Homeless

Jo could not remember how she ended up living in the squat. It was yet another freezing cold morning as she lay huddled up in the smelly sleeping bag thrown over a rotting mattress on the floor.

Was it the way she had flounced out on her parents that prevented her from going, cap in hand, back to Suburbia and the family home her parents had worked so hard to pay for all their lives? Was it that arsehole Steve, the way he had ripped her off? Taking all the money from their joint account, all their furniture and the car that awful Saturday morning. She had lost her job in the supermarket because of that bloody car, or lack of it. Soon after followed eviction from the rented flat and now here she was, stuck in some godforsaken backwater of a long forgotten Victorian seaside town with no money, no home, no friends, with less than nothing in the way of prospects.

Steve had sure picked a great time to jump ship. Things were OK but not great while he was there, they argued constantly but bills were getting paid. The landlord had just sent the renewal of their shorthold tenancy, all it needed was signing and they would have a roof over their heads for another year. Steve had said he would sort it, instead he had emptied her life of everything that mattered to her and left her behind.

Jo stirred, trying to find some warmth in the tattered sleeping bag. It was definitely colder this morning, she did not want to leave what warmth she found in the sleeping bag behind but she had promised herself that her life must change today. It was her birthday, 20th December, she was now twenty four years old.

She had found the squat in that late summer by walking the backstreet’s of this once jolly seaside town looking for an empty house. The town was now faded and rotting because the tourists did not come here anymore. Even what few tearooms there were closed in September because this was no place to come if the sun was not shining. Where she slept was barely four walls, it had part of a roof over two dilapidated old rooms, no electricity, no running water, no heat other than the small fire she sometimes lit in one corner of the decrepit room she slept in.

Other homeless people, mainly men, had offered her somewhere to sleep in other squats but she knew what that would mean, right now she certainly did not want the attentions of any man, let alone other homeless men. She considered herself to be different from other homeless people, she did not do drugs, she did not drink to excess like they did, she did not even smoke tobacco like just about all the other homeless people she had encountered. How could they afford the tobacco or all those other things they seem to have?

She could barely afford food some days, begging was mostly a waste of time in the centre of town though just occasionally she got given a few coins which she eagerly accepted. It was on days she got given money that she lit her fire, she always bought food that she could heat up, tinned soup or anything in a tin that she could balance precariously over her little fire. Extracting hot food from a scalding hot tin with your fingers was not ideal but the hot food contained within was more than welcome on a day like today.

Jo poked her head over the top of her sleeping bag, searching to see if she needed to go scavenging for something to burn on her fire. On good days she would scavenge all day, building up reserves to burn on cold days, the activity also warmed her up. She sighed to herself, she would have to scavenge today if she wanted any warmth from her fire and she had no tins left with no money to buy anymore. Suburbia seemed such a long time ago, as did her flat in Uxbridge. Why had she come to this godforsaken town in late summer, just three months ago anyway? She had used the last of her money, the money Steve had not found in her purse, on that bus ticket. What had she been thinking?

She snuggled herself back into the sleeping bag, closed her eyes hoping to find some more sleep, hoping the day would warm up. Jo drifted off into a semi-sleep, that hazy sort you get when you do not want to get out of bed and have no reason to either. She dreamt of a visit to this seaside town she and Steve had taken just over sixteen months ago. The hot sun on her back as she lay topless on the deserted beach, Steve laughing and joking as he applied the sun protection lotion to her skin. That had been a glorious day, where had they gone?

Snow started to fall from the leaden sky, covering all in a beautiful layered white blanket. The snow kept on falling, temperatures making records as they reached new lows. Dog walkers often used this quite backwater of the town during the day where all the houses were either derelict or empty. The ambulance parked outside the partially roofed old bungalow was a rare sight on this street, no one lived in this street anymore.

©2010 Trevor Litchfield
Creative Commons Licence
”Homeless” by Trevor Litchfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://en.gravatar.com/sundowneruk.

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4 Comments

  1. such a sad story, Trevor, and so true. People finding themselves destitute through no fault of their own, and being caught out in freezing -to-death cold weather… Jo’s plight touched me, and the story drew me in… so believable, sadly so very believable…
    xPenx

    • When I was in the Shelter Housing Charity office the other day this story started forming in my mind plus I’ve had short experiences of being in a similar situation. Thankfully I adopted the ‘cap in hand’ approach when it did happen to me with the thought that I could at least start over, it’s to darn cold out on the streets, especially this time of year.

  2. A great story Trevor. Picturing Jo in that sleeping bag made me more aware of the many homeless people who have been suffering so much during this recent cold weather. It also made me feel guilty about the fact that I walked past someone selling the Big Issue this morning with hardly a second glance. It doesn’t take much for us to help a little – but so often e miss those opportunities, or at least I know that I do.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Mike.
      I know you’re not the only one to walk by the Big Issue sellers. I think we have to simply choose where we offer any time we have, spread it to thinly and no one benefits. I volunteer my time at Oxfam, not everyone’s charity but for the moment it is mine. I think giving any time is often as valuable as, if not more than, cash itself, but that is my choice, it’s not for everyone.

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