my new property in West Norwood.
Being homeless is a transient lifestyle. Over the last 12 months I have met some fascinating people, and many I will not see again. I wish them well, and I hope their dreams come true. I did the film, The Pavement Perspective, to show people that homeless people are not 'losers', or 'wasters', but people who have hopes and dreams like the rest of society, and are people who are trying to improve their situation.
Where now? I hope I will learn from my mistakes over the last 12 months, and appreciate what I have. I have analysed my life, and throughout I have gone from great highs to spectacular lows. I need to become a 'steady Eddie'. A little boring but at my age I need to have a little consistency in my life.