Thursday, 28 May 2015

On your tod

It's hard to see both the big picture and the small picture. Here, a contributor to The Homeless Library tries to give a wider context for the problem of social housing and then puts himself into the story. Like many people we've met at homeless services, he isn't rough sleeping, but appreciates the support and especially the company to be found at The Wellspring.


When our Prime Minister says he wants to put a cap on benefits, most goes to the landlords anyway, not the skint people, the so-called feckless. I don't know anyone who has a mortgage, a sustainable job, a family, etc. and says... "Oh I know, I'll give all that up." I don't know anyone who'd do that. The poor are feckless? I don't see the Prime Minister criticising the rich for being feckless.

There almost appears to be a conspiracy between the landlords who own the houses and government. Why is there a social housing problem when it doesn't cost anything to sort it out? If someone is homeless and if there is somewhere for them to live, the government pays the bills. That's humane. If the government's paying their housing benefit, that pays for the flat, the building of the flat, the land, the lot. So social housing hasn't got an extra cost to the government and there's no shortage of Housing Benefit. So why the homeless? The numbers I find really strange. Beggars belief. Why is social housing not being built? Who knows? It would probably save money.

monoprint for The Homeless Library

For every winner there's got to be a loser, that's the nature of the pie. Always winners and losers - and it's got to be the responsibility of the winners to keep the losers up out of the gutter. The non-doms (tax exiles) are winners, the losers are the people who aren't any good at earning a living. They balance each other out.

If you live in a village in the world where everyone has the same, it's usually the same nothing. They're all poor. Everyone's the same, all are happy. But we don't live in a village here, we don't even live in a democracy, we live in a monetary society. Everyone's clambering for money and the nature of clambering for money isn't conducive to helping people, in fact the opposite.

Private education, private hospitals, it creams the top off. Leaves less for everyone else. If you go to the local Comp in Merthyr Tydfil they won't get the nice extras they'll get in say Manchester Grammar. Imagine having the misfortune to be born in Merthyr Tyfil, or less amusingly, some parts of Africa. Those people don't get on a boat and become refugees for nothing.

Happens in all walks of life, when we start to look at things carefully we try to sort them out, put things in pigeonholes. We have to classify things, or else our brains can't work them out. It's those classifications that are often wrong. We try to anthropomorphise science, the world, to fit it into our heads. Because our brains are our survival mechanism, we only understand things in certain ways. The brain can't understand the Universe like a god. Ridiculous, what a load of bollocks. Science. It makes me laugh.

But politicians, they're the funniest of all, hilarious. I hear a lot of them on the radio. Politicians are always promising the future, but promising the future is an impossibility. The future isn't their's to give. It ain't gonna happen. It's just that people happen to believe them.

I had a lovely English teacher, read Orwell. He learned himself to read. My boy, my son, was also a voracious reader. He had a reading age way beyond his age. But it puts you out of sync with the people around you. One day when he was little, the Head Teacher was asking them about the moon from the previous night. The comments that were coming back were typical comments from children that age: "The moon was white." "The moon was round." My lad put his hand up and said: "It was a waxing gibbous moon." He just had the ability to read and understand from very early on. But he has the same social dysfunction as me. I have it.

I've only ever had one marriage - had nothing else. And she picked me.  Now I'm in the position of nothing. Empty. What's the point of doing anything if you can't share it? The days are very long on your tod. Weekends are a right laugh and so is Christmas. We weren't meant to be alone as humans. We share. Innately, that's what we're about. The best time of my life was when I was married.

I used to sell fruit and veg, I was very good at it. The customers loved it. But the Council didn't like it. My way of social interaction pissed them off. Ultimately, they got rid of me and everything came tumbling down. The bottom line was they hated me, the way I interacted with them. Although I had loads of happy customers, they shut me down.

I live in a council flat now. Billy no mates. That's why I come in here (The Wellspring) for company. The Council pay people to come around my flat and do jobs, maintenance stuff. If you complain about the job they don't like it, even if what you're saying would save them money. They don't like it. They'll attack your residency, say you're trouble. There's always an element of punishment.

I've been ten years on my own. Let's just say, I don't have a lot of hope that my life will change.

Monoprint for the Homeless Library

Interview with Phil at The Wellspring, April 2015. The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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