Sleeping On The Streets Of London
by Author JJ Nortyperson
I recently got chatting with the team at Breakfast In A Bag on Twitter after I saw a tweet from them about their new website. We spoke about the time I was living on the streets of London and how I wished they had been around with their breakfast bags when I was there in 2011, it would’ve saved me crawling to London Bridge for a fish sandwich for breakfast!
I have written a number of books now, but not all are available to the general public. I am writing more books all the time. I hope you enjoy reading this exclusive excerpt from The Wanderer’s Diary Book 1.
This is the first part of the daily diary of an autistic and traumatized rough sleeper, written from libraries, day centres and cafes around the UK. The Wanderer tells the real life day to day story of rough sleeping.
London, Summer 2011. Part 1.
My memory of arriving in London is already clouded, but I know that when I arrive in a new town I am always worried about sleeping out because I don’t know the people or the safe places. I rang a night-shelter but they
weren’t very helpful at all, I didn’t know where anything was in London, soup runs, outreach, day centres, I just looked at this huge city in awe and wondered how to survive.
I knew from what I had heard that London is tough on rough sleepers, so I was worried, I had heard about people sleeping in the arches of the railway bridges at Waterloo, like they do in Glasgow. But no-one sleeps in the arches here, they have been driven out by the council, London councils drive the homeless out from everywhere as much as they can, and people who own or manage properties here enthusiastically join the council in ensuring that there is nowhere to sleep.
I look on my laptop for day centres and homeless services and I find that there is a day centre nearby that I can go to in the morning. I do not know if it will be worth accessing, but I will try.
After some time of looking for a sleeping place I find a possibility, a waste ground building site, then I see a van and a truck parked up the road with people gathered round, a soup run! I am amazed at my luck, I go over and check that they are a soup run and I am handed soup and tea without questions.
I like this, maybe in London no-one asks who you are. They also have sandwiches. I drink as much tea as I can, and I ask them if they are from a church, they say no, they are a community but not church-based. I am surprised, so many soup runs are church-based. They give me directions to their community as it is open as a day centre 3 days a week, and they tell me it is too far to walk. I wonder how I will ever get there then, as I have no money.
I daren’t kip down on the building site in case there is security, so I keep walking, I find a park and settle down to doze behind a litter bin, I am cold with no blanket, unfortunately a few minutes into my doze a courting couple come along and don’t see me and decide they want to do some very intimate things there. I tell them to hang on until I have gone, that scares the life out of them but I would rather warn them I am there and leave than any of us have the embarrassment of me witnessing them.
I go on and find more parks but no safe sleeping space, then I come to a church with gardens around it, loads of bushes and loads of hiding places, but then it starts raining, monsoon style. I go into a nearby hotel and ask if I can shelter in their foyer, they don’t turn a hair, they even put the internet on so I can use it while I wait for better weather.
It is always stressful moving to a new town and finding your feet, getting to know the do’s and don’ts and what the police are like, where to go for help, the atmosphere, and how to make sure you have enough to eat and drink. In the early days there are usually sleepless nights and trying to find safety and shelter.
I walked across Blackfriars bridge in the early morning soon after arriving in London, I felt very vulnerable alone on the bridge, I phoned the Samaritans as I walked, and when I reached the other side of the bridge I found an all night shop and cafe. I sat down to conclude my conversation and a police car drew up, I was terrified because I thought they were going to ask why I was out at that time of night, but they ignored me and went into a cafe. Sometime later I was dozing in a corner further up the road and two police officers walked past me and ignored me, I was so on alert and expecting to be questioned, but in London they don’t do that.
That early morning I walked up to the Millennium bridge and stood on it and watched a fishing boat go out in the dark, I tried to block the memories that I always try to block because I would just break down if I had to remember. But it was amazing standing alone in the world on the cold dark bridge with the lights of London all around.
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