I first became aware of John on Twitter around 5 years ago as @bullringbash
He stood out, amongst the crowd of organisations and individuals in the homelessness sector, since he was obviously challenging people’s stereotypical visions of those who are homeless in a very unique way.
Not only was John candid and eloquent but he knew what he was talking about (he has been homeless on and off for 30 years) and he spoke in a very refreshingly honest manner.
Over the years we had sporadic contact with each other until in June this year I finally managed to meet up with him in London whilst visiting Mark Horvath @hardlynormal who was over from the US for a brief visit. He turned out to be even more of a legend in person with a brilliant sense of humour and a very engaging personality.
Mark Horvath managed to convince John to sit still long enough to film two video interviews which have been uploaded on to the Invisible People website.
After meeting up with him John ended up in hospital with serious health issues and he is currently in a hostel in London whilst negotiating his way through the tangled web of statutory services, hostels and the ‘priority need’ criteria for accessing accommodation.
It was while he was posting on Twitter about the joys of being able to eat toast (not something that is ever considered to be a luxury) that I came up with the blindingly brilliant idea of asking him to speak out about his life and his experiences on the street whilst he had access to free wi-fi.
And so this is the story of John Bloggs… in chapters and in his own words. Typed by him on a smartphone and then uploaded onto the Doorway blog by me under his own account.
I have no idea how this is going to play out but this is the whole reason that I set up the blog in the first place. A platform for those who are rarely listened to in our society – giving people who are marginalised a voice to speak out…
Lisa Lewis, Doorway July 2017
The Diary of John… who wears a label… but being homeless is not an identity. Just an event in a person’s life. For some it’s just one page in a book of life. For others a chapter. For a group of people termed ‘entrenched’ it’s many chapters in their lives. Including how my life has unfolded in front of my eyes. Age is just a number but the benefit of the reader I am now 65 years old.
Homelessness. A very emotive word. But when you’re young it does resonate later on in life. There have been lots of celebrations going on about the film ‘Cathy Come Home’ which is now 50 years old. Well my thoughts are what’s to celebrate when you have lived that experience in the past. By this I mean living in many B&Bs at the age of six years old till almost nine years old.
My parents in the early fifties decided to emigrate to Tasmania on what was called the £10 assisted passage. We were literally at Southampton docks ready to go and my mother found out she was pregnant. Terms of assisted passage was no children under two years old. Well this is my understanding of what happened and told at an early age.
My next memory was seeing my brother born. Just after. The next time I saw him he was nearly seven years old and we were on the move. No end of different B&Bs and which also meant I went to lots of different schools with all the moving. At some I was behind with school work at others I was in front. But found out later the seeds were sown. A destiny pathway. Forever moving later on in life without any roots.
Eventually we settled down. My brother came back to the family. He had been living with my mother’s parents in Cornwall. I did not know him at all. Stranger! Even had an accent I did not understand.
He felt the same. This was not home for him either. Kept running away back to what he thought was his parents. I can’t imagine he is nearly sixty now. We have not spoken in thirty-five years. Only just recently found out where he lives too.
End of Chapter One.
I will intersect here… In my early sixties I find out I have a daughter which I’d heard about in passing conversation. 33 years ago. Talking to two guys I had worked with on a short term contract I met again some years later who told me about her. But thought just telling me stories in a pub! I did check but could find nothing. But 30 years later and looking through the internet on a New Year’s Eve cause don’t drink no more find this name. Look it up on Facebook which I’ve never used before. More on this later.
It’s part and parcel. Things you can miss forever. That people take for granted. Sitting at a table as a family eating a meal together. Well all I can say is what’s that?