Homelessness and need
Homelessness and need

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Homelessness and need

5 Audio clip 2: Danny

Danny is 49 and sleeps rough in the city, as he has done for very many years. He was born and bred in Northern Ireland, and recounted some happy childhood memories. He became a civil servant in London, working for the Department of Health and Social Security, as a higher executive officer, but lost his job and his wife through drink. After sleeping rough on the streets of London for a while, he returned to Belfast. After robbing a chemist's shop, he was sent to prison for seven years, for robbery with violence.

After his release, Danny moved to Wales to live with a girlfriend. Again, he ended up in prison, this time in Swansea. There is no ‘wet house’ accommodation in Swansea, i.e. for those dependent on alcohol. This meant that Danny had slept out for nine years.

Danny was interviewed one morning in the yard of the Cyrenians' hostel, where he was having a bowl of soup. He talks about life on the streets, about violence and abuse, about begging and drink, and about the cold.

Danny died in 2001, two years after this interview was recorded. Life expectancy for people sleeping rough is 47 years.

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Transcript: Clip 2: Interview with Danny

Danny
Well I bought a house, with my then girlfriend, in Hay-on-Wye. Well the relationship, after a year, didn't work out. I broke a window in a shop, and I got jail in Swansea. Six months, that'll do me three months.
But, when I come out, I couldn't go back home ... couldn't go back to Helen. So I just stayed in Swansea. And then I started shoplifting. Kept getting busted, pilfering, little bits of this, little bits of that. And, every time I got picked up, I got jail.
And then I thought to myself, “Well, fuck it, I will stay here”. So I've been here ever since, roughly seven years. I don't judge it day by day, but day by day it goes ... the County Hall, the bus station. I can't get accommodation, so just got to sleep rough. I would prefer to sleep indoors, if I could get in. But I'm reluctant to even try. I've got a reputation as being an alcoholic, and it swings about. And so I try, and I just keep getting knocked back.
I mean, I've seen several Christmases go. The county security guards, they've seen me through a few Christmases, and they look after me generously ... Christmas dinner, bottle of wine, packet of fags ... every Christmas. They're tiny people, I know them all, after this next time. So I'm quite happy to stay down there.
There is a problem, though. Too many people have got to know that I'm staying down there, and how easy I get off with it - if easy is the word - and they've started turning up. And they're fucking it up. So they're coming down now. I observed the other day, there was sixteen people there. Well, to think the security guards are going to take sixteen people. So they just told us all to fuck off - well not exactly, excuse the word - but words to that affect. “Time you moved,” so that was it.
I'm lucky though, some people do look after me. Cyrenians give me blankets. I know various people in there. They give me a blanket now and again. What happens, when it comes to the morning, six o'clock, I want a drink, because I'm an alcoholic ... because I sleep rough. Alcohol keeps me going. So I nip up to the off license, leave my blankets, come back. Half hour later, blankets are gone, and I'm on me arse again. I should be dead by now. Well, I was given six months to live, but I done them.
Well, they've given me weekly benefits. But, then again, my benefit is benefit to other people, because they come down and they take it off me. I get eighty quid. I buy a drink ... make sure I've got a half a bottle of vodka. And, after I've had that, I start to nod off. Obviously, half a bottle of vodka is going to do that. Empty my pockets, and that's it, gone. By midday, I've got nothing. So I've got to go begging and stuff. Ah, c’est la vie, c’est la jeu. This is life, this is death. It can be embarrassing, especially when I'm hung over, and I'm not feeling too good. I walk along, and I've built up my confidence as best I can. You know what it's like with a hangover though. “Excuse me mate, any spare change please?” “Fuck off, get yourself a job I've got to work for mine.” So what do you say? You know, you can't turn round, kick them up the arse, although you might feel like it. Just have to swallow it and carry on. But then it demotes you, in your enthusiasm.
I was begging in the Uplands, and it was pissing down with rain this Sunday night. And this guy nearly battered the hell out of me. But a bloke across the road saw what was happening. He came across, and he says, “Are you alright?” I says, “Yeah, I think so”. He says, “I saw what happened. Get yourself a drink”. Give me five quid. See, when I've got a quid, I know I've got a can. So that's going to calm my system down. So I get a quid, I'll run off to the off license, buy a can. That'll do me. No, I don't go top shelf, unless I've got the money ... like on pay day, I'll go for vodka, little bottle. I'll take myself out of the way. But you see, on pay day, you get the hangers-on. And they know who gets paid when, and so they turn up just to get the money. So they expect a fiver. But they don't do it one at a time. They come on mass. So a fiver isn't enough. It's got to be a tenner. Well, that's a percentage of your money. Five, never see him again, till the next week. That's what pisses me off.
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