28 December, 2006

Christmas is nearly over and I have spent a few hours giving back something at the drinkers shelter. Most of the time was spent teaching people how to blog and download things from the internet. A new blog was set up for the drinkers to comment and write stuff. It seems to have been a success. getting people who wouldn't normally use computers is what I call a first step. It's like when I first started writing poetry. I put them up on the wall then someone else did. Before we knew it there was a wall full of peoples poetry. Its such a rewarding site just to see people doing what they thought they had forgotten or just didn't have the opportunity to. Will I be back next year? The answer to that is easy. Yes. It will be mixed emotions if I see the same people because you want the best for them but as we all know life is not perfect.

What is a community

Communities with in communities is what I think we have in this day and age. We have the well off in one sector and the middle class in another and the less fortunate in another. we have always had this class divide. Maybe for centuries probably since we started to barter for goods. yet separation from each other has become a thing we discuss and have been doing for years. what is the difference between a poor man or woman to someone that has everything. if you think about it nothing because we all breathe the same air. We all sweat and most work hard. the question is can we keep up with the Jones? why should we? Individualism is the key word, which we use quite often. people don't wish to be poor but circumstances dictates they are. this applies to all, rich or poor. Just because someone is poor it doesn't mean they are not intelligent or can't make something of thier selves. Is there such a thing as middle class?

27 December, 2006

Government for government sake

I think if I was in government, I wouldn't make it hard for people to get affordable accommodation. Affordable housing seems to be one of the key issues but I know I would be not be building homes for people to buy on such a large scale. This government keep on building homes for first time buyers and people that can afford to buy. They also say that 75% of the population actually own their own homes I don't know where they get their figures from but it's around 49% so I've been told. The other thing is why do this government say we care about the less fortunate when they take away from them. every yuear government spending diminshes to a bare minimum. This year we have seen gas and electric go up markedly yet they haven't done a thing to help the elderly or the sick also the new welfare reform does nothing to address the problems of the less fortunate. In fact some will be a lot worse than they are now. In a year where the chancellor says we are well off. The poor of this country are getting poorer. It seems like New Labour are the Jekyll and Hyde of politics. They have one face in public but behind closed doors they are intent on policy change no matter what the cost.

showing compassion

It's sad but at this time of year we seem to forget those that have disappeared due to illness. Many simply can't be with us today because they have died. It's was these people that needed the help the most during the year not just at Christmas.
One day last week I was in the west end of London and we saw a homeless man who we thought was asleep on the pavement. It transpired that he had a heart attack but that wasn't what got to me it was the amount of people that just stepped over him. I can remember one MP or lord somebody sometime ago commenting that he had to step over homeless people when he came out of the opera and that there was no reason for it.
Have we really become that immune to people in trouble? Have we become a society that would rather tend to a sick dog than a sick person? I have had my troubles over the years and like so many i not given a second glance. It was only when people treated me with compassion one Christmas that changed my life. I now hope like so many people that have given up their time at Christmas to help others in need that we never forget that showing a little compassion is what makes us a part of a better society, a caring society but lets not just show it at Christmas. Homelessness is not only at Christmas for some it a life time of nothing.

25 December, 2006


It's the end of Christmas day old friendships renewed and new ones made. As we leave for the night to go home to our own lives. We stop to reflect on just how much of a difference we have made to someones life. Maybe none but maybe we have just a little. So has the time been well spent and has it all been worthwhile. I myself believe so, because one minute of listening to someone talk about their problems could be the thing that ignites a small fire just by us being there and who knows maybe in a couple of years they will be doing exactly the same.

Inside a crisis at crisis

Most of us when we were kids had this thing about Santa coming down the chimney with a sack full of goodies just for you. I always thought this was a bit far fetched even as a kid as we didn't have a chimney and I often wondered how the hell Santa left my presents but age has caught up with me and and the truth is out. Good times and good dreams have have come and gone at sporadic intervals. The only thing that has been constant is time. I am definitely older and a little wiser. So seeing people who have nothing not even a roof over their head at Christmas is sad but seeing them drown from life's problems is sadder. Christmas is a time most of us spend with families and friends but for some, it's a time of reflection and what could have been and sadness . Most of us have all hit low patches in our lives me included but just imagine having to suffer in silence for years and the only way to get away from it all was to run as far as you could but even that isn't far enough. With no hope of a future you turn to the bottle or drugs thus becoming another outcast. One of the socially excluded. Its that simple to become homeless and disillusioned.
At Christmas things only become more meaningless as memories are drowned by booze and drugs and the future well, what future? There isn't one, not one you can see anyway. It's funny but Christmas is a time of hope during the year there isn't much of that about.
All the volunteers at the crisis open Christmas give that just by standing around guarding doors and just talking to people that during the year would normally be ignored. Showing people that they are normal gives the first glimpses of hope and who knows what follows? maybe a merry Christmas.

22 December, 2006

A picture of homelessness

Forty Christmas’s have been and gone since homelessness was brought to the fore and we are still talking homelessness and what it does to people’s lives. The myth that these are the people that want to live this way was dispelled years ago. I have been there are lived the life not by choice but out of sheer necessity. Having been there I know what homeless people are going through. When you first arrive on the street there is a certain apprehension but no clue as to what will happen there is also a mild fear but there is that hope that everything will turn out fine and nothing phases you until it gets cold and rains and you’re soaked to the skin or you have no money in your pocket and are really struggling to survive. This is what I call the desperate days. When you think about stealing and you start off buy shoplifting bars of chocolate just to ease the hunger you feel then you find out that there is a soup van that gives out free tea and sandwiches. So you become part of the homeless crowd waiting for it every night. It’s then you notice people look at you in a certain disapproving way. Then one day you get fed up of having nothing. You pluck up the courage to sit down and beg because that’s all that’s left for you to do. You sit there looking down at the floor not wanting to look into people’s eyes because you’re ashamed but after a while and days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months, months into years. You get used to it. It becomes away of life. You start to mix with other homeless people who get by drinking or using drugs and in the blink of an eye you find yourself doing exactly the same. By the time you realise you have a habit it seems its too late and there is nothing left but the daily chore of drink and drugs that’s how I felt everyday of the week but something changed. I went to my first crisis open Christmas where people treated me as if I was a person not someone to be looked down upon.

I have heard about all these great schemes charities and the government have come up with this year but how do you get someone to take that first step. Crisis has part of the answer at their open Christmas centres and that is normality, being treated like a real person makes a real difference to most homeless people and by engaging them in conversation or just listening is a starting point. Giving people that first glimmer of hope, gives homeless people their first insight into what could be. It’s not about forcing people to conform as some have had terrible lives but it not plain sailing. Some have major drink and drug problems and to add to those ill health. Getting these sorted is a high priority but that is the start, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. There are all sorts of problems and reasons for people becoming homeless and once you start the process of engagement you can start solving the problem the next step I think is re-education. It is just another part of the solution as most people lose their confidence and skills once on the streets and quite a high number of homeless people cannot do the simple things like reading and writing I could not but can now as you can see.

Although there are things in place for sixteen to twenty five year old. In most cases for them it’s a problem of access but if you are over twenty-five lives just gets tougher. There simply is nothing unless you look far and wide and then its just luck in finding something. Then there is what is called the revolving door people repeatedly becoming homeless. There are several reasons I think they are loneliness, old habits and not being able to cope. Life on the streets may seem simple but let me assure you it’s not.

18 December, 2006

A merry Christmas to all and a christmas poem

This Christmas.

This Christmas where will we be?
Will we be in the heart of a family or friend?
Still with disasters and fences to mend.
Will we be holding the loves of our lives?
Sons, daughters, husbands or maybe our wives.
Will we be reminiscing old times?
Or maybe reviewing old crimes
Yet together whatever.

This Christmas what will we see
Will it be beauty and love in the eyes of a child?
As she opens her toy.
Will it be laughter and smiles as a father plays with his boy.
Will it be the sound of people?

This Christmas will we be true to our hearts
Simple and plain
No demons to tame
Will be wishing for a world that has peace
Where love has a freedom and does not have a leash
Or will it be just twenty-four hours of laughter and smiles
Families and friends.
Coming together to shine

This Christmas
Will this Christmas be that Christmas of hope
A Christmas of change
Of coming together

Action not talk.

I have been thinking about the homeless situation over the weekend and have come to the conclusions that we are actually going backwards. Forty years ago there was an out cry about homelessness. The government in power at that time suddenly had to take action. Which they did by funding more hostel places. They soon became the warehouses of the homeless. I believe once that once again this is happening but this time on a much larger scale. People might say this is a harsh view to take as the government are doing all they can but are they? This the result of not building enough houses and continually reducing funding that was much needed at that time. Now we have this large problem that will not go away by just talking a good talk or manipulating figures. It needs affirmative action. Single homeless people get a raw deal in general but if you become long term homeless then it becomes mission impossible. I have loads of questions to ask various politicians but the one question that keeps on haunting me is why do governments always refer to families when they talk about housing? We have young and old single people that need homes as well. My own view is if you want to build solid communities then you have to include every aspect of needed social housing because communities are not made up of just one type of person. The other thing that I have been thinking about is second class citizens and do they really exist. Some would call them hobos or tramps or the dregs of society as I have heard recently but how can you condemn someone for having a life style different to the norm and in some cases a life style that just can't be helped? It's funny but a few years ago I was the silent type but now I'm saying what people have been dying to say. Some would say that I am not politically correct but what the hell if you say what's on your mind and speak frankly. Then people will either agree or disagree. This is what leads to debate and hopefully action. I am just a normal man but I can see things in a different light because I have been there and have the t-shirt so to speak but I think my views are balanced.

Alans continuing progress

As you know that I have been following the exploits of Alan an alcoholic for many years and who is now clean and sober and has been for a while but what changed. I believe it was because he saw things from a different perspective and did things like gardening. He got himself a plot and spent the summer growing things and tending his plot. He even had time to take snaps of a tame fox. Which he named flossy who ate chocolate off his shoes but all in all he has changed some of the things that affected his life like, the people he hung around with. He says things seem much simpler and not so complicated now. He takes his tablets once a day and lives the simple life. As he says one day at a time is all he can manage for now.

15 December, 2006

A mini pantomime or was it really a bad dream?

I thought while I was in the mood to write. I'd tell you about the strangest dream I think I had. The funny thing is I remember most of it. It all started when I went to sleep one night and who should appear but Tony Blair dressed in a Santa suit, saying "sorry I've forgotten all your presents this year. You haven't been good have you?" Then he started mumbling on and on about me not voting for him and the bad things I said about his beloved Labour party and I said what's new about that fact anyway. Then slowly but surely he disappear into the distant. Then up popped the cabinet singing White Christmas in funny voices and Gordon Brown dressed like the fairy on top of a Christmas tree. The thought of this still gives me goose bumps and sends shivers down my spine. It makes me wonder whether I was having an awful S and M dream but there Gordon was in all his glory. Everything stopped for a short while. Then Gordon came over and spoke to me saying he would grant me one wish and I was to tell him the wish after I had made it. I made my wish but refused point blank to tell him. Sorry Gordon but I still wont tell. Back to the dream. The more I refused to tell the more angry he got and the deeper the shade of reddish purple he got. Then all of a sudden he was shouting and screaming I will become prime minister and if you don't tell I will increase the price of petrol and I still refused. I will increase tax he said smiling a wicked smile and of course I still refused. Then he let out such a squeal that I cowered. He said he was going to reduce the welfare state and reduce benefits to just those that really needed his governments help and the unemployed would have to fill out more forms, which would take years. Then suddenly everything went poof and I think I woke up.


This looks like a scene from a Charles Dickens play but it's not. It's another homeless man sleeping rough. This is what the government say they are trying to eradicated but the question I am asking is how come we have heard quite a lot about homelessness and how it's being tackled, since we found out we are hosting the Olympics or am I just being cynical?

Another day on the streets

Another day waking up to nothing. Every time I go to the crisis office I get off the bus and go via the subway at Aldgate where the mini shopping mall was but has now been shut for over a year. There has now been a homeless man sleeping there for quite a few months. Most days you can catch him reading a book, which he says he had to get from the homeless library van that comes every two weeks in Westminster. I asked him why he isn't in a hostel he said to be truthful I have tried to live in one but with all the alcoholics and drug addicts its much safer sleeping here. Plus it's not as noisy. I stayed at the one just down the road and every night there would be a fight or someone would bang on my door to ask if I had a light and it was getting a bit much for me. I need peace and quiet. What's the difference any way when I'm stuck in a hostel doing the same thing as I am doing now. I asked what in fact he was doing and he said just passing time.
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No particular place to go

Posted by Picasa Harry walks the same journey every day to get a breakfast and cup of tea. He has now been living on the streets of London for 15yrs and has tried living in hostels but everytime he gets a little out of hand because of his drinking, he always ends up back on the streets. I asked him why he doesn't try again to live in a hostel? His answer was really simple. How can you expect anyone to live in a place that has no heart. I thought it a strange way to put it but in a way he's right. Homeless hostels have now become a big business. I could set up one tomorrow and it would in fact make a profit but a persons life isn't just about making money off it. The fact that people are being warehoused in these hostels is a disappointing fact of homelessness. Is homelessness a result of government and it's ever changing agenda's on the welfare state and housing or is it a permanant social thing which will never change?

The madness of Jamie

Things have been getting to me down lately and of course the slump that was due had to come sooner or later. With all the things that have been happening this week. I have had these thoughts of just giving everything up but to cure this I had this mad thought and that was, could I actually live on the streets again if I had to? So last night I picked up my old sleeping bag and went into the West End and made my bed outside the camera shop by the Savoy hotel in Charing cross road. At first it was fine but as the night drew on and it started to get colder and to be truthful I started to feel cold. Then it started to spot with rain I started to think about sitting in front of the TV with a cup of coffee and how warm and cozy it was. The thing I learnt was that life on the street just didn't appeal to me anymore and it just wasn't me. I stayed for a few more hours just looking around and trying to remember my days on the street and how on earth I managed it for so long. I know the drugs I was taking then made me numb to the world but there was a lot more to it than just the drugs. This might sound crazy but here's what I think I have learned, I had lived for years being told I was useless and would never amount to much and the belief that someone is supposed to have in themselves just wasn't there. Confidence in my own abilities were none existent and the years of drug abuse had left me with nothing but the instinct to just survive, if you could call it that. The fact that I was me and wasn't seems a bit confusing but if you imagine someone without much hope and nothing going for them, then you have a true picture me at that time. It took a mad five minutes, (well half hour if you count the time I just sat there.) I now call it the day the Thames got stoned instead of me but all this has lead me to where I am today. I know who I am,( I think) I have the confidence to do what ever I decided to do and I keep learning more and more about myself and life each day. The saying that everyone has limitations, has yet to affect me. I have this belief that limitations are just barriers to be broken. It has all come about by people giving me a second chance and help along the way. Which was all I needed but there are some people that need a second and a third and a fourth chance and for some it just doesn't happen. If I have learnt anything, it's that one little thing you do for somebody changes things. It might not be seen but it does change things. Strange but true. It the ripple effect. What I say and do now probably affects someone else. We all learn through change. It just takes some longer than others.

13 December, 2006

Good days

Sometimes our own little worlds burns and crashes
Yet somehow it keeps on daily turning.
One day can seem like a lifetime
Yet only a few hours have drifted by
So so many times those silent words come to mind
Oh I wish time would just up and die.
Yet the world tomorrow keeps on turning
And maybe keeps on burning.
But good days appear on many more horizons
Where dreams of canvas splendour
And wishes do come true.
It's just life and always a part of you.
So when that inner rage comes out to play
On a hectic nothing day.
Just sit a little while
Let unused muscles form a smile.
Because tomorrow has yet to show its face
And living, reminds you of the human race
Apart of which you are.

Homelesness past its sell by date

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It always happens to me

It seems that I am a magnet for horrible things. I am at present trying to get my income support sorted as someone in Birmingham has claimed my benefit. Now this is not the first time this has happened but myself and the dss put various safe guards in place to stop this happening again but because of departments not informing the other my claim was closed and of course I was set to suffer once again but I will not let this new bout of trouble get to me as life is full of these little bumps and twists although I must admit I am angry as Christmas is just around the corner but enough of my problems.
I still go out at night taking photos of homeless people, talking to them which I think is more important. Someone who was walking around with me said they are the dregs of society. Obviously they didn't understand the problem and to me it was an awful statement to make as they didn't know the people they were talking about. I said what if the person sleeping over there was a brother of yours. Would you still be saying the same thing? All of us are guilty at times for forgetting they are someone's sons, sisters, brothers ect: but it all comes down to people perceptions of homelessness. We here the argument that most homeless people are addicted to some form of narcotic or alcohol but is this really true? This Christmas over 1500 people are expected to attend the Crisis Open Christmas not all are on the streets quite afew are, the hidden homeless and need someone to talk to. They also may need to see a doctor or dentist. Making people feel normal and there's more to life than blank days. This is the new direction of crisis the homeless charity they believe in empowering people to make their own choices. Whether your on the streets or not.

06 December, 2006

Homelessness is not just about living on the streets and just surviving anymore, which most people avoid during their lives. It's about more than just a roof over your head because most homeless people who have been living on the streets for some while form, what some would call small communities with in a community. It's the way homeless people survive the streets, each one looking out for the other. This includes the alcoholics, drug addicts. Its so consuming that it does become away of life. My own life is a prime example. Getting away from that life is a problem within itself. Losing the skills and confidence needed to lead a normal productive life is only the start of the problems homeless people face. Not being accepted, as part of mainstream society is another big problem as peoples perception of homelessness goes on what they see in their city centers and what they hear in the news. The fact that it's a misconception that every homeless person is either mad or addicted to something only clouds the issues. Changing societies thinking was and is always going to be hard because everything is not black and white. Government and local councils must take some of the blame as different governments over the years have dramatically cut funding. Recently this government and various homeless charities have made efforts to tackle the homeless problem but like so many in the past but they have all been short lived due to the lack of continuing funding or other problems associated with homelessness. The problem today is this government seem to be solving the problem of rough sleeping but at the same time creating another, hidden homelessness. (People stuck in temporary accommodation or sleeping on friends floors, b and bs ect) I believe a radical rethink is needed on the real issues of homelessness from prevention, to the housing, to learning and skills and these are only part of the answer.
Housing needs to be seriously looked at.
Drug and alcohol dependency needs to be properly addressed because how can you expect someone to go into a rehab get clean and then re-enter society via the streets again. Its inevitable they will return to their former lives.
Long-term solutions need to be found and funding needs to continue once given. All these issue are relevant to homelessness but while we still try to fix all with just the one solution, then we will always be talking about these issues. Every case of homelessness is different and when we start treating them as such then we might actually see some improvement. You can listen to me rant some more on BBC radio4 at 1230 tomorrow when I interview the hosing minister Yvette cooper.