When tasked to write about the psychology of Liverpool, I asked myself “how could I possibly represent the psyche of the average Liverpudlian in 700 words?” The city has been moulded by hundreds of years and history and cultures from so many different countries that I found myself lost in the idea alone. So, I decided to pick one group in particular who have been underrepresented in almost every society. The homeless.
Wandering down Myrtle Street I was stopped by a homeless man, John (pseudonym). I agreed to give him money and asked if he’d be happy to answer some questions. John barely stopped to think about the question and started straight away.
– “I got out of prison after 15 years ago and decided to get my life back on track. Everything was going pretty good for a while. I’d paid my dues, found a job and got myself a girlfriend. After a while I moved in with her.” –
However, things took a turn for the worse for John. The most hard-hitting part of his story is that his situation could have happen to anyone.
– “We fell out and got a divorce… I lost my flat… and then my job. You can’t be working a full time job and then go and sleep under a doorway at night.” –
I can only imagine the feeling of losing everything you have after trying to build your life back again. I wanted to know what help he’d received, as I felt this might reflect the nature of the people and institutions of Liverpool.
– “I’ve not had much help from the council. Just a night in a hostel every now and then. I depend on the money I make but most people are good hearted. I can make up to ten pounds on a good day, even more around Christmas.” –
Ten pounds sounded like very little to live on to me. Even so, he insisted that people often bought him food and drinks, and such small gestures made him feel welcome here. Finally, I asked him why he thought the number of homeless people was so high in Liverpool.
– “You know the Government recently changed a policy over rent meaning that instead of having money taken out of their account straight away, they have to pay it themselves. I reckon 90% of the homeless are addicts. Not because they got addicted and ended up on the streets, but because once they’re on the streets, they’re surrounded by drug use. They use it as an escape. Now, if an addict has a choice between paying rent or buying drugs, you know what they’ll choose.” –
I’ve often heard people give addiction as a reason for homelessness, but this is the first time I’ve heard it suggested that it is a result of homelessness.
Even after speaking to John, a crucial part of the picture was still missing. I was lacking the thoughts of those not homeless and what their attitudes are towards those that don’t have homes. On a night out in town, I saw a man approach a homeless woman further up the road. Watching in astonishment, I saw them embrace whilst he handed her £20. He left her with “I love you” and walked away. I managed to catch up with him for an interview.
– “I love this city, but it breaks my heart to see someone like that” Allen Patterson told me. “I really hope she spends that money on a room and a way to get by. She might just go and buy a bottle of Bacardi, but so what if she does? She might get a roof over her head and tomorrow could be a new day for her. Look, most people have steady lives that just go up and up until they die. But for others it’s more bumpy. I bet it was for her. She’s probably been someone’s lady for the night before you know? It doesn’t mean she’s a bad person or had no morals. She could have had a perfect life until it went wrong one day.” –
He then left me with one final thought – “1% of the population own more money than the 99%. There will always be people on top, I’m ok with that. But the gap is too big. I would be happy if the majority of people could live a life as good as mine.”
Luke Jackson-Bluglass, Psychology student at The University of Liverpool.