08 December, 2007

Its that time of year again

Christmas is just a few weeks away and already there are things going on the TV and radio about homelessness. It does seem that at Christmas and homelessness have become big issues. We have John Bird of the big issue saying and I quote we don't want to give homeless people a good Christmas. Actually John it's about giving homeless people a rest bite from the streets and giving them that first insight into what could be. I had to take that first step myself and I couldn't have done it without the help people from crisis and the big issue. Christmas is about compassion and those people who give up their Christmase's to help are a god send.
Imagine you are on the streets sleeping rough, nobody of any consequence wants to know you. The friends you have are just acquaintances they are here today gone tomorrow and many are to drunk or not so sober to have a decent conversation. So that first conversation with someone that you would call normal is quite an eye opener. Who knows what it call lead to? Who would have thought i'd be writing and reading and most important clean from drugs still but there are many people like me who just need a chance. Homelessness just isn't a christmas thing it's an everyday struggle for some people but what if it were your son or daughter wouldn't you want the best for them no matter what?

25 October, 2007

Still on the subject of hostels

I wasn't thinking about work houses as they used to be called but what I was thinking of was properly run hostels with people having the choice to work there or not and those who did got paid a proper wage. These of course would only be short term hostels with a definite move on to independent living say after a year but it would be the choice of the homeless person not the hostel. The reason why i am thinking this way is as funds will eventually be cut and the cost of living in a hostel rises i think the government will have to look at hostels as a business which i think happens already. It's the same with the NHS it's now looked as a business

23 October, 2007

Modernising Hostels

Homelessness itself has it's pitfalls falls but getting out of the cycle of homelessness once you are off the streets also has it's down falls like, no move on for sometime, not being given any kind of incentive to come off the dole simply because it's easier to let the government keep on paying the high cost of living in a hostel. Ho do you make hostels more inviting and self supporting? After all the public want a system of hostels that do not burden the tax payer more than usual. my idea would be to take people off the streets as we are doing now and have a period of what i call assessment, a getting to know the needs of the client. Then a contract between the hostel and the client could be made to improve the quality of life in the hostel and this doesn't mean job search. it means cooking and budgeting classes or learning skills like reading or writing so when their move on comes they are ready to deal with the fact that they now have to cope on their own. If you think about it homeless people lose the skills they learned to use years ago because there is only the need to survive. What I would also like to see is self supporting hostels where the guest do the work like cleaning and cooking in the hostel and some becoming members of staff themselves but to get there money has to be put into the system and it has to be used more on hostels that do work or use new initiatives. Then you have a hard core of homeless people that have spent the years on the street and these are the most difficult to work with as they recent not being able to live on the streets or they maybe anti rules. We have to find a way of balancing things so we can show them their are other ways to live. we have to get rid of the saying you can take a horse to water but you cant make it drink. Things have to be inviting after all you wouldn't want to live in a place that was run down and scary would you?

19 October, 2007

Thank you

Well, it's been one hell of a week. My friend who I was caring for died on Sunday night and I have had to make the necessary arrangements. I would like to thank all the people that have so far sent me money to help with Alan's funeral and thank you for all the condolences I have received. Some of you who volunteered for crisis at Christmas in the drinkers shelter will know of Alan as he spent the last six of them there and when we put computers in the shelters you could always find him sitting at one. It's funny to look back and see us both there me with my drug problem and him drinking. I sometimes sit quietly at night thinking of things and how life is sort of strange and sometimes more complexest than anyone can imagine I quit drugs and now lead something of a normal life and my friend Alan finally quit drinking only to die at the tender age of forty nine. the last months of his life where spent trying to learn the guitar and listening to Alabama free. I can understand why so many people get so worried about paying for funerals and all that goes with it. It's so expensive which I find hard to understand and it takes so f--king long to get the funeral payment from the dss social fund and then it doesn't cover the whole cost of the funeral. I still have to find 500 pound to give him a decent send off. I believe strongly that all people should be buried or cremated at a reasonable price and if you get benefits before you die then it should be free or come out of what you leave behind if you leave anything. so as I wait to see if I have to raise any more monies for the funeral. I will think of the good times we spent together and smile at the funny moments.

11 October, 2007

Thanks to the postie but

Thanks Mr postman whoever you are. Here's a scenario though say you get what you want and next year things are now even tougher and on the decline for Royal mail due to the Internet and other things like private mail deliveries because actually much it's cheaper and the competition are much better and they have a better time frame delivery. Now Royal mail has to make sweeping changes and you are in the frame, lets say your sorting office has to close along with three others which means two hundred jobs or more have to go but because the year before you demanded less hours and more money and went on strike to get it. It has cost the company. When in fact you should have been negotiating and offering something to Royal mail. There is a saying a fair days pay for a fair days work and this should be the basis on any employment deal. Times are tough with new things like email and other things coming along and any unions should be looking at keeping men employed and looking ahead to the future. I'm sorry but I truly believe that's not what's happening it seems to me that the union has taken leave of its senses. You should be fighting for job security and by saying you'll deliver mail at seven in the morning so most people including businesses get there mail and don't lose because they didn't. It's only then more people will once again trust and always use Royal mail when that happens profits accrue and job security is assured but who am I to talk?

09 October, 2007

Royal mail, I'm on strike

Most postmen are not going to like what I am about to write but it's fact and I think most people will agree with me.
Over the years the postman was always the one man we could rely on to deliver our mail come hell or high water twice a day. Once in the morning between 7 and 11 and then between 12 and 2 in the afternoon until a few years ago. Now we are lucky to see one letter before midday and they call it modernisation. I know we have to move with the times but when you have modern sorting machines in most sorting offices today what is the problem?
Why should any company let alone the Royal mail pay workers for doing less work than they did three or four years ago?
What really annoys me it sometimes takes three days for a first class letter to get to me posted from Birmingham and you can guarantee the cost of a first class stamp always increases. The fact is that postmen do need a decent wage to live on but not at the cost to the public. Me, I would like to see the mail back to twice a day and on time after all, this was all done before modernisation wasn't it?
I have listened to most of the speeches made at all the party conferences and not one mention on homelessness. Loads of things on housing. Concentrating on house buying and first time buying but nothing really on social housing except for what was said last year and the year before that and just repeated this year. The fact that we actually spend less on social housing now than at any time this century has to be a worrying fact not only for homeless people but for all that urgently need housing. When I met with the housing minister last year she said there was a high demand for family housing IE: three and four bedroom housing. Well this might be true where she lives but what I can say without a shadow of a doubt is that most people want basic livable housing. Not the fancy housing that most councils see as the future of housing. Housing stocks by the way has dwindled to about 3% of councils total housing.
Affordable social housing needs to be looked at urgently as the population rises at an alarming rate due to the influx of people from different countries and a vast majority of people now making families . If you don't build houses you can't make communities and if you can't make communities you can't get people living together and then you get a class divide. The rich and poor, have not and haves which is exactly what is happening at this moment in time. This government has claimed that it is investing in people. People don't believe in the government because they are not actually doing the things they promised

09 August, 2007

How to become homeless in one easy lesson

It is so easy to become homeless. All it takes is one bad decision and bang you're on the streets wondering what to do next. When I ask people what they think about homelessness. The most common answers are it's their own fault or there's no need for them to be homeless as there are places for them to go. This maybe true in both cases but imagine you are having problems, say you are drinking all day long and the place you live in has become a drinkers hovel. You get drunk one day and suddenly decide to move and try to better your life. So you move to another city with no thought as to whats going to happen to you. That first night you might spend just walking the streets of the new city you're in, still with the good intentions but when those nights turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months. It's only then you discover you're problems haven't decreased in fact you have just added problems because you are still drinking you have given up your home and are now living on the streets getting by with hand outs. All because you made a bad decision. Now you want to get off the streets and really try to make a new start but all the hostels are full or you can't get a place in a detox centre for a few months. You begin to give up. Imagine it's four years later. The drinking is now out of control. You are still sleeping on the streets and looking much worse for wear because that day you left you're home with all those good intentions has turned into a nightmare but there is still that idea that you can change but it becoming more and more difficult to do as you are getting much worse and the life you lead now has become away of life. It's that easy to become homeless.

08 August, 2007

Still no joy

Well would you believe it after various government departments say things are going smoothly if you take into account the amount of people claiming their various benefits but, isn't this government saying there are less people now on benefits. Yet here I still am trying to get a crisis loan and still my new benefit office has not sorted my new claim. I am now at my wits end after ten days of phoning my local job centre to get the appointment. What do I do next, that is the question? Do I sit on a city centre street and beg as one social security officer told me a few years ago.
I still have not heard from any MP yet and I would clearly like to have a conversation on benefits and their accessibility and why new rules job seeking now seem to have gone haywire as you can now be an escort.
The fact of the matter is because government officials haven't really been unemployed and the people that make up these rules for getting benefit just don't have a clue as to what people really need. When this government got elected, it was modernisation that was their goal. They intended to modernise the NHS and the welfare state but all they have succeeded in doing is to make life more difficult for the most needy in our society. It shows clearly that the gap between the rich and poor is now widening

01 August, 2007

PART 2 System not working

I was at it again today trying to find out how many people are suffering hardship due to different offices and their various operating systems for people who need urgent help. I went to three offices across London but it was much the same as yesterday. People were having to wait forever trying to get through to the loan departments. One man had been trying for ten days and was now at his wits end. When he complained to the manager all she could say was sorry but you'll have to keep on trying. Some were just being told come back and try again tomorrow. At the Bexley heath office (my office) I still couldn't get through to the apply for a crisis loan. When I complained I was told to speak to my local MP on the matter. They admitted that there were problems with the system and due to the volume of calls there wasn't anything they could do but when I suggested that any one signing on who has not received a payment should be given some sort of form to take to the loans department automatically but all they could say is that they were just doing as they were told.
This just seems to me to be passing the buck. I will try to get an MP to comment on this issue sooner rather than later but it just seems to me that we have a social security system that is clearly not working, especially for those that are more disadvantaged than most.
I know it is not right for anyone to wait between three and four weeks to be paid any money especially if you have children but the government say anyone is entitled to receive benefits as long as they fit all the criteria but to not be able to apply for what is known as a crisis loan after you do because it seems that certain stumbling blocks are now being erected. Which cause more hardship. This not the way forward for any government and any government must remember these are the people that vote them into office.

Government system of social security not working

Today I went to my new job centre plus to sign on. I did what I had to but my payment had not been sorted so I tried to make a application for a crisis loan and what do you know I had to make the phone call to make the appointment from the office phones that are there to make phone inquires. After an hour I still couldn't get through to make the appointment and I still haven't been able to make an appointment to make the claim but I wasn't the only one, nine more people tried in the time I was there. They all needed to make claims for crisis loans three of those people had children. I went to another office to see how many people where trying to make claims for crisis loans and guess what the same thing was happening there. This time there where thirty people in the waiting room but you only got seen if you where there by 11 am and it was only the first twenty five people. Tomorrow I am going to another office but from what I gather so far is that we have an emergency system that's definitely not working and I want to find out if this is happening up and down the country. I am one of the lucky ones I have enough gas and electric to keep me for at least another week.
I always thought the idea of crisis loans were for people in urgent need today not tomorrow. so some people are probably without gas and electric and food tonight because the were in urgent need but due to the way different job centres work people are suffering and I am pretty certain that it's not government policy. Obviously as the benefit system creaks and the lack of staffing shortages takes it's toll. The benefits system is fast becoming unmanageable and to top my not being able to get an appointment to get my crisis loan. I was also told by the benefits office that there is a back log of claims and it could be three or four week before I get any money and if you add on the four or five days it takes for them to put it into my account that would be five Weeks. So what can be done and is it illegal to deny someone the right to make a claim for a crisis loan? Because that is what some job centre pluses are doing.

27 July, 2007

A normal life

How do you live a normal life if you're in a hostel or living on the street? The answer you can't because you really don't have a normal life like most people in this country. Times maybe hard for some of us but most of us have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and that's how we live day to day kind of easy. We can come home and shut out the world for a few hours, sit down and watch TV or read a book without being disturbed by someone who has had a bit too much to drink or has a health problem that probably makes him shout out a lot. We might not have a lot of money in our pockets( the government says we have more money in our pockets than five years ago) but we survive the rigours day today living. Now imagine living on the streets, your bed is a piece of card board from the back of a near by shop and every night you are praying something good happens to you the next day and you don't have use your wits to struggle through another day or walk miles to find somewhere safe to sleep. Imagine you're a young woman it doesn't take much to send a shiver down your spine does it? All most people want is some kind of life akin to what some people would call normal. you know a house or a flat some where warm and cosy but you can call it home. It doesn't matter how well meaning some of our charitable organisations are but until you get that stable base then its hard for anyone to have a life that's normal.

23 July, 2007

Sums that just don't add up

In Gordon Browns opening speech as prime minister he made a reference to building three million more homes by the year 2020. Well, even I am not that good at my math but even I know at the rate of people needing homes in the future we will still be around 3.7 million homes short and that's an estimation of people needing homes at the rate needed today. With all the people we have coming to live here from EU countries and future generations having their children and so on, if you stop to think about things for a while it all just doesn't add up. Maybe this government and the previous ones should have made education a higher priority and math being a higher part of the education curriculum because adding up for many politician seems to be a problem.
What about all the social needed housing because as housing prices rise and they will keep on rising until this government intervenes. I do understand the economics and the value to any government to keep house prices high but what I don't understand is the over inflation.
Ordinary working class people are being priced out of the housing market and that where I think more help will be needed. We have a huge short fall in rentable accommodation in this country and we have a private sector that's taking full advantage of that fact and are charging rents that are overly inflated but if you are on government benefits then you simply will be lucky to get a place and that's becoming a problem and for once i don't have an immediate answer to the problem but I am sure the problem could be eased by not knocking down much needed housing to regenerate areas that really don't need regenerating.

19 July, 2007

Jamie speaks

It has now been about three and a half months that I have been going to the hospital to visit my friend who was in a comma and has now woken. The bad news is that he is severely brain damaged and the kind of damage he has received is beyond repair. Some of you who read my blog will know my friend Alan from the crisis Christmas shelter. He was a guest for many years All this makes me think of how lucky I am to be still around after the life I have led but things are not that simple, how could they be? It's like saying we are the only intelligent being in the universe and believe me when I say I sometimes wonder about the intelligent part. Life is what you make is the saying I have often heard but if you start life at the bottom of the pile so to speak, sometimes that's where you will stay because no one wants to give you a second glance and to me that's whats missing in society today. You have probably heard some pensioner say in my day things were different. I sometimes get the feeling he maybe right. If you think about it we have had world wars and other things happen. Yet there was a togetherness, a comradeship of the British people that brought them together no matter what and that's what I think is missing in today's society. Look at the soldiers that are now sleeping rough at nights we don't give them a second thought probably because we think they are already looked after I mean why wouldn't they be? but it's just not the case. Some suffer from mental illnesses that we couldn't image. After what some of them have seen we just would not understand. What makes me so mad is that we believe nearly all that is told us by governments. It's only over the last ten years that some people have begun to question the decisions and statements that the government make. Now for something else while I am here. People see me as an ex homeless drug addict who has only just got his life back together and doesn't really have a mind of his own and is a puppet for a certain charity but I can tell you all this. Although I do quite a lot of things for my favorite charity Crisis I have a mind of my own and I have my own opinions and sometimes I am outspoken but I listen to what people say and make my own mind up. Everyone knows that I think some of the best people to work with homeless people are the ones who has been there and got the T-shirt so to speak case. So there you have it Jamie McCoy speaks up.

10 July, 2007

Every so often something happens to make us sit up and take notice of what's going on around us. Take this weekend and the concerts to let us know about global warning which in its self is a good thing. The fact that the people know about it already and are taking steps although they are only small ones is great but governments that we the people have elected seem to side step the issue is the most worrying factor. We hear about alternative energy sources and other things to help with the environment but what do we really know. Do we know for instance how much damage has been done to the ozone layer and is it repairable or is it the case that we have to look to the stars to find new homes in the very near future. I for one am glad that I wont be moving in my life time but what would happen in a few years when flooding becomes a thing of each season and the Thames barrier is not longer doing its job and the fact that England is shrinking at twice the expected rate due to ever rising sea levels? What happens to the homeless when there is no place to sleep, no shop doorway? Will the figures be true or Will they be the rough estimates we have today. The figures make me smile most of the time and the way the government come up with a figure on how many people are sleeping rough on any given night is a bit perplexing because no matter what, the actual figure is usually two and a half times that much. At least it's not the two and a half thousand it was. The thing that I see day in and day out is people that are homeless and all they need is just that a half chance to get their lives back together.

05 July, 2007

Not born homeless just made

It's funny but homelessness is a thing that has always been since God knows when. Every time we think we have got it cured or reduced to a small manageable number it raises it's head to just to let us know it's still here and very much alive. Every one asks the question how can we cure this problem once and for all but it's not that easy when you have some people who want to live on the streets because it's all they know and how do you support the people you can help. There has been many different schemes all with the same goal in mind but there has to be a permanent solution.
Some day there will be something in place for all. Not only for the young but the over twenty fives. It does seem that if you're over a certain age then there is very little in place to prevent anyone becoming homeless. I have certain cases in mind when I say this as the in their cases homelessness could have been avoided. Most of us were born in hospital or at home. We were not homeless. Yet as I am siting here twenty more people are sleeping rough for the first time all over the country tonight. The government say it's not as big of a problem as it was but how many of us go into town and see people sleeping rough? How many of us know about some of the things homeless people have to put up with in the hostels they are in and how many of us would wait two or three years to be housed in a shared flat or another hostel? This is what happens. I would like to see hostels with some kind of rehabilitation for addicts. There are a few that have drug units but these are few and far between and there's not much follow on. Many hostels would prefer to take non addicts because they are easier to manage and the only time you actually see an addict on TV is at Christmas when you see the opening of the crisis shelter and to be honest its not just a Christmas thing. I am not saying that hostels go out of there way to be choosy but with addiction on the rise again this year. We have to start thinking about more permanent solutions to all the problems. It's a fact that if you become an addict you are more than likely to become homeless within a small space of time

03 July, 2007

Nothing much changes

When I was a young man I ran away from one situation into another and really that's how my life has been for well, my whole life. The drug issues I had I think where a symptom of the life I was leading at the time. Although my life has changed dramatically ( for the better ) Things still seem to be a bit same old same old. I walk London's West End talking to all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, but nothing seems to change significantly enough to put a smile on the faces of some of the people I meet. I was talking to a student last night and he was saying that when he finishes his teachers degree. He will be in so much debt that he just can't see past enjoying today. I asked does he think the government have got it wrong when it comes to paying college fees. He said yes and there has to be a much better way of getting the teachers we need without them getting into debt. Debt is one of the biggest headaches this country has and it doesn't seem to be easing one in three families have outstanding debts. One in five single people have credit card debt and four out of ten people on income support, incapacity benefit or other government benefit have outstanding debts from loans to rent arrears . It's funny but as the years have rolled on by nothing has really changed the rich are even richer. the poor are still stuck in the poverty trap as they where twenty years ago

Olympics or bust

I was listening to the latest news about the Olympics and I couldn't help but wonder, why we have had such an outcry for more space to build houses? When all of a sudden we can find the space and money to build an Olympic village with all its amenities doesn't it seem a bit strange? We are spending billions ( cost still rising) on something that will not be used to its fullest after the games. We haven't seemed to have learned from other counties what happened after the Olympics and how much its still costing them. Will it cost us more in the long term? who knows? who really cares? I will probably among the thousands that will watch it.
We all fall short on somethings in our life but we usually manage to put things into some kind of prospective. For some of us for one reason and another we never quite manage it and the small failures in our lives turn into massive and irreversible ones or so we think but given half a chance most would jump for joy in being able to correct something long over due but even this doesn't help people that have been labelled. Stigmas are attached to most things in life whether it be homelessness or health problems or even someone going to work in a suit. The usual thing for homeless people is that its their own fault or they must drink and get high every night. On the other hand you have someone who is a bit dysfunctional, not so clever through no fault of their own. The stigma attached can have a devastating affect we call them everything we have ever read or heard from dumb dums to retards. It's not very often we actually see the person in front of us and very rarely do we get to know them.
I was wondering if this was a big part of the problem that we as a society have in trying to help people less fortunate than ourselves.

28 June, 2007

Some body is smiling today

It's a new day and a new prime minister now resides at number 10 but will things really change? The saying trust me I'm a politician comes to mind when I think about Gordon Brown wasn't he the one who gave pensioners a little extra and then took it back straight after the election. Now he has become prime minister should we worry?
There are still people homeless in this country who now have the right to vote. They maybe in hostels or bed and breakfasts but as the numbers grows there seems no end in site and I fear that eventually we will have the same problems all over again. People sleeping rough, hostels few and far between and the over burdened tax payer having to fork out more money. Why is it allowed to happen? When there are things we can do today that will save many lives and the tax payer thousands in the future.
So many times I have heard the phrase everyone is equal but this is not absolutely true and I think it would be stupid and unwise to assume that this will improve in the future but everyone must be given the same rights as the next person maybe that's the way forward to make sure everyone has the right to a home, to be protected, to have the letter of the law applied equally and lastly everyone has the right to his or hers freedom of choice, Which to be honest seems to be slowly eroding away.

19 June, 2007

What does it mean to be homeless?

In this country we see people everyday of the week sitting or sleeping in some shop doorway or on some street corner in one of our towns or cities. The question we always ask ourselves is why? The government tells us they are well on the way to curing the problem but are they?
Homelessness is not just about sleeping on the streets. I personally think it’s about not having some place to call your own. To call home. Not having that front door key so you can open and shut out the world and have your own privacy and space. Which most people in this country can do.
Living in one of the many hostels doesn’t give you that as you have to share most of the day with some face you don’t know. You share toilets and bathrooms. You are virtually sharing your life with someone else. Which really is a relationship you don't really want or didn't ask for.
To be stuck in limbo as I like to call it is waiting for a place of your own, which by the way the government is so adamant about but because no houses or flats are being built that wait is getting longer and longer and as that wait becomes ever increasing the hope that homeless people are given fades as they face uncertainty. The problem today is if you’re single and have nothing then you are more likely to stay that way. Why? I think it’s the lack of genuine progressive ideas by local government. Every government over the last 100 years has tried different things from work houses to today’s hostels and the truth is nothing seems to work. We have always had homeless people. No one wants to be homeless. Although people do become homeless it’s not on purpose. Living rough on the streets of Britain isn’t a choice. Most of the time it’s the only thing left and the thing is it can happen to anyone.
How many people do we have that live on the streets and still rise at six in the morning to go to work? Yet that’s what some homeless people do. Not all are the typical stereo types So when you’re passing some homeless person asleep in a shop doorway don’t jump to the conclusion that he or she must be an addict or alcoholic and it’s their fault that they are there. Think about what you would do if you where in that position

15 June, 2007

Changes needed

Like most people I listen to the radio and watch the news TV and something’s make me wonder. Take for instants the PM quitting Downing Street. Me, I thought it was about bloody time because when you think about it. He dosen't leave great legacy but at least he does leave one. One of his best achievements was on the conflict in Northern Ireland. That did take some doing but on the other hand he took us in to a war that we didn’t really want and should have found another way to deal with. On the home front well, what can I say? Well let me see, ten years ago the NHS was in a desperate situation. Guess what, it still is. We still have over one and a half million people stuck in the poverty trap. not much change there either. Plus, we now have over 600,000 single people stuck in temporary accommodation, hostels, B and B's and on the streets because the government has not built enough new homes and have focused their efforts on home ownership.
In most towns and cities we have areas people are afraid to go to. Kids are carrying knives and some guns. Which tells me things have gotten worse over the last ten years instead of better. Will Gordon Brown be a better PM? Will he listen to the voice of the people? Will he appoint ministers that truly know what this country desperately needs. Which clearly Mr. Blair didn’t. Well. Mr Blair I am one of the many that thought your best just wasn't quite good enough. I personally think you tried to be the male version of Mrs.Thatcher and it didn't quite work. Something tells me not much will change. I guess I am one of many who think the same

13 June, 2007

I'm sort of back

As you know from the lack of blogs I have been away for a while. Firstly I have been sitting by my friends bedside in hospital most days of the week over the last few months. He went into a comma and he has not come out of it. It made me think about things and how things can happen in just the blink of an eye, although my life has been strange and one dimensional at times. It just seems to me that there is this thing we call life and we should live it to the fullest. Some can't as they have problems that really no one understands fully unless you have had them and lived with them. I am not the smartest cookie in the jar but I do believe we all should have the chance to live a life as normal as possible but how often have you heard the question. What is normal? Even I don't know the answer to that but society has a sort of template we are supposed to follow. So if that's it? Then dosent society have to help the less fortunate meet those goals

02 May, 2007

The Local Elections

It's that time again when we are supposed to vote in the local elections but who should we vote for? I took it on myself to go out on to the streets of London to ask homeless people what they thought of it all.
John has been living on the streets for two and half years he was in a hostel but went back on to the streets because as he says he couldn't get a good nights sleep he said it was like Piccadilly circus in the rush hour every night. There where people running round banging doors and drink and drugs where common place. when he complained he was in fact given a warning so he left and is now back on the streets where he feels safer anyway.
I asked him what he thought about the local elections coming up and what it would mean to him. he chuckle for a few minutes then said that it doesn't really matter who gets into power nothing will change. He would still be living on the street and councils would still be footing the bill for hostels that where in fact not doing a very good job.
I walked a little further and met up with a young couple in Charing cross road. they both said what's the use of these local elections anyway it only gives pointers to who's getting into power at the next general election besides they don't listen to what people really want or if they do they simply don't do anything. Take the last load of elections they asked us to tell them what we thought and what they could do to make things better. We told them and still nothing has been made better. Now they want us to text them with the same problems because we do have the same problems. but now we can do it using new technology. We always thought these politicians and councilors, where the people who should know what we want after all didn't we vote for them because they where supposed to have heard us?
On my way back to where l live that night. I started to talk to the a man called Paul, who was sitting next to me on the tube( a risky move at the best of times) I got on the subject of the forth coming local elections and this is what he had to say
I vote at the local elections because one day one of these politicians or councilors might actually do some good but at the minute all I see is money being taken from me by government and more from the council. My pay doesn't increase as much as my council bills. This can not go on someone has to see sense. Take my council bill, they send us these sheets of paper telling us what the money is being spent on. Then say oh we are sorry but we aren't taking enough. We would like you to pay more for instance the idea of charging by the kilo for rubbish removal you know the bins, but I already pay through the nose for that. Then they say well you pay for the police as well but do i see any and when i do need them it takes forever for them to arrive. Am I getting value for my money at this moment in time? no, but I am like so many people sick and tired of all the promises by government bodies. I shall keep voting Just in case.
You can imagine what a busy night I had but when it comes down to it who do we vote for? At this minute I believe a number of councils in this country are being mismanaged and haven't a clue as to what it's people really want or need. They use the words modernisation but is it really? I for one want to see more affordable social housing with communities that are living together and that have respect for one another, Maybe i live in cloud cuckoo land but one day we will get back to proper values. Didn't we once have a society that could leave back doors open without fear of being robbed?

14 April, 2007

Watch this space

Sorry is the first thing to say to all of you that have missed my thoughts on homelessness and life and things in general but I have been really ill and really busy. I am now back to full strength and raring to go. People find it strange that someone like me who really has been asleep to the world for so many years has an opinion. Alas I do and what I think is that most people want to shout that things are not right and just don't have the time or simply can't because of pressures from work or home. I do it just to upset the apple cart. So this coming week I have a few things to say so watch this space

03 April, 2007

Who cares

The world has gone mad or this country has gone haywire I think. Take for instance going to the shops or waiting for a bus. It's bad enough that during the day you have to worry about being robbed or mugged but at night it's a no no. My friend who lives in a reasonably quite part of London says he will not go out at night because of youths in gangs and fear of being robbed again. I live in central London and I don't go out unless it's in town to do my thing. It's so crazy but who really cares about what's happening. The government make all these laws to try and stop it but when you think about it they don't work because it's the softly softly approach and inb most cases only a sticking plaster solution. Get tough on crime. How is the question I'm asking because from what I know until we do in fact treat crime as an offence against the people of a decent society we will not improve the situation. Should we make prison more of a punishment and not the holiday homes they are fast becoming known as. have you ever heard the expression i can do the time standing on my head. well this is what most prisoners say. Should we be tougher when it comes to the law? Because if you get a youngsters stealing and taking drugs and commiting serious crimes isn't it best to fire the warning shots now before it gets to late. What should we do if a parent has lost control of the family. Should we still blame the parent. It's funny but not everything is so black and white. People keep telling me there is an awful big grey area but all I see is a soft society that is willing to live with what's going on. In the old days people would help each other but today people live in fear of being stabbed or shot and this is not the way to live. Tell me what you think.

20 March, 2007

A death on the street

Most people think that a homeless man who dies on the streets have family or friends that can be contacted but this is not the case for most homeless. It's a case of a paupers grave with virtually no one seeing them off. It's one of the things that I dreaded. Homeless people lose all ties with family and genunie friends and if you think about it, most people we meet on the street and call freinds are in fact only aqqaintenses. They only become part of our lives the longer we are on the streets. It's sad to hear that a homeless man has died on the street but it's a fact of life but did you know last year more homeless people died from being attacked on the street than ever. This is another growing concern because not only are youngsters being knifed to death but if you're asleep in a shop doorway you more likley to be asaulted or seriously injured just because someone thinks its funny and are probably drunk. there are too many pits falls for people living rough. The problem is there are too many people willing to take advantage of that fact.

12 March, 2007

Exiting a lfe

I tend to read or hear the news most days but when I hear people saying as I did today on a bus that homeless people really don't know what's going on in the world. I do get frustrated. Homeless people do have a bad rep and the conversation I overheard was the result of a man getting on the bus with his blankets and because he was a little drunk and quite loud. The thing that I gleamed from the overheard conversation was that the public still had no idea what had befallen this man to become like he was. It dosen't matter who we are we all have times we can't handle but most of us have friends and relatives to turn to but most homeless people don't and they rely on strangers for help and guidance. Not all homeless people started out as drug addicts or drunks but it is now the situtation they are now in and believe it or not most want out of that life but don't know how to find the exit. no matter what we have to keep on finding ways of showing these people there are better ways to live a life and i don't think its forcing them in to rehabs or specialised places like John bird the founder of the big issue would like to see. There is a saying which I think is true for most people who have an addiction and that it is, that you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

09 March, 2007

Safoo The Extraordinary Mouse.

"Today's story is about a small mouse called Safoo, who I must say was quite a clever mouse as mice go,” said the old storyteller.
The children sat with a look of expectation on their faces. They always enjoyed the old storytellers tales and today was no exception...

Safoo was a thin grey mouse with little black spots on the end of his nose, which his mum said where mouse boiled spots and they would disappear when he was older. He was rather small for a house mouse, Infact he was one of the smallest mice anyone had ever seen, he wasn’t much bigger than a newborn baby, but that didn't stop him doing all the things that bigger mice did. He loved to run and jump about in the fields where he lived. He often dreamt that he was the biggest mouse in the world living in open fields. Just having fun and doing what ever he liked.
“Watcha doing Safoo?” said a voice.
It was Safoo’s best friend Bonus. Now bonus was a giant of a mouse with big dark patches all over his body. He also had a high-pitched voice and a limp, which sometimes made him look and sound a bit strange but safoo did not see anything strange because Bonus was his best friend..
“You’re not smiling today, something wrong?” “Were you playing in the field all on your little lonesome?
Why didn’t you come and get me?” Bonus said looking at Safoo out of the corner of his eye
I did, but your dad said you couldn’t come out to play. So I tried to play by myself. It was fun at first but its not the same as when you’re with me said safoo quietly while kicking a loose stone.
So you missed me? Safoo missed me, safoo missed me safoo missed me Bonus started to sing.
Suddenly Safoo saw something move in the bushes. He whispered to Bonus something’s moving over there. Then just as he was about to say something else when a giant of a cat came sauntering towards them. Bonus began to shake uncontrollably.
“This is it “cried Bonus “we are going to become cat food and I’m going to be cooked till I’m well done. I want my mummy. The cat stopped and looked Safoo straight in the eyes. Then without warning it made a slashing movement as if to say you mine.

If you want more you'll have to buy the book

I did it and said it

I have now finished my children book to my satisfaction and I think it quite good (first few pages coming next) but none of this would have been possible if I hadn't have gotten my self clean from drugs and had the right kind of help on the education front. When I think back to my days of nothingness I keep thinking that so much of my life was a waste but all I can say now is it's a shame and in the past.
When I go out on to the streets to do what I call the Jamie interviews I ask ordinary people why they donate to charities like St mungo's or crisis. Most of the time the answer I get is that the government do not do enough to help those groups the are disadvantaged. What does this say to me? It says that people do want to help and in most cases would mind a penny rise in tax if they knew it was going to the right government initiatives. Believe me when I say there are a few schemes out there that are not right. Lets say today's young society. Its full of the must have gadgets and clothes but you have to be well off to afford them or have several credit cards which of course leads to debt but all this still gives us the haves and have nots and if you put all the have nots in to a small area spattered with a sprinkling of the haves you are going to get a certain amount of resentment and of course crime. Most people blame the area, the rate of unemployment, poverty in fact there are number of things to indicate this. People and statistics say that a higher percentage of these people end up addicted to something or end up on the streets. In truth anyone of us could fall victim to living a life with no hope and on the streets. We all walk a very thin line. I agree that a higher percent do in fact come from deprived areas
but I also think that people make bad choices in life and suffer for them. What we didn't see years ago was helping being given to people that really needed it. Now we have several charities doing exactly the samething. Why ? lack of communication and in some cases lack of vision and understanding of the real problem. Which is what I am always saying about the government

05 March, 2007

Eroding things

They say times change and people should change with them but at what cost? Should we allow ourselves to be dictated to by any government that slowly erodes away our freedom of choice. It seems to me that although this government is intent on modernising Britain, it has forgotten the fundamental rights of it's voters and that is to have a say on the policies that are now being put forward. The one thing that I have never seen is a letter from any party asking me whether i agree with any government proposal. we base our society on freeedom of speech yet that seems to be getting so limited. Are we a country that is as progressive as we think? it's a question we should ask ourselves because as one government becomes old and outdated a new one always has other ideas. I ask myself what has this government done for me or come to it wat have they done for anyone? Have they their own social agenda to build from and is this why they see everyone in the same light?
We all have certain goals to reach in life but its the law of human nature that some will neeed much more help than others. This is what any government should look at. It's like the actual level poverty in this country. We know it exists but to what extent? Did you know that around 1,000,000 children only have one main meal a day and these are the people that are mostly on benefit or low income. Did you know that many people on benefit have to go without for a least one day. These are the things we dont hear about from any government. We hear about tax credits We hear about child benefit We hear about welfare benefits going up but what we dont hear about is that any increase is also met by much higher rising costs and the true figure of poverty suffered by people in THIS country. Has anything really changed? I dont think so

26 February, 2007

There but for the grace of God go I. It's funny but I've heard these words a few times this week as me and a few friends have seen homeless people asleep in shop doorways. I feel that sometimes it's only by the smallest margin that some of us do not end up on the streets living a life constantly trying survive. It's funny really because most of us struggle at it but we manage to avoid the pitfalls. We live life as it comes and we all know that life has its ups and downs but when you have more days down than normal it gets to you and when they turn into years, life becomes meaningless, a life of no hope. How do you give people back that which they have lost? I am always being told that life always goes in the blink of an eye or life is far too short to make mistakes but somehow we make them and I think what makes us unique is our ability to learn from them given the chance. I'm getting on a bit in years now and I keep hearing the phrase you can't teach an old dog new tricks. What aloud of b--lsh-t. I don't know where people get these saying from but if you think about it, it doesn't make much sense because we keep saying we learn something new everyday and by the way a leopard does change its spots.

I am still around

Just thought I'd let you all know I was still alive and kicking, as you probably know over the last few years I have been doing different things but who would have thought that I would have been doing three reports on empty homes for radio 4. Which I will be putting on the blog as soon as I get a recording of all three.
What surprises even me is how far I have come since those days of sleeping rough on the streets of London without much hope of a future. Learning to read and write was a gift but it's not all about my having that ability although it does help a lot. It's about me suddenly finding out that I am not as stupid or useless as I had been told for most of my life and that I could beat a drug habit that had taken over the whole of my life. The Question that haunts me is, how things got so bad without me seeing it? Common sense would tell you things were out of control but I guess when you do the same things day after day, that way of life also becomes a habit. I suppose it's a bit like leaving the washing up till the next day but when the next day arrives you leave that as well until it piles up so high it crashes. You might think it's just shear laziness but actually it's an old habit. I used to think that everyday was going to be no different that yesterday but in fact everyday is different even if we don't sometimes feel as if it is. I still think life is strange but not as strange if you do not live it to its fullest..

15 February, 2007

I was just thinking about the smoking ban that comes into effect later this year and boy am I going to be in trouble. Sometimes the smoke from my house can be seen for miles as I burn things when I am cooking and to console myself I always sit down and light up a fag. Now the ban does say smoking in a public places. So when the smoke from my house drifts into the near by pub and someone notices me smoking. Am I going to get an on the spot fine? The trouble with this new ban on smoking I think is that most people that do smoke have a habit and we all know getting rid of a habit can be murder. What I find strange or maybe no one has thought about this is, if by allowing people to smoke in their own homes there is much more of a chance for sons, daughters whole families to become passive smokers are the government saying it's ok to give your family cancer. We are always on about greener climates allowing people to smoke outside. To me it seems the government are saying it's ok to pollute our air. Comings from me that's saying something as I am a smoker myself.

06 February, 2007

Empty homes

Well, I'm at it again interviewing people for the radio four program you and yours. I have been to different places to find out why public properties are not being used and left to rot or why aren't some properties being put back into public use when they can be. Things seem to be confusing. I went to wells in Norfolk to find out why a police station and two adjoining houses where not being used and ended up finding out about a police funding shortage as well. In a place called Goole there where 117 houses earmarked for demolish by east riding council. Which where in fact in better condition than the flat I live in right at this present moment. What was even more strange was that only an estimated thirty houses where going to be built in their place and I went to London's north circular to find out why some houses have been empty for thirty years.
We seem to live in society that says we must modernize we must replace old with new but it just seems to me when we have a housing shortage not just in Goole or London but all over the country that common sense has been totally thrown out of the window. Not everything I suspect is as it seems but wouldn't it be great for people and local government to come together and say look we need housing and here we have it. We don't need to build so many more houses on green belt land. The question I ask is it the fault of the Labour movement and their plans to modernize Britain and build a better future as they keep saying? What I'm saying is the government is elected by the people for the people. They should take notice that not everything they do and say is right for the people. A large number of politicians have come from the same background as their electors and are now in the privileged position to help the people of this country but common sense has to prevail. It's natural for people to want better things but it has to be a balanced. I truly believe this government has not achieved much in the last four years in fact I think it has made the poor poorer. The less fortunate less fortunate. A lot of people had faith in this government but that has flown out of the window because of some of the policies and decisions it has made. I am not a fan of this government and I used to be but if this government keeps on putting economics before the peoples needs. Then we will be in for more rough years. I know getting the economics of the country is the right thing to do but when you see house prices rising, electric rising, water rising. petrol rising to unbelievable prices. Then you have to start thinking that something is wrong. When the ordinary man in the street doesn't see any light at the end of the tunnel and has to work extra shift to make ends meet, then we live in a false economy. Building new houses doesn't build a better Britain. It just paints a pretty picture. It's people that make places better.

01 February, 2007

You're homeless you're not the same as us. Rant

Being homeless isn't a crime but what's happening to homeless people is. How would you feel if you had to live life on the streets and being looked down upon everyday because of one mistake or it was the only alternative for you in the situation you where in. I get very angry when I hear people say homeless people are stupid and it's their own fault or they're not like you and me. Last night I went out and about the centre of London to see if the situation had gotten any worse since my last foray. It does seem there are a few more living on the street but only in certain areas of Londons West End. In Westminster the situation seems as bad as ever. While many homeless charities focus on the need to re-educate people on the simple things of life like learning read and write and how to cook. There are a certain number of people we seem to be missing and those are the ones that are too ashamed to say I need help either because they can't read or write or because of their unsureness to learn new things. Having a time table to learn also doesn't fit with the homeless that sleep rough after all their first Priority is surviving another day. Not how do I learn to cook a cake or spell the word cat. I know there are a few day centers that now have the facilities to teach people these things in the mornings but if your homeless and tired all you want to do is have a hot drink and some food and try to get some sleep while you are in the warm. Even if that means every so often you are woken up. So you see the dilemma homeless people face. It's just like being in an endless ring until someone comes up with another solution to the problem then some people will always lose out. What I would like to see is a sort of signed agreement between homeless people and who ever, lets say a night shelter. They would accommodate them if they learnt the basics skills. So many homeless organizations are trying to do this with the homeless they have gotten off the streets and we only have a few that see homelessness everyday of the week. I strongly believe that everyone has the right to be treated equally whether you are homeless or in a hostel and everyone should have the right to learn. So back to the people that think homelessness is their own fault and they aren't the same as you or I. Well that's tosh. Everyday I speak to people who I would have thought would not have the time of day for me but if they don't see any difference between myself and them why should other people ? Just because someone is a bit shabbily dressed has a can in his hand and is homeless doesn't make him any different from you or I. It's just someone who has a problem or why should we demonise a girl living rough when all she did was get away from the abuse she suffered. When I was a kid I was always told that before I opened my mouth to speak I should think about what I was going to say and for all of the people that speak before their brains work. Try thinking first.

26 January, 2007

Empty homes

This week has been one of those weeks when things just don't seem to add up. I have been to different parts of the country interviewing people for BBC radio four, trying to find out why so many properties have been either left to rot or empty, who owns them and why the hell are the government and local authorities are saying build more houses. Were these cases of just bad management or building just for the sake of it or just a waste. I spoken to people from wells next the sea in Norfolk about a police station and a couple of houses that were no longer in use and why nothing was being done. I also interviewed the Norfolk police administrator about them. He was saying they were still in use and they were not a housing concern but they were in the business of policing. The fact that initially the police receive their monies from the tax payer is of little concern to the police and if you look at it logically the tax payer actually owns the property. If they did say alright we will build 20 houses here but two must be for our officers wouldn't that be bridging the widening gap between the police and the public. My second stop was in a town called Goole near Doncaster it was a small industrial town that has grown in the last few years and now faces a housing shortage like as lot of places in this country. When I stood looking at these perfectly good houses I was left speechless as these where perfectly good homes that just needed to be refurbished. When I asked locals about these properties I was told that the local east riding council had made this plan for demolishion some years ago and things have dramatically changed in the area. Developer from the area said he could refurbish these properties and turn them into two and three bedroomed houses and have double glazing, central heating and he would be able to sell them for a small profit. So what's the problem the problem is that the authority is not listening to the people of Goole

18 January, 2007

Oh brother

Would you believe it? If you hadn't read all the hula baloo in the news papers about big brother and the racial tensions that has been stirred up by what I personally think is a clash of cultures. The sniping that's going on is just the tip of the ice berg. Is it a clash of personalities or just plain ignorance. Can you imagine if we had all the previous prime ministers in the house I wonder would everything be politically correct? It does seem that in today's society we do put ourselves into little groups of people. Take homeless people for example they form their own groups. The same can be said for others and this is what I see happening in the big brother house let me in there I will sort it out.

09 January, 2007

Smack of double standards

When we hear that a minister like Ruth Kelly is putting her son in to a private special school it makes me wonder if there are double standards now at work in the government. Is she admitting that the education system doesn't work or is it the fact that going through the state system takes too long as it has been proved. An education body has already said its no good. When this government tell us that our state education system is as good as any, then puts their own kids into public schools. It smacks of double standards. I was on the bus today and as per usual I was ear wigging on a conversation and one of the things that was said was that before she became a minister she would have had to go through the state school system but if memory serves me she was the education secretary that closed over 100 special needs schools because she said they were not working and the system she put in place made has made it much harder for special needs children to get places. Ironic don't you think? Today she stands side by side with Tony Blair who apparently backs her decision. Me, I agree that she has to be a mother first before a politician. This another thing that won't just disappear over night for her