Hazel, 53 (incl audio)

This is Hazel’s story, told in her own words:

(You may find the contents of this story upsetting.)

“I’ve been re-housed and living in my own place for the last year and a half. The last time I was homeless was for four years. It was the hardest time. I’m lucky enough to have some old friends in London. Ask ‘Is it alright if I stay?’ and most people honestly would say yes. But you can’t stay. It’s not fair on them, their families or whatever.

So you stay for a couple of nights on the sofa, thank you very much, and you move on. You can’t stay long because you’re abusing people’s hospitality. You either stay in stairwells or you go to someone else’s place. Sometimes I’d go to the council [for housing advice and information] and somebody would be very nice to me, and the next time they were horrible. I’d come out crying. I didn’t go back because I found it too emotional.


If outreach had found me, I could have got re-housed. I gave up approaching people. I gave up trying to talk about myself. It was easier to walk the streets or sleep on friends’ sofas and deal with my own issues. I have no excuse for not keeping on trying. I couldn’t. I felt crushed. I needed somebody to show me a way through the doors to get a place.

Over the years you get so used to looking after yourself. You get used to pushing everything away. Your trust has gone. People have let you down. You build a barrier. It’s an unusual barrier because it can be easily broken. If someone’s kind to you, you can feel it breaking because someone’s actually looking at you and being caring. So when people step closer, it’s difficult.

I’ve been a drug user. I am an alcoholic. Stopping the drugs, the alcohol becomes the next dependency. I just wasn’t a tea-maker. It’s like a black hole, by drinking you don’t have to look into it. It’s like being in denial of not moving yourself along. I’ve never been afraid of the future. Never never never. It’s the things from the past that can hurt a person. By keeping busy I’m filling in the holes.

A lot of [homeless] women have been into care, or they’ve been physically or mentally abused, or ignored when they’re growing up, and they ended up on the streets. They are perfectly capable of looking after themselves without having to latch on to men and thinking that’s how they have to live. But they so want their relationships to work. They’re frightened to be on their own. So they worry about, ‘Why doesn’t he like me? What have I done?’. It becomes a cycle through the drugs – they rely on each other.

These women end up getting drunk, stoned, hurt. I think they talk to me because I talk to them. By selling the Big Issue they know where I am. I find, by talking about myself it opens the other person up. Then they don’t feel like it’s being condescending. I’ve always felt that if you can turn your bad experiences and use them and help others it’s a good way to move on in your own life. So it’s a give and take for me.

When other women speak to me they are talking to somebody who knows what can happen when you are abused or lose track of your own self worth. I’ve been through it, I’ve had black eyes, I’ve been pushed about. I went through bad times in my household. I honestly feel that I attract abusive men. I don’t know what it is, but it happened one, two, three times.

georginacranston · Hazel

I will not enter another relationship. I won’t. I must either attract that kind of man, or I bring it out of them. I don’t know what’s normal in relationships any more. Abusive men make you question yourself again and again. It’s like they’re ripping you apart. I think women like me are vulnerable because of our backgrounds and some of these men see it. I think they must have a radar. A man can take all your control away. It happens so easily, to slip into it, putting up with it and thinking it’s your fault you’ve been hit. It might sound crazy but that’s literally what happens. It’s because it’s knocked your whole being out of you.

I was really shy when I started selling the Big Issue. It’s not easy being a sales person. You gotta have the confidence to do it. I’d never sold things in my life. Then I started to say out loud what was in my head. I realised no one’s listening, they walk past so quick they don’t give a damn what I’m saying so that’s where it came from. And then I found people were laughing. The things I’d learnt as a youngster are coming out now. Like the drama, the music, the rhyming, the writing, all things I got awards and scholarships for when I was younger, they have come back full circle.”

(All material on this page is copyright of Georgina Cranston.  Text editing by Sarah Carrington.)

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