Homelessness and need
Homelessness and need

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Homelessness and need

4 Audio clip 1: John

In this first clip, Julia Johnson, from the Open University, talks to John, who had been sleeping rough in the city and living in an abandoned van in a car park for three weeks.

At the time of the interview, John was 43. He was born in a town near Swansea, but had spent much of his life in institutions. His childhood was spent in a large ‘mental handicap’ hospital, which has now closed. Some years after his discharge, he and his brother were arrested, and subsequently imprisoned for murder. After several years in prison, John’s case went to appeal. He and his brother were released on the grounds of a miscarriage of justice and wrongful imprisonment.

Interviewing John, next to a broken-down van in a car park in the pouring rain, was not easy, as you will detect from the interview. Nevertheless, the snapshots he gives us demonstrate how he survived on the streets. At the time of the interview, John was drinking wine, and sheltering an acquaintance in the van who was due to collect his benefit the following day.

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Skip transcript: Clip 1: Interview with John

Transcript: Clip 1: Interview with John

John
I went up the police station and I said, “I've found an old van. Can I sleep in it?” “Yes,” he said, “As long as you don't do anything daft”. If I want to smoke, I come out and have a smoke, out here like. I was in that old building over there, as I said earlier. And they chucked me out of there. So ... I don't mind where I sleep. As long as I've got a roof over my head, I'm comfortable. I've been in a mental hospital. I was there for nineteen years. So I'm cured now.
Julia Johnson
How old were you when you went there?
John
I was eight when I went in, and I'm forty two on Friday.
Julia Johnson
What happened then?
John
Well, I lived on the roads then, didn’t I?. My life was wasted, you know, wasted. And it was about time I got my act together. I'm an alcoholic, and I smoke and tell jokes to people. I'm a loner, that's what they say, isn't it?
Julia Johnson
What do you do for money, I mean ...?
John
Well I don't get no money, do I? You know, I tell jokes and people might give me a cup of tea, or something like that, or a couple of bob like.
Julia Johnson
Do you get any money from Social Security?
John
No. Because I haven't got an address, have I? Postman can't come in here and say, “Here you are, the back door”.
Julia Jonson
So what do you do for money, I mean ...?
John
Well, I've got a bloke on the market. I help him sometimes, and he gives me a few bob like. But I couldn't see him today, because he's on holidays. Tell the truth, I signed on yesterday, and I'm hoping to get a payment out of them. So at least I'm telling the truth about that, aren't I? Helping you back to work. Well I've got to sign daily see, and they might give me a giro, if I'm lucky ... if I’m lucky.
Julia Jonson
What happens if you get ill or something?
John
Well I go to the hospital, don't I?
Julia Johnson
You go up to the Accident and Emergency. Tell us about when you last went up to the hospital.
John
Yesterday. Because I've got asthma, right.
Julia Johnson
What happened when you went up to the hospital?
John
Well they gave me a Ventalin pump, see. I walked down to the hospital. It's about four miles down the road then, see. I went to Casualty, and told them I had a bad chest. And they give me some oxygen then, and a Ventalin pump. But I put it in the van, and somebody pinched it. So I've got to go and see what I can do now. Otherwise I'm in good health like.
Julia Johnson
Do they know you at the hospital?
John
Yeah, yeah.
Julia Johnson
Are they helpful?
John
Yeah, very helpful. Well that's what the hospital's for, isn't it. Well, they give you medication and a cup of tea, you know ... sandwich ... and they give you tablets.
Julia Johnson
What do you do about washing, and all that sort of?
John
Well I go up to the toilets up the top there.
Julia Johnson
You were saying, also, you squat in the leisure centre sometimes.
John
Yeah, it's warmer over there. It's comfortable and, what have you ...
Julia Johnson
Which bit of the leisure centre?
John
At the back. You know, that big chimney?
Julia Johnson
Oh yes.
John
Just round the corner by there ... if you'd like to go over after, and watch the warm air coming out. It's warm over there. If you stand there, you get a sun tan. I used to sleep there, on pallets, and a blanket over me, you see. And, at end of the day, then I get up. And sometimes my bloody neck was twisted. And, it was a hell of a thing, so I got this thing now ... it's like a mobile home like, isn't it? Because the cold weather's coming down. And I'm indoors, isn't it? Complexed, that's the word. Wherever I sleep, people move me on like. It's actually the police and that.
End transcript: Clip 1: Interview with John
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