“Last night I stayed awake all night in a staircase. I can’t sleep at all when it’s really cold like this. If you sit or lie down you freeze so I just kept moving around until security moved me on in the morning. I’ve been sleeping here about seven months now. This is my first winter. The cold is not easy. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning and I can’t feel my hands they’re so numb even though I’ve got gloves on. It’s affected my health badly. I get ill a lot quicker now. My breathing has got worse. Two of my front teeth have fallen out through infection. They were good before I started sleeping out here. If you get a cold or a cough it takes much longer to go away.
I’m just trying to make some money to get into a backpackers hostel tonight. If it snows I cover myself up or go and stand under a shelter until it stops. I’ll even sit here with an umbrella. Sometimes I’ll have to go and stand in a phone box or sit in public toilet to warm up a bit. When I got back this morning someone had moved the sheets of my stuff and everything had got soaking wet. If I don’t make enough to get into somewhere tonight I don’t know what I’ll do.
I broke up with my wife last year. I stayed at a friend’s house for a while but you begin to outstay your welcome. I didn’t want my friends to become my enemy so I had to leave. I was born in Portugal but went to America when I was one. I came here to the UK eight years ago to be with my wife and I’ve always worked but now I can’t get any benefits. I go to a few of the day centres but the council said that I have to be referred to a night shelter by a charity or a keyworker. I had my assessment from a couple of different outreach teams but I’m still waiting to be referred because I’m a single man so I think other people have priority.
It can be really dangerous out here. People can be quite nasty. Especially at weekends when they’ve been drinking. I’ve been kicked in the head since I’ve been here. I’ve been punched while I’ve been sleeping. I’d rather sleep in a busy road than in the park though. They found a girl’s body in there a few weeks ago. She’d been stabbed. It took them four days before anyone found her. At least out here the public can see if anything happens. Someone stole my rucksack with all my ID in it recently too. There’s a charity that’s helping me apply for new documents but if you don’t have an address it’s hard.
The public can only do so much. People stop and give me food and clothes. I’d rather they stop and talk but I know they’ve got their own lives. I just want to get my life back and get back to work. You need accommodation first before anything. If I can get an address then hopefully I can get my ID and then I can start working again.”
David, Finsbury Park, London.
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