Don't worry, I haven't lost my humble abode. I was watching the most excellent "Famous, Rich and Homeless" on TV last night, and I got to remembering what being homeless was like.
Following my minor indiscretion in Llandudno (see Thug), I found myself without anywhere to live. Heading back south as fast as I could, I took a trip along the south coast spending nights out under the stars. One night was spent behind a pub, another in a field just outside Blandford Forum in Dorset. Eventually I found myself in Essex, and more specifically what was to become my new home town of Southend-on-Sea.
Arriving just over a week before my birthday, I found myself spending the first night on the seafront. Not a penny to my name, and having not eaten for what must have been 3 days, I took a trip along the promenade taking in the atmosphere, before finally bedding down in what is now known as the 'cliffs.'
The next morning, I awoke early. It was early October, and the night had been clear but chilly. I took a walk back up to the edge of the town centre, where I came across a postman. I asked where the jobcentre was, and was pointed up to the other end of town, where I booked in for an appointment to claim dole for 2pm that afternoon. I still had nowhere to live however and further enquiries gave me a list of landlords that took DHSS customers, so I got a free map from tourist information and set about knocking on doors. I must have spent hours before finally hitting pay dirt. A small doss house had a flat available, and would take me in. All I needed was to pay a deposit and I'd be fine. I had nothing, nada, zip, and thought my chances were scuppered, when she asked if I had anything of value whatsoever. I had a small crappy casio watch, but that was enough, and so I had a new place to live. I took off to my dole interview knowing I could return "home", something I hadn't done for over a month. I handed in my housing benefit forms and suddenly everything was looking brighter.
That night, I found myself bored in my empty bedroom. The call of the outdoors was strong, and the comfort of a bed wasn't particularly welcoming. I slept on the floor, trying to compensate in my mind that even though I was indoors, I still needed the hardness of the floor. The following day I got a job as an engineer in the arcades. I returned to college to study my HNC, and I slowly got back on my feet.
The point is that whilst people don't want to be homeless, it can be a fact of life. And the really scary thing is it can actually appear to those in that situation to be a good life. I was tempted to leave my flat, to carry on outside with no rent to pay. The fresh air did me good, but everyone looking down on me wasn't so good. I knew I needed to get my life back on track, but someone less determined could quite easily choose to stay on the path they'd now found themselves on. It's an interesting quandry, one you'd think is one-sided, but surprisingly isn't.
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