Go Tell Tales! Part 1 Garden Special

Posted on January 22nd, 2009 by A/C

We walk past them everyday, see them on the street and in doorways, we watch them on the Movie and on the news. When times are tough and recession hits their numbers increase, every country has them in varying numbers but not everyone cares.

‘Grubby faced, straggly beard and wild, unkempt hair. Drug addicts; alcoholics swilling methylated spirits encased in a brown paper bag and schizophrenics murmuring away to themselves or causing a scene in the streets. An old lady in a woollen hat struggling to push a shopping cart, complete with plastic carrier bags stuffed with useless junk.’

I am referring to the homeless members of our communities. Most people only see the fellow past out with a wine bottle in the shop doorway, or the drug addict on the Television. This is the everyday scene we encounter, but how true is it?
Have you ever stopped and spoken to your local homeless person, bought them a cuppa or even taken a minute just to smile and say G’day?
Most haven’t preferring to hurry past, and pretend they aren’t there.
You might be surprised, but a lot of homeless people you would never recognize given the stereotypical images we all have thrown at us.

Over the past months I have been visiting, reading and chatting to Matt. His story has been a wake-up call to many of us who have been following his voyage.

The most surprising thing I have found is just how this could be anyone of us, regardless of our economic situation or social standing, regardless of our family circumstances or our bank balance this can happen to anyone all that is required is one catalyst and a series of unfortunately events.

‘I myself come from a middle-class background, am of reasonable intelligence, with a decent level of education. I had worked all my life, was happily married and owned my own home. I have never been a drug addict nor an alcoholic. The epitome of respectability, yet through circumstances largely beyond my control, I became homeless.’

Rather than sitting in a negative mindset, allowing his depressed mood to lead his life, Matt decided to document his story, by starting a blog Homeless Tales.
Every aspect of his story is there, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  I challenge every reader to grab a dose of real life, in the UK today and read Homeless Tales, it will leave with a feeling of HOPE! And we can all do with a little of that.

Here is Matt’s Story in a two Part Special. I hope you find his voyage as Interesting, Inspiring and Challenging as I have.

What were the circumstances, which began your life on the streets?

As is typical, it was a combination of events that caused my homelessness.
The first step was the breakdown in my marriage, which left me paying the mortgage alone. I confess, I did not cope with it well and was absent from work for a few months, which compounded financial difficulties further.
I did return to work but the company I worked for became insolvent not long after.
Being the conscientious type, I had insurance to safeguard against such circumstances, but as it was a joint policy, my wife canceled when we separated.
I took out a new one, but a two-month exclusion clause meant that I did not qualify. Foreclosure followed soon after.

Was it possible for you to stay with family or friends rather than the homeless route?

I had never been particularly close to my family and had physically moved away many years earlier. I had friends locally who may well have been willing to help but it is a huge burden to place on someone and I suspect it would have become pretty uncomfortable fairly quickly. More importantly, when you find yourself in a similar position to my own, you tend to isolate yourself from those that care and in fact to this day friends and family on the whole know little of the extent of my circumstances then or those that followed.

The one thing I have learnt, through reading your blog, would be how much luck plays in our lives and easily anyone of us could find ourselves in the situation as yourself.
Is there any one thing, which if you had done differently would have changed the outcome?

There are things I could have done differently, other choices I might have made but I doubt I could have changed the outcome. When your whole life starts unraveling and your situation continues to worsen despite your best efforts there comes a point when you lose hope and with that goes your ability or even desire to attempt any further seemingly futile action. To a certain extent you begin to accept what you already believe to be inevitable. I also doubt my ability to have acted on any possible courses of action, given my state of mind at this low point, even if they had become apparent.

The best and worst….

Your most frightening experience so far…

Closing the front door to my home for the last time, fear for personal safety sleeping outside, being so cold you believe you might never wake if you do sleep, being forced to leave my temporary accommodation due to threats of violence from an alcoholic whom I called the police to after I prevented him from attacking a young girl and many more.

The most surprising experience?

Most surprising has been the charity and compassion I received from people. There was a lady who ran the transitional accommodation I was staying in that knocked on my door one day with a bag of groceries. People who have given me furniture, paid for carpeting, arranged transport, some of whom have never even met me. Some of the comments that have been left on Homeless Tales also, particularly those that state they have had their opinions changed for the better as a result of what we have written.

What has been the single most important thing you have learnt about Yourself and the Homeless?

Experiencing homelessness has changed me. Whilst I appreciate comfort I no longer have the same materialistic urge that I once did and I sincerely hope that I never have to suffer that type of competitive need again. I am more compassionate than I used to be and I am more comfortable with who I am as a result. I have learned that compassion is more prevalent at the lower end of the social scale; empathy breeds compassion. It is no coincidence that the poor are statistically more charitable.

Hobos, train hopping and the freedom life without the trappings of our society has, as seen in many movies, a mysticism to it, when the reality of life is far different.
What is the biggest misconception you have learnt so far?

There is nothing glamorous about homelessness. Unless you are a highly skilled Robinson Crusoe type it is extremely tough living outdoors. There is good reason why people only go camping in the warm summer months. It is really difficult to sleep when you can’t stop shivering no matter how many layers of clothes you wear. This combined with poor diet and often depression causes chronic fatigue. Even if you are fortunate enough to possess well-honed survival skills, few people are able to cope well with the isolation and social exclusion that homelessness brings.

Stay tuned for ‘Part Two: New Beginnings!’

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38 Responses to “Go Tell Tales! Part 1 Garden Special”

  1. mike says:

    Great interview Kessa – funny how the mind plays tricks on you – you know homeless people are the same as you really, just in extreme circumstances – but there still is the intial disconnect between the images in the interview and the intelligence and soul in the answers.

    • A/C says:

      Thanks mike..

      You are right there is no difference this has shown it can happen to anyone given the right or wrong conditions….

    • Gareth in Thailand says:

      Totally disagree. It can happen to everyone but it doesn’t. Why is that/ You can argue circustance etc but to be honest I’m with UC on this one.
      Let’s look at the system in the UK. If you become homeless (still not sure how you can be so simply useless as to allow that to happen but…) you could go into a shop and steal some nice high cost goods. If you get caught you can not be bailed to no fixed address so you go to a bail hostel and can then begin to use the welfare state system to get you on your feet.
      If you get away with it then you can sell the goods and use the cash to get into a bdesit then take advantage of the welfare state system to help you get up and running again.
      Of course you could just buy extra strength lager, loads of face piercings and a scabby god no a piece of string and pester the shite out of those of us who manage our lives a touch better.

      • A/C says:

        If it was that simple then I am sure many would do exactly that..

        Some people simply dont understand how the system works, others with mental illness… and you are assuming that the homeless are a bunch of thieves… wrong again….

        Many you would not even recognise as being homeless… the fact that most people do not find themselves in this position is more luck than management….if your world falls apart, and you can not cope… all sorts of things happen…
        count yourself lucky…

        • Gareth in Thailand says:

          I didn’t say they were thieves, I merely showed one option for gettin out of the situation.

          And no, I will not count myself lucky. Luck has nothing to do with it.

          “The fact that more people don’t find themselves in this position is more luck than management” sorry but that is really putting across a ridiculous view. If we truly were one step from a box then you would see a lot more than you do out on the streets.
          Don’t tell me part 2 is all about how he picked himself up got back on his feet and now runs a sheltered housing advice centre stocked with numerous lavendar smelling social worker types getting other losers off the street and how we should all be proud of him etc, etc.
          Sorry shouldn’t have got himself in the mess in the first place. I’ve offered homeless and beggars work before in the past not one has ever taken up the offer.

        • A/C says:

          quite frankly Gareth with an attitude like that I wouldnt work for you either..
          even the homeless have some pride….whether you think so or not….

          it is a shame that so many people have such a close and narrow viewpoint of what does go on out there….
          you can not say that because of the actions of one or two that everyone should be painted the same…

          and many of those living on the streets you would not recognise.. because they do take care of themselves and not walk around in rags….

          I truly do hope you dont suffer the same as Matt has, but then again if you did you may be able to see how easy it is… if your company went broke and suddenly you lost your job, your wife left you taking everything you had and your investment all went down the toilet… your perspective may change….
          Gareth down and out in Thailand.. could make an interesting post….

        • mike says:

          I don’t think people are really aware of how frail their lives can be Gareth – it’s all to easy to sit and pass judgment – but you can’t plan for a situation that would cause your life to cave in. You answer with logic – but sometimes if you are in an emotional mess, that doesn’t always cut it – people aren’t machines.

          Goes back to my original comment – we neeed to treat people as people, not commodities or projects.

        • Purple13 says:

          Just to wade in here and I may be speaking out of turn and I have nothing but sympathy for anyone in this situation – for whatever reason – i’ve heard some actually choose it as a way of life etc.

          My own experiences and those passed onto me include:

          A beggar who a the end of the day, walked out of town, jumped in his flash car and drove home etc.
          Most are of giving these people money which they then promptly spend on booze.
          Giving them a hot drink and a macdonalds and receiving a filthy look (presumably because it isn’t booze & cigs).

          It does give one the feeling that you just can’t help some people. I’m not saying they’re all like that and maybe its a few giving teh many bad press.

          Most bizarre was when I was on London Tube once and we spotted a load of ‘refugees’ begging at the station entrance. Next thing, the train tannoy announces they are on the train and advising not to give anything to them etc.

          It did ‘beg’ the question – where did the train fare come from or is it speculate to accumulate?

          In general, they may not want our pity, but they may want our help.

  2. uncle cyril says:

    he made his choice and took it

    sounds to me like a loser with a defeatist attitude

    • A/C says:

      hey Cyril

      Actually if anything he shows the opposites..

      not much in choices, but no defeatise attitude….
      Wait till part two.. you will see..

  3. Bo Snr says:

    G’day A/C
    Who gave you my photo ?
    Was it Bo?, Lib?, or Jim ?

  4. Donna says:

    What an interesting story. Most of us (especially now) are a couple paychecks or so away from homelessness. I am anticipating part two!

  5. Moolf says:

    Very interesting story!!!

  6. Sarah says:

    I was homeless before, for only one night and that alone scared me to death..

  7. Rod says:

    You know, I give to the homeless whenever I can. I agree with Donna, so many homeless people now due to the economy and who will be next..
    I think a few bucks here and there if you have it means a lot to the recipient and I’ve even secretly bought a few of them a meal when I’m in a fast food restaurant and see them in there have a cup of coffee as that’s all they could afford. Many friends say I’m a fool because they’re all “addicts” and will use the money for alcohol. drugs or what have you. I feel if I’m giving it with a good heart and for the right intentions, what they do with it I will never know and it’s none of my business.
    Thanks for this post, well written and Blessings to all who can help when they can.

  8. This is a wonderful article. I can’t wait for the second installment. Homelessness is nothing more than a circumstance that can happen to anyone. My own husband was once homeless. We have been in situations where his street smarts were needed. My husband knows where to find food, clothing, and shelter. If we were to end up losing our home in a fire his knowledge would come in very handy. Being homeless requires a lot more resourcefulness than having a home.

    • A/C says:

      GDay mate…

      It certainly would… most wouldnt beleive the people who have been without a home at one time or another.. part 2 shortly..

  9. uncle cyril says:

    ‘where his street smarts were needed’


    you’ve both begged/ drank furniture cleaner/ mugged people

    sorry but there are plnety of resources to help the homeless but some want to be able to continue to drink all day and behave badly and get state support- sorry tramps not on my watch

    • A/C says:

      some may be drunks, drug addicts but not everyone, some have mental illness and the health system has failed them, other fall through the cracks…

      perhaps if you stop thinking of the stereotypical image you see on the Television screen you could see the big picture..

    • proofpositivity says:

      Yes, for our children we have begged, now come on My husband doesn’t drink nor do I, and neither of us have EVER mugged another person. If you live in an area where jobs are few and you’re practically in the woods knowing there is a church nearby for the kids to eat is a good thing. My husband wars and has worked 40 hours a week since we met. His dad kicked him out even though he paid rent to his dad. So, you comment is unfounded and uneccesary. Yes, we get food stamps but we do not drink and my oldest of 3 made honor roll and the other 2 stay home with me. Try walking in anothers moccasins it will do a world of good.

  10. Lib says:

    Fascinating stuff AC and it really is a pay check that seperates us all.

    I think the main differences between ending up homeless or not is the infrastructure of family and friends that people have around them.

    And possibly pride.

    I do slightly agree with Cyril in that there are homeless people out there that simply do not want to be helped but how does anyone know if no one tries? Its a massive generalisation.

    I think the homeless tales blog is a cracking idea. It brings it closer to home which inevitably creates understanding.

    • A/C says:

      hey Lib

      I guess there are some who dont want help, but that doesnot mean we shouldnt try and help those that do… the numbers of people wanting and needing assistance is growing everyday…
      the Blog is a cracker… and well worth a stop by….

  11. The Dove says:

    “When your whole life starts unraveling and your situation continues to worsen despite your best efforts there comes a point when you lose hope and with that goes your ability or even desire to attempt any further seemingly futile action. ”

    When things are most dismal people may need others to step up and offer hope..

    Homeless Tales is so well done. Never underestimate the power of shared experience.

  12. Jim says:

    Thanks for sharing this here at GSTF AC….How did you get to know about Matt?

    Inspired me to youtube the topic and this US / teens issue is popular:


    I’m looking forward to part 2 and thanks for a great interview…

    • A/C says:

      Thanks Jim..

      I have known Matt for quite a while… during his and my travels.. nice bloke

      Your youtube clip is great thanks for adding it in..

  13. It’s a great blog that I read regularly. Well-done story!

  14. Tomislav says:

    I don’t understand that he didn’t ask his family for a help. Asking someone for help after being distant is a problem, but it is larger problem to be homeless. I’m afraid that his judgment is not too good. Or he has some issue with the family he didn’t want to discuss in the interview.

  15. Knightvolt says:

    Many view points found here on this subject, so it would be unfair to slam anyone my being negative with a harsh Attitude. Now here is what I have seen in the field their be some out there that may suffer an injury and get behind on bills then it is hard to manage unless you have savings set aside which it seems most do not, if you have a family with a spouse not working and you suffer an injury and then get behind on bills it is worse without some kind of help soon someone will be homeless, however there are some programs that will help families there are none that will help a single male, Once a man had a finger cut off and went through surgery to have repaired being it happen off work he lost his job went through a year with no income and even with help from relatives it was not enough, but he struggled on with a truck that he had paid off before the accident he finally got a job at sears started part time then went to full time then he got a weekend job on the side soon after this he got a part time job working overnight stocking the man did all this for about 8 months during this time he slept in the truck and took showers at the parks before he got everything turned around. this is all true for I was that man and that was the worst time of my Life as a homeless person..PS others out there may have missed the chance for that first break that I got all I knew was in my mind I was not going back..Today I have my own home and Land with Transportation paid for by my own hands with will power and faith I achieved it.

    • A/C says:

      Well down Knightvolt..
      Nice to see you in the garden…
      You never know the things which effect each of us…
      and surprises round everycorner..

  16. uncle cyril says:

    nice story volt

    high four!!!

  17. [...] called Homeless Tales.  It’s a wonderful piece so head on over and Go Smell The Flowers.  Go Tell Tales Part 1 Garden Special New Beginnings          Go Tell Tales Part 2 Garden Special New [...]

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