Thursday, 26 February 2015

An ear to bash (part 2)

This is the second part of our interview with an anonymous homeless person, for The Homeless Library project. The interviewee was kind enough to give not only their time, but also many insights about living on the streets of Manchester. This is a community living parallel to the mainstream, a city within a city...

'Home' handmade book for the project The Homeless Library 2015


In Manchester, there's another city underneath, The Coal City. A tunnel between Manchester and Salford that they used to ship the coal down. It's warm and damp down there. Out towards Deansgate, they caged it so people can't get in but the lads have other ways in. Survival, innit? There's some old air raid shelters that start in Manchester and come out in Stockport. Miles and miles of tunnels down there, and people sleeping in all of them. Cops in Manchester don't know where to find people.

When you're homeless you go to get counted, for benefits. In Manchester you go to Swan Street Counting In and they give you a green card and then they can help you. But you've got to be counted in first. They have to go and see where you sleep. They get involved with people, try to help, give them the green ticket. In Stockport you go to the Council and they have to go and see you're sleeping rough. 

There are a lot of older people on the street. Some of the younger homeless look out for the older ones, for them getting robbed and stuff. One man of 79 was living out in Manchester. Done a lot in his life, lost his wife, ended up drinking. He'd lost his pension book, they were putting his pension in the bank and he hadn't claimed it for 20 odd years, thousands of pounds. But he's still on the street, part of his life now.

It's peaceful, it gets to be a way of life altogether. I was on the street, it's hard but easy. That's where I got all me scars. I've had all me clothes pinched when I was asleep, that was by homeless people, surviving. People punch you, piss on you. 

Can't get full benefits when you're homeless. In Manchester they knock a quarter off your benefit, cos you haven't got gas and electric to pay for. You get penalised cos you're homeless. I can call this place (Wellspring) as my permanent address. Four people put their houses up for mortgage to build this place. This used to be an old shack, roof fell apart. Peter rebuilt it. Having a permanent address means a lot to me, I've been offered full time work but I can't take it without a permanent address. 

God Loves You All, mono print, anon 2015

Most people who volunteer here are Christian. People on the street, some believe God is keeping them alive. Wellspring is the heart of Stockport, the main heart. No matter what you've done they never judge you here. In the bible it says if you judge others you will be judged yourself. Staff help you get in touch with benefits, doctors... They treat you as a person not a tramp, not scum. "Come in and get a shower, get clean clothes." They help not only homeless people, but people who can't cope. People who can't read, can't pay their bills. They might have a roof over their head but they can't keep a home.

I help others on the street myself. I do a bit of voluntary in here (The Wellspring) general maintenance. Talked to a young guy who was gonna do himself in. I says: nothing can be as bad as all that. He was self harming. I said life is worth more than death. Mentioned places that could help him. People get very desperate, some desperate times if you think you are worth nothing. Obviously, confidence in yourself goes, that's when people flip. Or flip with others and go to jail.

It is a community. Homeless people have their fights, but they still help each other. Poor people always do. Give someone a couple of pounds for a drink if they're needing. I know that isn't helping with the substance problem, but if you've never been rattling for a drink, or rattling for drugs you won't understand what a rescue that is. I used to be a drinker, still touch it a bit. I'm dissing myself for starting to drink, but I need a drink to sleep. Then the tablets I'm on for diabetes and depression don't work properly. That's why I go on my own, cos if I hang out with drinkers it's "just another one, just another one..." 

I was an alcoholic, left my house, everything. My dad died in my arms when I was 12 years old, Christmas Day. I was put out to foster parents.

Wellspring gives people a chance for a change, they might be homeless but they aren't helpless. Sounds like a t-shirt message doesn't it? 

Cities don't want to know this history. Some people are made homeless for their own stupidity, but some are made homeless through the Councils, some have been raped, some have mental health issues... I've spent days listening to stories of these people. It's all in my head, maybe that's why I can't sleep. When you're on the street, you're in a different world. You got other homeless people and the people from the pubs booting ya, and the police. 

I might've slept in bins, but I've got a big dream. I dream that if I can get enough people together to get hold of an old building, I will get people off the streets to build a drop-in. Manchester needs a place where the homeless can do it up and respect it. 

One out of 10 street people are fearful of others. Trust means a lot to everyone. I went to a Christian woman's house once and stayed there for three months. She trusted me. People trust staff here (in The Wellspring) cos they're helping people. Trust. People change when they come in here, it makes them wonder: why go out there again? People can change in a good way. But people give up on themselves too. If you give up on yourself you've got nothing left.

Today I will tidy Kath's grave up, my sister's kid's grave...
People know me and trust me - and that trust means more to me than any home.

Mono prints being made as part of the Homeless Library, Wellspring 2015

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