“Zingcreed, thinking aloud about religion. A personal polemic by Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”
On Wednesday 31 July 2013 at 11 a.m. I spoke to a homeless man in his thirties sitting in an underpass in the City of London. As a result of our conversation I have decided to start a new series of Posts on homelessness and begging. I won’t give any names, but give them pseudonyms according to the sequence I interview them in e.g.1=A, Alan; 2=Bill etc. I paid Alan £2 and asked him to talk about himself. I wrote down what he said and here it is.
Alan: “I am feeling cynical. I have a chip on my shoulder about homelessness. I have been homeless for 16 months. I was kicked out of the house I was renting a room in by the selfish, self-absorbed millionaire landlord. I had no help at all.”
Me: “Don’t you get benefits?”
Alan: “No, I get no benefits because of the new sanctions. They told me to go to an estate agent! I try to sleep in subways but Operation Poncho makes it difficult.”
Me: “What’s that?”
Alan: “The Police come at night with a council cleaner. They tell you to move or else. They have a bottle and they spray where you slept with disinfectant. If you’re too slow moving you get sprayed too. Mentally it kills you. There’s a thin line between OK and not OK. Because of the Police I changed my sleeping habits so I can dodge them. The Police stopped me at 3 am so I sleep in the day and move around at night. I’ve just woken up. Now I’ll get some money for my dinner. Then I’ll sit in a library. I smell quite badly, so I don’t sit near other people. If someone comes and sits near me I move to another seat so they won’t be offended by my smell. For the same reason I sit in the empty part of buses and in the most empty train compartment where there are fewest passengers. ”
Me: “This must undermine your self-esteem!”
Alan: “My self-esteem has completely vanished. It was always built on thin ground.”
Me: “Do passers-by tell you to get a job?”
Alan: “I couldn’t do a job if you gave me one. If you told me to turn up at 9 o’clock I probably couldn’t do it. I’d be in Richmond or somewhere else. I’m unreliable. I’m unstable. I need counselling. Last week a vicar was passing in his dog collar. He took his earphones off and told me that ‘Begging’s illegal in the City of London’. I’m not begging. I’m just sitting here. He doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t care about the homeless. Why don’t you talk to other homeless people? I’m not in touch with any of them. Don’t speak to the ones in Charing cross and Soho – they’re on drugs there. I don’t drink or do drugs.”
Me: “Thanks for talking to me. I’m writing down the name of my web site so you can read what I write on the internet in a library. I’ll stick as closely as possible to what you have told me. All the best in the future. I shall certainly speak to more homeless people.”
We shook hands and I left.