AUDIO Coming soon

IN CONVERSATION :

Simone, Homeless (In Person. Cambridge, the East of England)


Simone is a 40 year old woman, currently rough sleeping in Cambridge. I met her not long after my arrival there; she was asking for money at the side of a busy pavement. I spoke to her for a time, and may have given her some money. The following morning, she walked past the window as I finished my belated breakfast in Crepeaffaire Ltd’s Cambridge shop. When I gave her a wave, she asked if she could join me; I bought her breakfast and she sat down with me for a while. Near the end of our time, she reminded me I had not yet recorded what she had to say for the project.

TRANSCRIPT

JO: I’m sat with Simone

S: yes

JO: who I met yesterday … in fact, I think …

S: yes, it was just here, yes … it was just here

JO: over there, yes … and, Simone, I am afraid to say is, at the moment, on the streets, aren’t you?

S: yes

JO: I felt … I always feel very careful about asking anyone in your position whether you wish to speak or be photographed because I know it’s … it’s a difficult thing … and I’m conscious that it’s easy to feel that I am exploiting people … but I want you … if you are comfortable .. just to tell us a bit about life as you see it …

S: well, it’s like …

JO: … your experience, and how you came to be in that position …

S: well, I am not going to be ashamed to talk because to get myself heard on a daily basis is difficult … you know, nobody wants to talk to you … no one wants to listen … so an opportunity arises and I can say … you know … listen … Hi, my name is Simone. I’m 40 years old. I’m homeless and I’m a human being … you know … I’ve been in care all my life and I separated from my partner … and .. you know .. I ended up on the streets because I had nowhere to live and I had no means … And the government has changed …. you know, we can’t use the job centre as an address so we can’t claim … and I am sorry to say I have to rely on the public every single day for everything I need … for food, for water … if I want shelter …

JO: have you been in Cambridge … sort of … for years?

S: about a year … one year

JO: and where was … where were you based before?

S: Peterborough

JO: Peterborough …

S: but I mean like … I have to stand as a 40 year old woman and beg for a shower … beg to be able to get in a bed … beg for some privacy … you know, Sundays are the worst when … you know … when the kids are normally out playing and it’s the last day of the weekend … they know it’s bath night … you know, they come in all grimy … I want to get a cup of coffee …up for a shower … a clean pair of pyjamas on, and I sit there and watch crappy TV all day – The Real Housewives, The Only Way is Essex – drinking coffee all day …getting the ki … every Sunday it hits me as I’m sitting out here begging and it makes me cry. And then I think people think I’m trying to get attention by crying but I have no privacy to go and cry anywhere else… you know .. I’ve been trying to get into a bed and breakfast for the last 40 odd days … you know … but I just never get there …. you know .. I get halfway .. whatever … I end up spending the money on food and that … because I just … I’m not getting there …

JO: and Simone, I noticed … almost immediately yesterday … in fact, I’ve been recording myself when I haven’t be able to do interviews and things, I quickly make a little memo … sort of a voice memo … and I said I noticed you were in a lot of trouble physically at the moment … Do you mind saying something about that ?

S: no … well

JO: Is that something that has happened lately?

S: yes, yes … I just found out I’ve got cancer … I’ve got an infection in my blood … I’ve just seen the outreach team again in the hospital’s ringing again wanting me back in … you know … it’s … I’ve had … I had a tick bury itself in my arm … I had to have an operation … I’ve just spent so much time in hospital and I just feel … I actually lent on my hand … [ ] my elbow and my hand and I’ve broken my finger … that’s how weak my body is …

JO: that’s why your hand

S: yes

JO: … is very swollen yes?

S: yes … and the bites as well … like people say “is that …”

JO: what’s biting you?

S: I don’t know. It’s just like …

JO: something …

S: or something … it’s not even that … it might just be because I’m scratching because I’m dirty …

JO: yes

S: you know … look at how dirty I am … all I want is a shower … you know … [ ] …. like I said to you yesterday .. . [ ] £20 will keep me there ’til Monday … you know I just can’t get the money .. you know … I end up getting halfway or a bit … and I have to spend it on food .. because people won’t buy me anything … I’m hungry …

JO: of course

S: I’m cold … you know …

JO: you suddenly … I mean I was trying to tell you I’d just sort of got an inkling of how destabilising it is to not have your own front door but it’s nothing like the experience you’ve got …

S:I am a door watcher as well. I watch them … I watch doors .. I just want to be going in. A lot of the people … they don’t care … they’re on drugs or on drink. I watched somebody yesterday … I was sitting outside the shop … I’m trying to get money to get into a bed and breakfast for a bed or a shower … and the guy has gone in and bought him alcohol … the homeless guy … he’d gone in and bought the homeless guy alcohol … and that just … I was just gobsmacked … I was just absolutely mortified ….

JO: so that’s someone buying …

S: a homeless person alcohol ….

JO: some booze …

S: … when …. you know … I’m standing at that same place … trying to get … I mean … how many people are out there today … £1 off twenty people …. £1 …what’s £1? … you know … £1 off twenty people gets me a room … now … and I can go inside … [ ] … but it doesn’t happen …

JO: Jimmy’s … we were talking about Jimmy’s earlier …

S: it’s not ideal and they are [ ] get me into another hostel because …

JO: it’s like a shelter, is it?

S: it is a shelter … but it’s not very supportive. They … their favourite saying is “well, if you do this, we’ll kick you out” .. I don’t find that very supportive … I don’t find the fact that I wanted someone just to come to hospital with me [ ] because I have cancer …. you know

JO: yes .. you were telling me earlier you didn’t want to go on your own …

S: .. I didn’t want to go on my own, they kicked me out … you know … [ ] something … [ ] pursuing at the minute anyway … you know … I’m far from a stupid woman … you know … just [ ] got to be sorted out …

JO: you’ve got … you’ve got .. I think you’ve got some good news round the corner … is there a danger you might get some permanent digs, yes?

S: yes, that’s it … yes.

JO: when’s that happening?

S: Monday … hopefully

JO: yes

S: you know, it has been moved on before …. I’m … you know .. I’m just not …

JO: so you’re not letting yourself totally …

S: I can’t … I can’t do it …

JO: in case it doesn’t happen …

S: if it doesn’t happen, it will destroy me …

JO: so you have to just …

S: you know, I feel like I’m getting pneumonia … [ ] now, when I cough it hurts … what I’m coughing .. is like a luminous green .. I’m just like … if my body gets pneumonia this time, it won’t survive

JO: you don’t think you can …

S: I won’t survive … whether in hospital … on the street … it doesn’t matter …

JO: So, Monday …

S: I’m just so …

JO: what … in an ideal world … what will happen … well, not an ideal world

S: well, on Monday, I go into Jimmy’s …

JO: … in a good scenario …

S: and that’s where the assessment comes in … that’s where the assessment [ ] … [ ] permanent housing

JO: well I … I’ll be thinking of you on Monday

S: thank you

JO: I hope it comes through … and then … what are you going to do with yourself once you’re all back on your feet?

S: well, when I’m all back on my feet and that, I’m dedicating myself and my life to helping the homeless ’cause I tell you something now …. I am a very persuasive woman… and I don’t have to shout or scream or swear … to get my own way. I’ve learned that in life. I just find a bit of decorum, manners and morals [ ] and I’m going to make sure that piece by piece .. obviously starting in Cambridge … I don’t care if I have to start up in [ ] or something but it will happen … and I will do it.

JO: I said to you yesterday I was not comfortable to leave … to leave it to charities to deal with

S: no … we shouldn’t need charity … [ ]

JO: because obviously, it doesn’t … it doesn’t work …

S: who needs charity? Like … I’m British … why am I on the bloody streets? I’m not racist …

[ ] why am I on the streets?

JO: well, no one should .. I feel it’s just a non starter … no-one should be on the streets. Full stop.

S: nobody. … they should have … you know … [ ] I don’t think anyone will ever realise what it’s like to have to rely on the public for everything you do in life .. food, drink, shelter … you know … I mean I have to [ ] … I have to …. I don’t even think I’ll survive tonight ..

you know … I really don’t …

JO: you said you will … you said you spent the entire night last night walking around

S: walking around … you know … and that’s what I do all the time … I can’t do it any more … [ ] get in that bed and breakfast …

JO: you can’t sleep …

S: I can’t sleep on my own …

JO: on your own …

S: [ ] you know, it makes you too vulnerable … I do not like being vulnerable at all … [ ]

JO: so you have to … walk around all night, try and stay as warm as it’s possible to .. and I imagine that’s becoming harder and harder and harder

S: well it is … it’s better to walk around to stay warm than it is to sit still …

JO: but then hopefully catch up on what .. two hours or something in the day?

S: no I don’t even do that …

JO: no

S: [ ] too noisy …

JO: just whenever you can …

S: it’s just too noisy … when you’re on the streets, everything … you’re aware of everything [ ]

JO: I suppose you are constantly alert, yes?

S: it’s like a Catch-22 situation … it’s awful … but, you know …

JO: I hope … I hope come Monday, you’re in a different position … and you’ve got to get yourself sorted, yes? .. medically

S: well, yes. All I want to say is … just remember, we’re human … you know .. yes some people do drink and take drugs but …. do you know what? I can understand why. ’cause I tell you something now … if you … if any of these people here could tell me they could do what I do … and I don’t take drugs or drink .. and I want to kill myself every goddamn day ..

yes? All it is … we’re human beings going through a rough time. Maybe, just maybe .. if more people just took that time to help us … it’d help us get off the streets … and then we could have our lives back. You would know you’ve done something good and we could know that we’re back to being in the human race again. ‘Cause right about now, I feel like I am nowhere near any of that … you know, so .. just remember that. We’re human beings .

JO: thanks

S: you know … similar … I had a normal life before this … probably a better life than you …

just remember that … you know …

JO: it’s not … it’s not difficult to find yourself in this position, increasingly …

S: no … people are just one paycheck away from being where I am … and then when you are there, you are going to want that help … I’ll tell you what … excuse my language … karma’s a bitch … I’m telling you … it is a bitch … honestly

JO: we’ll leave it there because I don’t think you need say any more ..

S: no. That’s just about it

END