What is homelessness? Well, I can only describe my version and hopefully you might understand why I live the way I do. I am not asking you to agree with me or even accept my way of life, just walk with me on my journey.
My name is Andrew. As a Chinese proverb said a very long time ago ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, and so it did for me.
I walked out of London many years ago wearing a suit, I had no other possessions, I was alone and lost with no idea of where I would go or what my journey would lead to. Throughout that walk I learned I was not as alone as I thought.
I walked for seven years, every day between 25 and 35 miles.
Stupid, stubborn, pointless.
Lost, angry and alone.
On bad nights I would shout and scream at God, foolishly putting the blame on him for everything and wishing to be struck down as my loved ones so cruelly were.
What would you do if one day all that you loved was taken in a violent act?
I spent seven years not seeing, hearing or even living – just simply surviving. A change was needed and a discarded news paper shocked me when I saw the date and year.
I had been angry for seven years and that had got me nowhere so it was time to start a second journey of a thousand miles. Hopefully with a bit more purpose.
So this time a walk with a purpose, but where to start?
Deciding to start talking again would be a start, then may be some kind of work occasionally. It may not be a great plan but small steps were needed and this was a small step in the right direction.
I don’t know what went through the mind of the person on a little farm I walked up to. I am six foot four and must have looked like a wild, crazy man. I really thought they would shut the door and call the police or maybe even set the dogs on me!
We slowly talked and to my amazement that afternoon I was at home in a very beautiful little barn with a flask of coffee and some doorstep sandwiches. I worked for my food and clothing and a couple of weeks flew by. However self sabotage struck me hard and I left one night, it felt too much, too soon.
This pattern would repeat itself many, many times until I realised that it was as damaging to me as to the people helping me.
Time for another walk.
Eleven /twelve years have now gone by, what next?
The hardest journey lay in front of me now.
To face my loss and rejoin society in a meaningful way.
Welcome the flower.
One beautiful morning I had my back against a tree overlooking a little valley. Notice the subtle change of my wording, beautiful – valley – flower. I can see and hear again, subtle things are working on me.
As I watched the sun rise over the valley I saw a little flower open its petals and throughout the day it turned and followed the sun on its journey. Metaphor for me to ponder I wondered?
Watching that flower let me think about my life and that the past should not control me anymore.
My present was not to my liking so it was time to make a future.
So another walk was needed and a plan made. I hoped that this time I had the inner strength to make it happen and I could break those old habits.
I walked to Bristol where the people and culture was very much like Camden but on a bigger scale. It helps that I had been there before and had camped by the gorge close to Brunel’s Bridge, how’s that for a bedroom light! It did not take long to realise that the idea was right but the place was wrong so my last walk was only eighteen miles to Bath. This would be my ‘home’ for six years, sleeping in and around the countryside within ten miles of the city centre.
A visit and a drawing I made in a museum would finally give me a purpose.
A drawing of a sculpture would lead to self employment and to be a part of a well recognised project that let people with lived experience of mental health issues and disabilities join a art group lead by professional artists and supported by me. So me, a homeless person working for a museum, working with vulnerable people, providing care and help, showcasing my work and displaying work throughout the museum for the public to see.
Thank you little flower.
My journey has not finished and I now find myself in Poole, a new place and a new set of challenges but a place I feel positive and I’m looking to the future.
Lots of amazing people, Christians and non Christians helped and encouraged a very reluctant person. They have helped me turn my face to the sun and follow a future I did not have the faith to follow myself.
Not all homeless are helpless, to be pitied or scowled at. It’s not much to ask I think, to show encouragement to everyone regardless of their status, this is what makes us better people.