Jakki, 46 (incl audio)

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

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

“I tell you, I could write a book, you wouldn’t believe my life story. My first job was at the Miami boat show, just cleaning and washing the Donzi boats. I ended up getting lessons on sailing and racing, taking the boats out. We won loads of races. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale down to Antigua, Tortola, San Juan. I travelled the seasons.

I worked in Derecktor Gunnell, which is a famous boatyard. I lived on yachts. I was racing boats. I was first mate, next step to the captain. We used to swim with the dolphins and the whales. I’m telling you I had a life. I don’t know why I’m fucking stuck in this madness, really.


I was brought up in Ireland. I lived with my grandmother for four or five years, from 14. She wouldn’t leave her house to come back to live with us, so somebody had to go live with her. She was violent. I went to the States to get away from my Dad after he molested me. I was in America about 12 years.

When I went home to Ireland, I was catering in a hospital. I met a woman and fell in love with her, like an idiot, and I came over here [to the UK]. Then she beat me up. We’d bought the flat, we’d bought the car, we’d bought the dog, and I found out she’d cheated on me. So I just packed and left. No-one cheats on me.

I had no money and I ended up down Victoria Station in London. I slept there for a few nights, not realising about homeless centres. Then someone came up to me and said ‘We’ve got a shelter where you can get food, shower, clothes’. So that was my first port of call. I survived. And I’m still surviving.

At the start, I didn’t know how to ask for a cigarette, a cup of tea. Didn’t know how to do anything. And then the street guys taught me the ropes, how to beg, where to get food. There are some good people out there, even though we are homeless. You have to have confidence to go up and ask people. It took me two or three years. It’s not in my demeanour. But now it is. I’m ashamed. I am seriously. I am ashamed.

It’s not that I liked it – but when I get into hostels I’m on medication. It just makes me doo-lally. When I was on the streets, I never had to have a tablet. I was never hungry, I never went thirsty. To me it was good. The worst thing for being a woman on the streets is the bathroom. You’ll always find toilet paper in my pocket.

When it was getting cold, the outreach team brought me down to one hostel. I said no – too much drugs and problems. So that’s me on the streets again. I refused another. Then I went to another. Then I was back to my spot in the bushes outside Kentucky Fried Chicken. Lovely. Simple. Covered like a car park. I then went to a women’s hostel, good as gold. But it was a dry house. I’d still sneak in a drink. I’d get all this food and cook for the residents. I’d have my drink and what happens? Back-stabbing. I wasn’t kicked out, I just lost my temper. And I went back on the streets.

georginacranston · Jakki

I met a woman who I ended up with for three-and-a-half years. She beat the shit out of me. I had periods of leaving and going back, like an idiot. And then one day I smelled the roses and I left. I had to go for a brain scan for what she done to me. I was in a bad, bad way. But I’m away from her now, thank God. A year now.

I’m an alcoholic. I’ll always have a can of beer. I’ll always have a cigarette. I was a social drinker, but since I became homeless I just get cans out the shop. It’s murder. I wouldn’t wish alcohol on my worst enemy. If I stop drinking and get my act together I can get my life back on track. Get my health back, get back into work and even get back into sailing. Racing my yachts. But drink is my curse. As soon as that goes, I’ll be a completely different person. Since I’m in here [St Mungo’s] I’m down to about two or three Skol Supers a day. There’s no point in me going to detox because as soon as I come out, the first place I’m going is the off-licence. It’s going to be a waste of tax-payers’ money. I know my personality. I know my demeanour.

This is the best hostel I’ve ever been in. It is the only one I like. In here the staff care about you. They take care of the residents in every way. A blind man could see it. I can walk into the manager’s office and have a chat. At other hostels, as soon as you are called into the manager’s office you are in trouble. That’s why I’m here. Julie [the manager] is more a mum to me than my mother.

I’m excellently happy with the staff and management here. I’m not capable of moving on at the moment. And if I get my own flat I’ll have every homeless person in there. I like people around me. I need to get my health in order and get my head together. Then you’ll see a new Jakki. Put weight on, start eating, try to stop drinking. I’m a woman of many talents, I can paint, I was a good dancer. I used to do the whole head spins and everything. I still have the moves. I opened up my own record store. I can do everything. But I’m not getting on with my life.”

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

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