Homeless And Others: The People We Forget


You don’t understand. Not yet. But you can.

You will understand.

You won’t believe me at the moment, you won’t believe us.

No-one is evil. Most people just don’t get that. I met two ex-homeless people this evening, living in a hostel. This isn’t a once in a lifetime thing. This happens to me pretty regularly and I’m happy with it. I love meeting people.

These guys, one of them was a self-confessed alcoholic. He told me he was and then downed the remnants of a black can of cider and searched in vain for a lighter, to resurrect the stub of a roll-up between his fingers. This man was very drunk. His hand/wrist was bleeding from where he’d slammed it in a door. He had a scar on his chest from a stab wound. He wore old Armani Jeans and a Ralph Lauren polo top. And around his neck was a cross that looked like it was on a rosary. I don’t know whether he was Catholic.

This man was starting to tell me about his life as his friend Jeff walked out from the hostel. As he told me about the tag on his leg, his friend Jeff put a piece of rolled up newspaper on his bleeding wrist and said they should go to UCH. University College Hospital, right? The blood did look a bit serious.

As a side note I walked past a boarded-up building the other day which said it was part of UCH. Reminded me of walking past the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and seeing large bits of it boarded-up too. I had my teeth done near there as a kid. It felt strangely disconcerting to see a hospital, any hospital, closing.

Anyway, this man had been to prison twice. He explained how he managed as a painter and decorator for a while. Getting just enough money for the basics and his bird. But when he comes out of prison, he explains how his bird was suddenly with someone else. Explains how he wanted to take a hammer to this guy. Keep in mind he is very drunk at this point, swaying left to right. I think understand this, I empathise, having both been an adulterer myself, and having had a girlfriend go off with someone else. I had times wanting to hunt the other guy down too, and I had times when people really didn’t like me.

His friend Jeff stands there, attentive, helpful, maybe only three teeth. Grey hair. His friend Jeff asks what I had studied (wearing a waistcoat means you studied) and he listens to me when I say I’m short on money now. His friend Jeff tells him I’m skint when he drunkenly asks for money – the standard, oh please mate, go on. His friend Jeff protects him and the hostel community more than you would expect any member of that community to do. He treats the situation like we’re just three humans trying to get along, nothing more complicated. Nothing like me owing them all I have because inequality.

If you stand there, having this man waver in front of you whilst tearing his own heart out, hear his friend Jeff help and try to tend the wound, and pass a lighter, you would feel so much more for humanity, I think. I felt unworthy. I felt like I had to go away and do so much more with what I have, which might not be much in terms of money, but is so much more than what these guys have to cope with every day.

I implore you all, don’t get scared of your fellow people. Don’t forget that they’re people too. It’s easily done, and you will do it and I will do it whether I try to avoid it or not. But in trying, we get scared less and we forget less, and we remember that these people and us are one and the same, just under very different circumstances.

Peace and love and all that hippie shit, yo x


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