Lucy’s photofilm on the Guardian

(Update – July 2013: ‘Be Myself’ won First Prize in The Press Photographer’s Year 2013 Multimedia category and was shortlisted for the Anthropographia 2013 awards.)

Over this project, I spent many days and months working with Lucy.  Today her story, in the photofilm Be Myself, was published on the Guardian website.  There’s been some great feedback, including comments from many people who have recognised Lucy’s extraordinary strength and bravery.

Lucy’s story speaks for itself. It’s not easy to watch, but it offers hope, and her struggle sheds light on issues that too often and for too long have been ignored.

If you would like to comment on the photofilm you can do so on The Guardian website, or share it through Facebook or Twitter.

To watch the film, please click on the image below.  Warning – You may find some parts of the photofilm upsetting.


Nearly 2000 people visited ‘Where from? Where now?’ exhibition

Nearly two thousand people came to see the ‘Where from? Where now?’ exhibition, which ran for five days from 14-18 November, 2012, at the gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank.

Through photography, print, audio and film the exhibition told the stories of 15 of the women I met whilst working on this project. Through their individual stories, and the insights of the people who support them, the exhibition explored the reasons behind women’s homelessness.

Exhibition: gallery@oxo
(Photos by: Henrik Andersen, Connie Taylor & Georgina Cranston)

Women’s Stories

The words and recorded voices of the women themselves have formed an integral part of this project. So, when curating the exhibition we wanted to give the women’s stories as much space as possible, as so often interviews can be cut down into sound bites and play to stereotypes.  Detailed personal stories accompanied the photographs for 14 of the women.

The stories, told in the women’s own words, and the accompanying audio and photography gave visitors the opportunity to really appreciate the difficult and complex issues faced by these women, as well as helping to challenge their perceptions of women’s homelessness.  Something my photographs alone could not do. It was really uplifting to see visitors to the exhibition taking so much time to read each story in full.

To read these stories, listen to the audio and see the photographs please visit: Women’s Stories.


‘Be Myself’ was shown for the first time at this exhibition.

Over the eight months I spent documenting the lives of homeless women in London, I came to understand that, for many, the chaos and trauma of homelessness is a symptom of much deeper problems, and almost always of lives shattered in childhood through abuse and neglect.

Few women who have experienced such traumatic childhoods are ready or even want to tell their stories. It’s just too personal, too painful. Lucy was different.  Through the process of therapy she had started to confront her past in a brave attempt to build a future:

“I think I wouldn’t be able to sit here and talk with you if I hadn’t started the process, because I wouldn’t be able to be that honest about what’s happened and then say it without blame, just say it as fact, and how I see it.”  Lucy.

This is Lucy’s story. It’s not easy to watch but it offers hope.  And because her struggle sheds light on issues that so often go ignored, it needs to be heard.

The film does contain material that some people may find distressing.

Comments from visitors to the exhibition

  • “As a homeless person myself I have seen just how these poor people have lived. Many are casualties from family breakdowns and [these] can have a far reaching effect just like drugs. Very good exhibit. Very honest testimonies from each person on the wall.” Ray B
  • “It’s good to hear these untold stories. When you wander past people sitting on the streets you often wonder what their stories are… but you don’t feel right asking why – it wouldn’t be fair. I’m very grateful that this exhibition has allowed me to hear the real stories behind homelessness.”
  • “I was incredibly moved by the exhibition – simple, straight-forward, beautifully and sympathetically filmed and photographed. A powerful and disturbing documentary and an accolade to the bravery and tenacity of these amazing women.” Colette B
  • I have been lucky enough to have both my parents throughout my life to support me. Seeing these ladies here tonight has made me realise how grateful I should be. Reading the stories, viewing the photographs and listening to the speeches, well…I had goosebumps. I am so thankful to St Mungo’s, and all those who have supported this exhibition, for making me more aware about women sleeping rough and allowing me to read their stories.”

Where now?

The exhibition was designed so that it could travel and has now been donated to St Mungo’s, whose women’s strategy this project supports. The strategy aims to improve the support and services available to homeless women, so that they are able to rebuild their lives and achieve their potential.  St Mungo’s will continue to use this exhibition to raise awareness of women’s homelessness and ensure that these women’s stories continue to be heard.

To learn about St Mungo’s campaign focused on women’s homelessness, go to Rebuilding Shattered Lives.

To see media coverage of the exhibition please visit: WFWN in the media.

WFWN in the media

With a footfall of nearly 2000, the work from the exhibition ‘Where from? Where now?’ reached hundreds of thousands more through coverage in national and international media.

Alongside listings including Time Out, Metro, Guardian and Inside Housing, the work was featured in online and print media including BBC and ITV, as well as in homeless-sector specific media such as CONNECT – the quarterly magazine for the umbrella body Homeless Link and on their blog.  I was also invited to appear on ITV London Tonight on the six o’clock news during the exhibition itself.

The exhibition will continue to reach people as it was designed to be a traveling exhibition for use by St Mungo’s.  On close of the exhibition, the entire show was donated to the homelessness charity to support their women’s strategy that aims to improve the support and services available to homeless women, so that they are able to rebuild their lives and achieve their potential.

Here are some of the publications (Click on the image to see the article/feature):

Photogallery on BBC London News

ITV – In Pictures

CONNECT – The Magazine of the homelessness sector (plus blog)

The Justice Gap

Firecracker – online platform supporting european women photographers. November feature.

Photofilm: Be Myself

The film does contain material that some people may find distressing.

Over the eight months I spent documenting the lives of homeless women in London, I came to understand that, for many, the chaos and trauma of homelessness is a symptom of much deeper problems, and almost always of lives shattered in childhood through abuse and neglect.  These were stories that my photos alone could not do full justice to – the words and recorded voices of the women themselves are at the heart of this project.

Few women who have experienced such traumatic childhoods are ready or even want to tell their stories. It’s just too personal, too painful. Lucy was different. Through the process of therapy she had started to confront her past in a brave attempt to build a future:

“I think I wouldn’t be able to sit here and talk with you if I hadn’t started the process, because I wouldn’t be able to be that honest about what’s happened and then say it without blame, just say it as fact, and how I see it.”  Lucy.

This is Lucy’s story. It’s not easy to watch but it offers hope.  And because her struggle sheds light on issues that so often go ignored, it needs to be heard.

This photofilm was first shown at the ‘Where from? Where now?’ exhibition, which was a culmination of the work from this project and ran from 14-18 November at gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank. Through photography, print, audio and film the exhibition explored the stories behind women’s homelessness through the words and reflections of 15 women. The other women’s stories, audio and photographs (as shown in the exhibition) can be found on the Women’s Stories section of this website.

A duckrabbit production

Photography & Audio: Georgina Cranston
Produced by: Benjamin Chesterton and Georgina Cranston
Music Score & Mixing by Joff Winks,
Videography by Jaimie Gramston and Felix Clay


Maria, 25 (incl audio)

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

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

“When I was 13, we moved because of my Dad’s job. I just rebelled. I started smoking. I started getting into drugs, smoking cannabis. I started having sex at 15, quite an early age. I look back now and think that was too young.

When I was 15 my boyfriend tried killing himself. He was 16. And there was other issues with him that I never really told anyone about. I didn’t class it as rape because he was my boyfriend – even though I was begging him to stop. Then I met my baby father when I was 16 – he was 22. I started using heroin with him, it was a nice warm floaty feeling and I forgot about my ex. I never really dealt with what he done to me really. I just blanked it out by using the heroin and before I knew it I was addicted.


I was living with my parents but staying with my partner a lot. The abuse that went on in that relationship was unreal. The arguments we used to have. It wasn’t love. The way he used to talk to me, being sworn at like he used to swear at me, call me names. That’s not love. All because he couldn’t find a vein, couldn’t get the drugs in his bloodstream. My parents found needles – it wasn’t that they kicked me out, I left because I was so ashamed.

My daughter was born on methadone. I was lucky she wasn’t really ill. I was scared she was going to get taken from me. Even when my mum and dad stepped in, it still didn’t feel like I was her mum. I got clean from the drugs for a year and a half. But it was boring for me, being sober. The way I’m used to dealing with feelings is by blocking it out through drugs and that’s what I done. I went back to using again. I walked out. I couldn’t cope. I moved in with my partner. And then he left me for another girl. Obviously my parents weren’t willing to take me back after I’d walked out on my daughter, and I was homeless.

I’ve been on the streets, here, there and everywhere. My mate broke into a caravan once for me, and I slept in there. I’ve slept in cars. In public toilets. I did go to services and ask for help, but help is not always there. One hostel said, ‘No, you’re over 24, the max age’. There was a lot of only-men hostels but no only-women hostels like in London. I got taken to this place by the spot [outreach] team, but I didn’t stay as I was scared to be sleeping in a room with loads of different men. I feel I let them down really – they were trying to help. The only hostel I was allowed in, I was kicked out because I wasn’t there enough. You have to be there four nights a week, which is fair enough.

When I come to London, I was scared because it was not my area, it’s a big place. Everyone’s up and about, even late at night. I came with an ex but I split up with him because he was trying to get me working the streets. He wanted the money to spend on drugs, and I thought, ‘I’m worth more than this’.

Women definitely feel more vulnerable on the streets because obviously you can get picked up. A man picked me up where I was just sitting. I wanted to be warm and somewhere safe – even though I didn’t feel safe. He didn’t force me, I chose to do it. But I was so drunk I just let him. Then he took me back in the morning to the station. I felt so dirty, gutted that I had done what I done.

I use drugs, I’m not normal – how people in society would see normal. It’s not normal to be sticking needles in yourself, is it? I think mentally I’m still at that age of 16. When you’re using, even though you grow up physically, mentally you don’t.

People say, ‘If you stop your drugs you can be with your little girl, it’s simple’. But it’s easier said than done. It’s not just an addiction. It’s a habit, a way of life. People think, ‘Oh you’re asleep all the time, you’re gouging out on drugs, you’re out of your nut’. But it’s hard work, it’s very tiring, it’s horrible. And it’s very hard to change.

At first you take the drug for a buzz, but once you become addicted, you use it to feel well. If you haven’t used you are awake all night, your body feels tired but your head feels wide awake. Even walking up the stairs, that’s hard work if you haven’t used, you just feel weak and ill. I know people say I put drugs before my daughter. I don’t see it like that – it’s like methadone is a medicine that keeps me well.

I haven’t had a proper relationship with my daughter because of my drug use. She knows mummy takes medicine, she doesn’t know what for. She loves seeing me – it’s when I have to leave that it hurts. She is starting to cry and really cling to me. I can’t even go to the toilet without her following me up the stairs. It’s too much for me to deal with, that I can’t even walk up to the toilet.

She hasn’t got her dad because he’s a user as well. It does make me think I should sort myself out. But in ways it’s made me worse. I think, ‘What’s the point? I might as well use because I haven’t got nothing in my life’. When I am allowed to see her it gives me that boost to get clean. I badly want to be a mum to that little girl. I know my parents would give me that chance. They’ve been brilliant. But the fear of feeling ill and dealing with all the grief is more powerful at the moment. I’m gutted. Gutted.”

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

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.

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.)

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.

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.)

Suzana, 37 (incl audio)

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

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

“The first time I tried heroin was to kill myself. They had taken my kids like I am a useless person. So I bought three £10 bags and injected it. I so wanted to die, and in a way I did – because the next day I was just a heroin addict. Maybe not the next day, but that’s what it was heading for.

I was a happy child to the age of 11. But my mum left and my dad was a social drinker, so I was on my own a lot. I was 14 when I fell pregnant with my daughter. Her father got done for sexually abusing someone that was too young. I went to a mother-and-baby hostel and ended up getting my own place. Everything was great, but then I got pregnant again.


My partner was battering me – I was in a bad old way. He did it in front of my daughter one day. I got rid of him but he’d still come round, smashing windows and doors. It was a living nightmare. When you are from a small village, it’s not like London. Everyone makes assumptions. I was struggling and instead of people trying to help, I was just being watched constantly. They treated me like the enemy.

Social Services had to come back into my life. They took my children away because we got busted for drugs. It was the worst feeling in the world. It’s like your heart’s been ripped out. That’s why I tried to kill myself. I set fire to my flat, I tried to hang myself – I fell on my arse as usual. I got done for arson and I spent a lot of time in a mental hospital.

There is no going back from that, really. I feel guilty that I should have been a better mother, I should have done things better. I just felt like I was damaging everyone. I was desperate to get out of the place. So I ran away to London.

Back in them days you had squatters’ rights, so I weren’t really on the streets. I’d go from place to place and do anything and everything – things I shouldn’t be doing for money. I was calling myself an honest thief. I would never hurt anybody or rob anybody. I was begging, people were giving it to me. When I got introduced to crack, that’s when it got really bad. I got arrested all the time, just for walking the streets. They say prison is a bad place, but it saved my life so many times. I used to turn up at court really ill because I hadn’t had my drugs. [In prison] I’d eat and sleep and get better again. If I didn’t have them lie-downs I would be dead.

I have been offered help but I never necessarily took it. When you are in the midst of it, you don’t think you need help – it depends on the person, and when they hit rock bottom. Some of these workers make you feel small as well. They don’t know how to deal with people. They’ve studied the human mind and all that, and they think they know everything, but they haven’t necessarily lived it. I always feel really uncomfortable talking to arrogant people that look down their noses at me. I think they should get more people like ex-users and ex-working girls to work with people – they’ve been there, they understand.

I eventually got help because I ended up with pneumonia and I was in intensive care. [The hospital] sent me down to the housing place, and they got me in a hostel. I went to detox and they put me on a methadone script which really helped stabilize me. I am four years clean, but now I drink, which I never did before. I have filled the gap, but with drink.

I was living in a hostel and because I was behaving myself, not bringing anyone back there, and had my methadone script, they thought I was independent enough to go to shared [semi-independent] accommodation. I have been here a long time now. I’ve been in hostels with loads of drug addicts, loads of drinkers. I don’t think it would be a good idea to go back to a hostel like that. Whereas here we have all got our own individual problems, but we are kind of half-way to solving them.

When you first come off the street or out of nasty hostels, you’ve got to get your life together. You need time to recover. Normality is so far away. It is very important to have time to be able to get yourself sorted. My next battle is going to be with the drink. I am always gonna struggle for the rest of my life, but it is very important to have time to be able to get yourself sorted.

This is the first place that’s ever felt like home to me. I had these little pots of paint and I was sick of the blank walls – it reminded me of a prison cell. So I thought I will make a difference and at least I have got something to look at, so I got a sponge and just started.

In a way, I am glad they’ve done it [taken her children]. My kids are gonna have a better life. So I don’t beat myself up any more, they’ve had a good life, that’s all that matters. I am in the process of trying to find them now. I always wanted to meet my kids, even if they don’t want to see me. I don’t mind, I just want them to know that I loved them very much and I am looking for them. On their birthdays I get a card, write a letter. I got nowhere to send it. I have got them in a big bag under the bed. But when I do meet them I will give them all then.”

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

Georgina, 20

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

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

“I was a really quiet person when I was young, really withdrawn. Now you can’t shut me up. I’ve actually become a little bit madder, but also a lot more confident since being on the street. You have to.

I ran away when I was 18. My dad raped me when I was 14. He was an alcoholic so he doesn’t know he did it. He’s always been an alcoholic because of stuff that happened with his dad. He was always violent if he was drunk. He had knives to mum’s throat, armed police at the door, all sorts.

27th December 2011 'Georgina', 21, homeless in Central London. (See case study)

When my best friend died that was the final straw, my head went. I was like, ‘I’ve got to get away from this place’. I ended up on the streets and I was drinking pretty much from the first day. Alcohol will always be my poison. On the streets you have some of the longest days in the world. If you’re sat shivering in a doorway, just you and your thoughts, it’s either get drunk or take drugs. Or, as I used to, try and end your life.

Now I don’t even want to get indoors – I feel more comfortable sleeping in a doorway than in a bed. It’s like the saying, you can take a man off the streets, but you can’t take the streets off the man. It’s easy living on the streets. I’m quite happy with my life. Being a female makes it harder, but it is OK if you’ve got a good group of friends around you. You don’t have to worry about anything. I’m not very good with stress any more. On the streets, I don’t have anything to lose.

Women are definitely homeless, but they just hide themselves in more discreet places. Not many go to the day centres either. They’re more likely to be in squats because at least they’re behind doors – even if they’re not very good ones. You’ll never really see a single female on the street, because every girl just gets coupled up.

If a girl sees a guy that’s got a place, quite a few will just be like, ‘Oh I’m coupling up with you’. I could never do that, just go into a random stranger’s house.

There’s one person I would trust with my life, and on a daily basis I pretty much do. We met in the day centre of all places. We’re just friends. He would never try to push anything. It’s been an on and off friendship because of moving around, but we kept in touch through Facebook and kept up with all the gossip.

There’s something about London – it’s the easiest place in the world to be homeless. You’ll never go hungry, there’s always a food handout. I had one of my best Christmases this year, spent in the doorway. We had our own Christmas party. There was a really kind person who brought out roast dinners for us. We all managed to get drunk and have a good time and everyone was just really happy.

Something’s always happened to stop me living indoors. That’s just become my way of life. If you’re in a difficult situation you can just walk away. It’s easy because this is not a real world. It’s bizarre, street life. One day I will have to face things. But at the moment I’m happy, so I don’t see the point. If I had my own flat it might be different, but they won’t give me my own flat because of my age.

I can’t commit to anything. Even now I won’t even commit to a city. I’m just wandering all over. I used to love fencing. I was starting to enter competitions and then I left. I went to college to study Law, Economics and Business, but then I got it into my head that I’d rather work with children. My idea was to teach kids how to canoe, kayak, that sort of thing. But since I got a criminal record it’s no chance. I can’t even volunteer with children any more.

I’ve been to prison a few times for assaulting police. When I left prison they put me in a shared house with someone who was doing heroin. After about four or five days, I was like, ‘I’m going back to the streets. Screw this living in a house business’.

I’ve been sectioned twice. They’ve given me psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, key workers, everything. And I won’t engage in it properly. In a way I don’t know what to tell them, because I don’t know how to put these sort of things into words. And when they start asking certain questions, I’m just like, ‘How do you think it makes me feel? No, it made me really happy. It put me in a good mood for weeks!’. What do they expect?

I could claim benefits but I choose not to. I’m not doing anything to deserve money. I sit and beg, and that’s someone’s choice to give me money. If it’s coming out of their taxes, then they’re working for me to just do nothing. It’s not really fair. I don’t agree with benefits if you’re not actually needing them. Which I don’t.

I would like to work. I’m thinking of going abroad in March. It’s the start of the picking season. Work for a few weeks and off you go to the next place. I love to explore. My favourite thing is to just walk for hours, and sit and read a book for a while in the middle of nowhere. A lovely person saw me reading the other day and went and brought me back a couple of books. I’m really into my crime and thrillers, but I love all books really.

I’ve never wanted to rely on other people. I’ve never sofa-surfed. I don’t like the feeling of slinging myself on a person. How would they tell me they’ve had enough of me? I don’t want help off the services. They force help on me, they really do. But I’m happy as I am. I have no want to change my life. Which is quite strange…”

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

Amanda, 44

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

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

“I’m homeless and living on the streets. Why? I was married for 17 years and my partner used to beat me up. I had children so I had to wait until they’d grew up before I could actually leave. When my youngest sorted her life out, I ran away. I got into a refuge because the council thought my children were with me. He ended up finding me and smashed the place up, so I got kicked out.

I had to squat or find friends and sleep there. I don’t like asking for anything. I never have. I think I have to do it myself. But that’s what you got to do – go round places, friends and ask if they could possibly put you up for the night. Make excuses so they don’t really know. You don’t like people to know you are this low in your life. I’ve been doing this for about the last five years. Just going here, there and everywhere, people’s sofas, squats.


If you see an empty property you just try and get in. Some squats I’ve been in, neighbours have called the police so you have to get out quick. You just find somewhere else or you sleep on the street. It’s terrible, you’re scared all the time. A female on the streets is vulnerable – you don’t know if you’re going to get raped, if you’re going to get attacked. You go round asking for help, but most hostels round here are for males, so women just have to get on with it on their own.

You get some nice people. But two weeks ago when I was out begging two blokes in suits stamped on my feet as they walked past. That ain’t nice. There’s no need for that.

About a year ago when I was begging I got attacked. I met a guy who stopped these two blokes from beating me up and we became good friends. When you are on the street you have to help each other out. There’s people getting raped around here and attacked, so you do have to look out for each other. A bloke offered me £30 to go and sleep with him. I said no. It’s only because I’ve got a friend that begs across the road that I knew I was safe.

I didn’t like my childhood. I hated school. And the kids on the estate, a couple of them tried to rape me at one time. It wasn’t a very good time. From eight years old I had to look after my dad. I cared for him until he died. He had emphysema, bronchitis, problems with his legs. I’d wake up, go to school, come back, do the handwashing, cleaning, prepare all the dinners. Never went out to play. I couldn’t. My dad was too ill. My mum’d be out. She used to be alcoholic. When her boyfriend died I looked after her for three years until she died.

My relationship with my eldest daughter is good. The youngest is more for her dad, which upsets me as I used to have to protect her – I used to hide both of them under the beds or in the wardrobes and make sure I got the beatings instead of them. They don’t know I’m living on the streets. I go and see them and make excuses why they can’t come to me. I wouldn’t want them to feel like they’d have to take me in. Or maybe it’s the embarrassment of how I got to this stage in my life. I don’t know.

I’ve always been on my own. I’ve never had any counselling or any support from anyone. I’ve coped with it day to day myself. That’s my life story. I’ve been to local authorities. The services are terrible. If my children were younger they would’ve helped. I can’t get into council accommodation so I can’t get anywhere permanent to live. I’ve tried three or four times. The only thing I could do is save up about £1,500 to get a deposit and advance rent. Which ain’t going to happen.

I feel tearful, angry. It feels like I’ve been destroyed. It’s because they don’t help. You go to the library and look on computers. Newspapers, friends. People on the street talk to each other. We’ve done everything. There should be things on the radio, TV. There are women on the streets that need help and there are young kids out there who are just starting. They’ll end up getting attacked. They need a place of safety. A room of your own which you know no-one will be able to come in and attack you, you ain’t going to be kicked out of.

Eventually I would like to have a little farm where I do organic gardening. And I like photography. I’d like to go away and photograph a lot of things. I’d like to travel. I’ll get there one day. Slowly but surely. You’ve got to live day by day. There’s really tough days sometimes. Sometimes I don’t get enough to eat. But I don’t want to die yet, so you’ve just got to pick yourself up. I think of my dog and my good friend, and it’s not like I’ve got nothing.”

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