, The homelessness backlash has already begun with local newspapers running stories of ‘bogus beggars’. Sue Wilson looks at the real problems facing young people on the streets, while Aaron Hicklin
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here was a time. not so very long ago, that homelessness was the major social issue. Scenes of huddled figures shivering beneath cardboard shelters, exposés of cramped. squalid hostels and B&B ‘hotels‘ run by racketeering landlords became , for a while, part of our staple media diet. Public outrage at the extent of Dickensian misery existing in our ‘civilised‘ society even persuaded the Government to cough up some extra cash when mass unemployment and poverty are increasingly accepted as unfortunate but inevitable, ‘a price well worth paying' (when‘syour next instalment due, Mr Lamont?).
But, sadly, homelessness is a big, knotty problem. with a complex root system sunk deep in our social fabric. and it cannot be solved swiftly or easily with an extra few million quid. Sadly, the fickle great British public quickly loses patience with problems that won’t go away, especially highly visible, hard-to-ignore ones like homelessness. It‘s difficult not to feel at least a twinge ofguilt as you pass someone sleeping in a doorway on your way home to a warm, comfortable,
/ secure ﬂat, and people don‘t like feeling
guilty — far better to resort, in time-honoured fashion, to blaming the
And so, in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. the local evening papers weigh in with shock-horror-scandal stories about ‘bogus beggars‘, evil con-merchants ruthlessly ﬂeecing kind-hearted passers-by out oftheir small change. Adroitly deflecting attention,
‘l’ve heard about bogus beggars. I don't know where the papers got It, but they didn’t speak to me. It’s a load at shite, but people would rather believe the papers than their own eyes. Are they jealous at me sleeping out here every night, because it they are they can have it.
‘I came on the streets two years ago. Don't know where my parents are, l was in homes ever since I was a kid. They don’t take much notice at you there either, but I’d rather be in a home than out here. Most nights I just sleep on my own, but sometimes you get other people kipping under the scaltold tor a night. No one I’ve ever spoken to is doing it lor lun. They’re here because they’ve got no choice.
‘Most people are alright, some come up and have a chat, butyou get a lew who see you lrom down the road and cross over to avoid us. They don’t like to think we even exist, so they love it when the papers say we’re just conning them.
‘Nlost ot the younger ones don’t drink, that’s just the old ones, and I’m not into drugs or anything. I reckon I’d be alright il I got a job and a ﬂat but there’s no chance the council will lind me anything. I just want to settle down and
get a better lite. You see some people and they’ve got everything, but I’m not against them, I just wish I could have it too.
We only got 25p in an hourtoday. Sometimes it can be better, but I normally have about enough to buy some chips and a drink, not McDonalds or anthing, butthe small places. I
wouldn’t mind saving a bit to eat somewhere expensive just to get a change at lood because I get quite weak sometimes. I’ve been leeling really tired all week. I just sit here and get bored. Basically it sucks, but I‘ll probably still be here In live years. I bloody hope not, but I can't see how it’s all going to end.’
I’ve been homeless since November. I was brought up by my Gran, and when she died I went to live with my mother and her boytriend. He started battering me about, and I ended up in hospital. I've tried to get back in again but she’s not having it. She wants nothing to do with me. My lather’s dead. I took an overdose last year.
I’ve been in twelve dillerent places since November. You’ve got to keep moving when you're homeless. You can’t stay in one place tor long. I’d like to go back to Johnstone where I come lrom. There’s a place opening there soon, so maybe I’ll get relerred there.
It’s hard being a girl and homeless. I’ve lived on the streets as well as in hostels and there’s junkies, prostitutes, men that could rape you, anything could happen. I slept in a cardboard box underthe bridge down beside the Clyde. I wouldn’t go through it again. It’s no good lor a girl, I wouldn’t wish that lite on anyone.
The last job I had was belore my Gran died. She was in a hospice and l was working lull time. ltook the day all to go to my Gran’s luneral and I got my P45 through the next day. l was very close to my Gran and helped her
through cancer. That was me, I’ve not had a job since that. I’d like to work in a hotel or join the Navy one day.
SEAN (22) ‘I used to live in Wales, but I left home when my mum got married again. I see her sometimes but she wouldn’t want me to go back, even it I wanted to return, which I don’t. ljust move lrom one town to another. I never stay in one place lor more than a week, it’s easier to keep moving. I was in Newcastle belore I came here, but it’s nicer here, even though I'm not getting as much as I usually do. Sometimes it can be £20 a day, but it soon goes.
‘There’s bound to be a lew who are just out to make some extra cash, but the majority I’ve met are genuinely homeless and don‘t get giros. I mean I’d really be wearing these smelly clothes il I had some money wouldn’t I?
‘There’s really no choice tor a lot at us. The police won’t let us lie about anywhere, they come and wake us and tell us to move on, and none at my lriends have lound a permanent squat. I know people all over the country, but it’s diilicull to keep in touch. You just keep on meeting new people, and then watching them tade out at your Iile again. Most of the time we respect each other, sometimes we even work together, but there are always a lew you need to avoid. I’ve been beaten up belore, and you just think “what are you doing, we’re in the same boat mate”.
‘II I could get the money I’d love to set up properly, rent a studio and paint tor a living. There’s a lot at wasted talent among us, and I just want the
opportunity to prove it. I suppose It's a matter at getting ittogether. I suppose I will in time, because I don'twantthis lorever.
“My mum used to say that all I had to do was work, but I don’t even know it I want all that. I see people walking past and I just don't know it I want to be part at it. You might laugh, but sometimes it seems betterto be down here than up
there.’ IAN (17)
I’ve been homeless now lor seven months. I got kicked out at the house alter I came out at care. I was in care tor a year and my mother re-married.l taught with my step-lather. I didn’t get on with him at all. lie was hitting my mother. I’ve been in three hostels and on the streets since I became homeless. I slept under the bridges and in Buchanan Street bus station. You can’t trust anyone there. There’s a lot ol alcoholics and junkies. All you think at is keeping your head together and not letting it beat you.
Betore I became homeless, lworked on quite a lew YTSs in various dillerent things, but none at them led onto a job. I couldn’t live on the money they were paying. I haven't much chance at a house because I’m a young ottender. I did houses and stole motors, that sort ol thing. I’ll just have to keep moving hostels and keep my head clean and maybe they’ll reconsider me. I’d like to be a bricklayer eventually.
I have been in touch with my mother but she wouldn’t take me back because I've been in trouble with the police. She says she has to do what my steplather says. It’s her house.
GThe List 3— iciuly 1992