The Homeless Library project brings together many voices. This is a complex history, told by people who are often searching for meaning in it themselves. This isn't a history of large events or famous faces, but it does contain its triumphs and disasters, humour and horror. The following interview has a good dose of all those things.
I was put in care at 5 years old. That's where it all starts. First time I was beaten up I was in a care home and I was beaten up by a policeman. Proper beaten. I was cheeking him, wasn't even one of my best lines, he wasn't worth it. I'd gone walkabout and he asked me where I'd been. I said: "D'you know Blackpool?" He said, "Yes." I said, "It wasn't there." Then he beat me. Later it all went official and cos of that incident they stopped police being left alone with kids in care homes in the North West. Then it became a national rule, because of me and that policeman. So maybe I have done some good after all. He still got away with it though. Inspector said if you leave it in my capable hands...
There's a lot of wisdom in here (The Wellspring) but an awful lot of stupidity. It outweighs wisdom 2 to 1, in favour of stupidity. And that's just the staff. People here have very deep experiences, we have experienced how to fail time and time again.
I'm not having a good week, found out I've got hepatitis, it ain't good. The ironic bit is I copped it off a girl, not doing drugs. Should've stayed on the smack. I was careful doing the drugs, always use your own pins, filter and spoon. The thing is, when you get off the drugs you think you're past the most dangerous part of your life. You feel immortal, cos you've been through it all. The relief! It was the first time I'd been with a woman in a couple of years; when you're on the drugs you aren't that interested. More interested where your next tenner is coming from.
Lives are complicated, add drugs and they get more complicated. Add homelessness and they're even more complicated. Nowhere to get clothes, nowhere to wash. Nowhere to be. That's the most important one of all. Just to be. Just there. If you're homeless, you're sitting on a bench, piss-wet through, waiting for what's going to happen next. The removal of money doesn't make life easier it makes it harder. That's what this place does, it is a place to be. No airs or graces, they let us all in, all of us half-wits.
Judge not for ye shall be judged. I remember that from school. But we all judge, it's human nature. Homelessness puts you wrong. Hard to get back into a routine, cos there isn't one. I've known people get so used to it they'll turn down a hostel. Rather be on the streets, cos people are used to the streets. Or the hostel is a shit-hole.
I knew a guy, partially-sighted, partially-deaf. He had a white stick and everything, classed as vulnerable. Offered to loan the white stick to me, cos it's useful for hitchhiking, but I turned it down, maybe I should've used it cos nobody expects a blind man to pull one on them, they think they're going to have him. They "homed" him in a place that had no electricity. Dumped him there in the dark, cos they were following the letter of the law, but the law didn't say how bad the "homing" could be. They had to home him, so they dumped him. He was there nine days.
This (The Wellspring) is a humorous place, hanging around here is worth it just to watch people trying to get out of trouble. Him for instance, he's just come in and he owes everyone money, how's he going to get out of that one? I like causing trouble, if there's someone in the back of it, it'll be me. Mischief, not proper trouble. Too right, it will be me.
I'll tell you the way it is mate, most in here are Care in the Community, got mental problems. Tell you how you spot them: they're not concerned about their giro cos they're on the sick. They're closing down the hospitals, they did it awhile ago, the special units, the space for mentally ill people. Got nowhere to go you gotta get a tent ain't you? Then, three quarters in here are on drugs and they'd spend it on drugs not rent if they were given the money. There's a new government initiative. They want to give us the rent money to handle ourselves but we don't want that, it'll all go on drugs. It's gonna be a massacre. You know who it's gonna cost? - you poor people who pay tax. He (points to friend) would be straight off to Amsterdam and I'd be straight after him. We don't want to get that money, but they're going to do it anyway and it'll go wrong and then they'll blame us yet again.
(Interview with Phil at The Wellspring, Feb 2015)