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Column: 'You wake and realise, yes, I’m here, this is real. This is another day to be endured.'

An open and honest account of what daily life is like for a person experiencing homelessness.

Image: Themalni via Shutterstock

LIFE SEEMS TO stop. Proper life – the life you have with family and friends. You have little chance of getting a job. Exposed, cold, dying for a wash. A wash where you don’t put a token in a meter for barely-warm water. Constantly fearful. Vulnerable. Often, oh so often, suicidal, the thoughts, the beautiful thoughts of peace that come with the suicidal thoughts. Listening to the person you love cry, knowing their thoughts are the same.

Knowing all you have is each other. Knowing that you have now failed at life. Not only have you failed, but that defines you, it clouds other people’s thoughts of you. That you are a failure. That you are a loser. Even if no one else in the world actually does think it, you do.

You wake up, quite often from a sleep, not deep enough, not long enough; each noise, each drop of rain like a hammer. You look around, this has been your life for too long, way too long. You take time to realise, yes, I’m here, this is real. Another day to be endured. You are wearing the same clothes you wore yesterday, the day before, maybe four or five days. Underwear, socks, everything, slept in them for days, the sweat, days of unwashed sweat actually scalds you.

The greatest irony of being homeless? The sense your freedom is gone. When you wake up, you don’t have four walls keeping you in but it honestly feels as if your world is a prison. Do you know what its like not to wake in a bed? Not to get out of that bed and walk, room to room. To sit down in comfort, and if you are bored, go to a different room, go outside, do some gardening. Do you know how it feels not to have a house to keep clean, to hear your partner complain because you’ve muddied their clean floors?

The people you thought loved you, your friends your family – they desert you, ashamed. Friends who were only on the periphery are supportive, they help, they do what they can, listening. Strangers, some kind, some not so kind. The kindness surprises. The best in
people, you can see it in unexpected places, it’s just a pity it’s in these circumstances you see that side of people.

Time goes on, slowly, your hopes of accommodation fade, day by day, promises made are broken, your relationship becomes strained. You become siblings, not partners anymore. The touches, the kisses, the feelings are gone. And then one of you decides it’s madness, one of you goes to a family member, a family member who can only accommodate one of you. The other hopes that one of their family can help. Even if they can, instead of one solid unit, you are two broken halves, different ends of the country. Despite the fact that you wake up in a bed, despite the fact your partner wakes in a bed, you are still homeless, both of you, homeless but apart.

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It doesn’t matter how you got there, the path that led you there, the wrong turns taken – sickness for some, addictions for others, bad luck, whatever – homelessness in a country such as this is a disgrace. I’ve worked all my life but three months of bad luck saw me homeless, my possessions gone.

Every human being on this planet has a right to a home. Sure, if I get somewhere to live, I haven’t paid for it like you. But I don’t want a house like yours, I just want safety and warmth, a little place that I can say is mine. A proper address so I can apply for work, and get washed and change clothes. You worked hard for your house, you deserve it, but I deserve something, too; every homeless man, woman and child on this Earth has a right to shelter and safety.

The author wishes to remain anonymous.

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