I have come back to Hereford for an interview with BBC Hereford & Worcester. As I stepped off the train, I was overcome with a lump in my throat and a sense of nostalgia. I had time to waste before the interview so I went to the Cashpoint where I slept and stood in the space where I slept rough… Wow. I don’t know if I can put into words what or how I felt, it was weird. I slept there 7 years ago, nearly to the month, and there was a sense of achievement about where I have come to since that night.
Nicola from the BBC was really welcoming and we had a long discussion before walking around High Town – we talked about my experience, what can be done to help homeless young people who were in my position. Then walked out into town and we started off in Union Street and stood outside the front door. Because it was the same door that was fitted after we got broken into, and I was back to my old home… I pushed the door (knowing it wouldn’t open) because it didn’t seem real.
As I did this, a voice said “what are you doing?”… Nicola and I were startled and I mentioned I used to live here 7 years ago. Zo, a lovely Chinese man, then shared his experience from this morning where he bumped into someone outside earlier this morning eyeing up the house – who lived there 10 years ago!!! He recalled what a coincidence it was now I was here saying I lived here before. Zo gave an invitation to come in and so after 7 long and eventful years I walked into my old house where I lived for 2 amazing and also distressing years! Walking into the kitchen was surreal… It hadn’t changed much, the cooker, fridge and washing machine was in the same place although it was just nicer surfaces. We talked about the bathroom situation and how it was now a family home and there is one bathroom, and I laughed and recalled that we had the same issue!
Then after that, Nicola turned the mic on and asked me about the experience we just had with Zo to which I recalled how utterly strange it was walking back in there. After saying that, Nicola asked me if I felt safe when I was housed in Union Street after being homeless and I gave a mixed answer…
I said that as much as I felt safe because I was housed and in a safe, warm space that accounted for me having a roof… However I didn’t feel safe as a person because that is when my mental and physical decline happened. For 10 months after being housed I struggled to get out of bed, lost my hair, stopped eating, became a social recluse, struggled to eat, had to go into counselling and generally broke down emotionally and physically. After 10 months, I started getting better and doing volunteering with the Youth Service and also SHYPP who were the ones who have saved mine and others lives for 15+ years!
Then we walked through High Town and stood outside the Llloyd’s Bank where I slept that one night. As I looked at it, Nicola passed me the Mic and asked me what I was feeling… As she did that, tears filled my eyes without me realising and that lump in my throat came back. I was choked up and said how the fact it was the place where I didn’t feel human, I felt like something rather than someone. From feeling like nothing or no one, I leap back to where I am today – all the campaigning I have done, people I have helped, spoken too and also being at University. To finish the interview Nicola asked me to stand outside the bank as she took a photo… It was difficult to smile because I was still fairly choked up – even if I wasn’t physically showing it, I was feeling really humbled.
(This is the exact place I slept. In the alcove to the bottom right of the picture. The brown door leads into Hereford’s High Town. Note the CCTV camera – that was my only reliance to help me feel safe…)
So yeah, there was my interview with BBC Hereford & Worcester and as I write this I have had 2 local papers email me asking to meet/chat with me about my homeless experience. I wanted to get it out there and raise awareness and it’s going better than expected. A new organisation in Ireland has picked up my story, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington in Birmingham retweeted my experience to his 12,900 Twitter Followers and recognition from SHYPP, West Mercia Housing and even the CEO of Foyer Federation, Jane Slowey. Over 60 ‘Facebook friends’ have lent their support to me doing this BBC interview and I am really honoured to have some amazing people backing me up and supporting me.
My aspiration to get the message out there and “into the hearts of MP’s, like it’s in the heart of me” is succeeding…. It will, and is happening so the last thing I will say is a combination of two words and they go something like this: