Homelessness and need
Homelessness and need

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Homelessness and need

7 Audio clip 4: Paul

Paul was 30 years old when he was interviewed. He had been in and out of homelessness for most of his adult life, but had become a volunteer with the Cyrenians. He was living in a shared house with some other volunteers.

Paul spent much of his childhood in a caravan in Happy Valley, near the sea, with his parents, brothers and sisters. At 21, when he was living with his girlfriend and her parents, his daughter was born. When she was two months old, they were kicked out, and Paul went to live at a crisis centre for three months. After this, they were allocated a house on a very run-down council estate.

The relationship did not work out, and they ran into debt before splitting up. Paul moved into ‘Stormy Down’, a nearby homelessness hostel, and then took to the road, travelling to a variety of towns and cities in Britain. He returned to South Wales every two weeks to collect his benefit. Eventually, he settled in Swansea, where he met his current wife. They had a son, but again the relationship broke down. His wife was a heroin user and accommodation was a problem.

As you listen to the clip, you will hear about the impact these experiences had on Paul, and also about the value he placed on his experience as a volunteer.

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Transcript: Clip 4: Interview with Paul

I‘m from a place called Happy Valley, just outside Porthcawl … but it's in Porthcawl, like, it is. And it's a holiday camp, and I've spent all my life there, with like, all my family like. Like, my mother's there. My brothers and sisters are there … with my friends there, all of them. I'm the youngest. So, by the time I left home, all my family were married, all happily, you know - all like the Nineties families then. I thought, “Oh that'll happen to me,” but it didn't.
In the beginning, all my twenties has just been in and out of hostels, getting streetwise. I've got a daughter of eleven and, back in ninety one, we were there on the caravan site, and things were going fine. And there was a breakdown in communication between me and my ex-girlfriend, and she told a bunch of lies, like, to me about … she was playing darts. But she wasn't. She was doing the opposite, enjoying herself. So, that's how I was made homeless first, because she spent the rent cheque for the caravan off the council.
So the first place that I went to was Stormy Down - though they call that place Heartbreak Hotel, like. And, that's just outside Porthcawl, but it's closed down now - it's all been demolished - and that was an old RAF complex where … in the Second World War, they used to use. You've got to press buzzers. It's very ... you know ... it's not very like Nineties. They felt very like Victorian when you walk in. And that was run by Social Services. And you walk in, and everybody … when you walk in, they check your pockets. You're escorted into the building, and they ask your background. They do police checks.
The way that I felt it was like being out in Russia … or something like that, you know. And this is what I have found in a lot of like hostels. They do treat you like a prisoner. Because, when you go into these places, they class you all the same … like a number, all of them do, like. Like myself, I’ve had a good upbringing, you know. And, from what I've done out for my life, I've achieved a lot more than any anybody else has.
Everything’s like … like people that go into homeless hostels, they're all alcoholics, drug users. But that's not the case. As I speak, there's people being made homeless now. Most of the time, what I can see is it's like a … I think some of the reasons … it's like a breakdown of families. Most of it, I wouldn't say all, of it is to do with drugs. I would say it could do with … like your mother could have married somebody else, and there could be a breakdown there - could be loads of reasons - social like reasons then. All the people that I've met, like you know, they they've been in homes, or their marriage has broken down. But most of the people that I have met … I could trust them … than somebody that had everything. All that's all of us needs a chance.
I've been interviewed by people that work in, like in hostels, and they're younger than me - even Social Services - and they're trying to tell me what I should do, like. You know, like, fair enough … like, when they were born, I was just leaving school and I had a job, I had everything. But, as soon as something like that happens … you know, your family goes and … the only thing I didn't do … I didn't hit the bottle. I knew where I was going. I knew I had to make a start. I knew that I couldn't do it where I was, because the facilities wasn't there. So, when I did travel - and I wasn't scruffy, I wasn't anything like that - I always made sure I just did it … just put my thumb out, like, hitch hiking around the country. And, at the end of the day, I think it's a cheap way to see, like, the British Isles, you know. You didn't need British Rail, or nobody. I did it all by my finger, or my thumb.
I used to get money every two weeks. But you've always got to make sure that it’s … it all goes by like your initials – A, B, C, D, and all that. Lucky enough, I went to the right places, where my money always carried on every two weeks. So I was only there, what, fourteen days. Then I would be back in Swansea again, and having a couple of beers with my mates. And I would go off again then. As soon as I hit the M4, I'll decide then. Is it Leeds? Is it Cambridge? But I always avoided, like, London because, if you go to London, that's a catch twenty two. You won't get nothing there.
Going round, you know, like to me … it made me fit. It was a good education, seeing the … I'm just, like, a normal class bloke like, you know, working class. And all my family were … like, was working. I was working to a certain point but, when you do lose your job, and then you've got to pay bills off, you've got to pay this off, and then that's when the breakdown of a relationship can come then … because all the good life is gone. And then, if you can't support a child, or whatever, then that's what happens. You just go your own ways then.
But, like, to me … I think … some people say I'm glad that I'm not homeless anymore. But, to me, being homeless, I think it does give you a lot of knowledge … what's going on. I see a lot of people now, that say they've been homeless, and they haven't been that homeless. Like, if they'd been homeless, they would know a lot about it. They think being homeless is by just like kipping out. But I always say … if you've been homeless, you want to get out of it. And you do get people that … when they go into like an hostel for the first time, and they're not used to it, they never stay there. Because sometimes you are safer out on the street, than you are in an hostel. You get beaten up. You get threatened. It all depends on, like that guy … or whatever you know it's … if you do get, like, picked on, or whatever … and that's when the streetwise, like, comes in, you know. You have to sort it out, like, in seconds, you know. It's just like … if somebody came up to me in, like an hostel, and started picking on me, there's only one way you're going to sort it out … is you're going to have to do this person, like. You're going to have to sort him out, in your own time. You're going to have to hurt him, because he's going to hurt you … you know, it's … and a lot of people are not used to that.
You go into some hostels, it's like Dracula's castle. You know, it's smelly … people in their beds having fits, people being sick, the smell of disinfectant. At the moment, I'm waiting to get a place for me and my son, if I can … because I do voluntary work for the Cyrenians. I'm in Oxford Street. It's a place for staff of the Cyrenians. It's there for you, until you find a suitable place for yourself. And it's just a normal place, you know. It's not like … you're not restricted, you know. It's like … here, you've got to be in by eleven o'clock, or half past eleven, until the morning.
I've been here. I remember, years ago … I've gone out from here, when I first came to Swansea ten years ago, and went to a night club … me and my mate. And we had three bin bags chucked down from upstairs, off one of the boys that were here. And we stayed over by the beach until the morning. And, if you do meet somebody in a night club and say, “Well, where do you live then,” well you're not going to say Heartbreak Hotel, are you? That building … or the one with the green door.
But, I could never go back to an hostel now. I'll never be homeless again, because I've wised myself up. I know where I'm going, like, in life. All I want out of life is what's best for my son. Because I've got a daughter of eleven, time is running out. But, one thing that I will do … is that my son or my daughter will never be on the street. Never, like, because I know what it's like.
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