Homelessness in Britain – One man’s fascinating story

12th June 2016 / United Kingdom

The Philosophy of Recovery by Thomas Helm

Before Jeff Hubbarb began to sleep rough on the streets of London, he had already experienced his fair share of the vagaries of fortune. The American author, Paul Auster, once used the phrase ‘scorched by fate’ to describe the plight of his homeless protagonist in the novel Moon Palace. The word ‘fate’ is a good word to use, in so far as it situates the individual within a social and circumstantial structure over which he or she has little control.

The son of a fighter pilot for the New Zealand Air Force, Jeff grew up in a beach hut on the Polynesian island of Fiji. It was a period of intense colour wrapped up in layers and layer of conservatism, the conservatism of his father and the military, and the conservatism of the small White, racist community that lived apart from the native population. These conservatisms dictated the rules of life and without television or radio, there was nothing and no-one to contradict them. It was paradise. And it was nowhere. A mirage of reality. A bubble.

Unlike many homeless who are born into impoverished, broken families, Jeff’s family was a rigidly secure, if stilted operation. Jeff remembers his father telling him once, “Son, you need more discipline. You should join the armed forces.” Jeff’s reply was simple. “Dad, I’ve been in the armed forces since the day I was born. I’ve had a commanding officer too: you.”

The old fashioned military understanding that rank and the way you present yourself to the world determine value also permeated his family relations. Children were at the bottom of the ladder; to be seen but not heard. There were neither conversations, nor lengthy discussions. Life was what it was, and the duty of a child was to obey. Affection signalled weakness. And the world required strength, not weakness. According to Jeff, his father wanted him to be a fully formed adult from the age of three.

In 1968, when Jeff was 12, the family relocated to New Zealand, where the Technicolor of Fiji faded into a flat and formless grey. Suddenly Jeff did not feel special anymore. His family was but one more white family among many others, and the sense of his superior race nurtured in Fiji became irrelevant. There was no-one beneath them to make them feel better about themselves. It was a fall from grace from which sensitive, melancholy, pubescent Jeff would not recover easily.

His father sent him to an all boys boarding school in Blenheim, in the days when Blenheim was still a nowhere town of 15,000 people (nowadays it is the thriving hub of New Zealand’s wine industry). Although the rest of the world was still far away, here, at least, was television. He remembers watching the grainy black and white images of the Vietnam war, the horror and futility of his father’s profession, and thinking, for the first time perhaps, that all was not well with the world. It was the first time war had received live coverage, and the world watched with baited breath. Jeff, more than anyone, was a newcomer to these charades.

At school he learnt the price of innocence. He remembers proposing a game of cowboys and Indians to a group of boys with whom he was attempting friendship. Their cruel schoolboy laughter would echo across his life for many years. Cowboys and Indians was a child’s game. Fiji had caught him in an emotional as well as a social time-lock. Shame was the currency of his confusion.

When Jeff finished school, he longed to escape New Zealand, to see some more of the world. After two years in the civil service, he had saved enough money to book passage to Australia. There was no looking back. Even today Jeff has nightmares about New Zealand. He dreams that he has lost his Passport, that he is stuck there forever.

The day after he stepped off a plane in Melbourne, someone told him he could find work as a casual labourer if he went to the Spencer Street Railway Yard early in the morning. There he saw a crowd waiting for an official with a clipboard to emerge from a small hut. When he finally came, he would pick out faces seemingly at random. The first two days Jeff was turned down. The third he was sent to the docks.

It was a time of plenty. Wages were high, the unions were strong. Any man who appeared willing to work could turn up, request a job and expect to be well paid for his pains. After a few months on the docks, Jeff decided to try his luck as a train driver, and presented himself to the railways head office to make his request. They put him on a training course that started the following morning. Six weeks later he was driving enormous locomotives across some of the most inhospitable tracts of land on Earth: the Australian desert.

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This golden age would not last long. The same restless curiosity that had prompted him to escape the mental prison of Blenheim-New Zealand kept reminding him that there was a world to see. Time is short when you are 22. Everything is possible.

Two years after presenting himself to the railway head office, Jeff found himself sitting with a friend on an airplane bound for England. Their idea was to buy a camper van and travel across Europe. Later, Jeff would discover his love for Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’. “It’s almost as if that book were written for me,” he says wistfully, a man of sixty, with deep wrinkles beneath his amiable eyes. “That whole way of thinking was my life for many years.”

In 1978 his money ran out. He found himself stranded in a multi-bedded dormitory in a hostel in Earl’s Court, London. It was the winter of discontent, a time of protest, strike action, and for the first time in the post-war boom years economic uncertainty. One year later Margaret Thatcher would use the unrest to legitimise the application of a radical new ideology: free market economics. Britain would exchange John Maynard Keyes for Friedrich Hayek, community for the individual, nationalisation for privatisation, egalitarianism for corporatism, interdependence for self-reliance. Over the next thirty seven years national income would double – but so too would poverty levels. Britain would pass from being one of the most prosperous and equal societies in the world to being a country superficially rich but with much poverty and insecurity. London would become one of the principle battlefields of change.

Youthful, resourceful Jeff stepped up to the challenge. In 1983, after working various Jobs, he and a friend founded their own business: a travel agency. It was an immediate success. They made money by selling cut-price air tickets for major airlines who wanted to fill their planes. Money flowed in. What started as a simple idea and a thousand pounds of savings became a successful business which, at its height, employed 22 staff members. In 1986, when the magazine Harpers and Queen featured his business in an article, many more began to take interest. “The article implied that cheap airline tickets were an Asian thing and therefore untrustworthy. But we were white Antipodeans. 100% credibility.”

With success came marriage. His wife was the daughter of a Finnish war hero turned wealthy mink farmer. They used to take holidays together on her private island. It is difficult to think of anyone who embodied more the virtues of Thatcher’s brave new Britain: strive to survive, sell to get ahead, shoot first and ask questions later. There was no such thing as society, only individuals and their families. In the name of money, everything is permitted. Like Jeff, Thatcher, the daughter of a greengrocer, had risen from humble origins. Together they gave the myth of meritocracy credibility. If you followed the rules, the system worked. Just don’t look down.

When Jeff fell, he fell hard. In the recession of 1992, after some difficult moments, his company finally went bust. Stripped of his wealth and status, he felt completely naked. There was no room for failure in the new free market – corporatist society. Even the very idea of the welfare state was anathema to Thatcher’s Britain. The winner takes all and the loser is shamed and forgotten. Thatcher practically destroyed the trade unions. Even today, British workers are among the least represented in the Western world. “Here begun my journey into hell,” said Jeff.

“Somehow, I always knew something like this would happen. It was my father’s prophecy coming true. Son, he would say, you will never achieve anything.”

Guilt rubbed salt in the wound of his shattered self-esteem. During the good years, his accountant had persuaded him to start up a franchising company to sell his business model to budding entrepreneurs. Only the majority of these ‘entrepreneurs’ were not natural businessmen. They were impoverished people who lost their jobs when Thatcher closed the mines and their investments were a combination of their life’s savings and redundancy money. What they bought was a failed business model. Jeff’s business model. At the nadir of his depression, Jeff would anguish over what became of these lost souls, how many of them ended up on the streets like him.

Jeff is proof that empathy and sensitivity are the enemies of ruthless business acumen; that someone who ruins not only himself but the lives of others cannot always find the will-power to “bounce back” and “re-invest” Gordon Gecko style. He was the inverse of the sociopathic tendencies of the wolf of wall street. Although definitions are notoriously imprecise, an estimated 4% of CEOs are psychopathic (as opposed to 1% of the general population), according to research conducted by journalist Jon Ronson. One only has to look as far as someone like Martin Shkreli, the Pharma CEO who raised the price of an AIDS drug by almost 5,000%. Profit does not understand the human cost.

Convinced that he was on a path to hell, Jeff let his marriage fall apart and sleepwalked into the first job that came his way. His new role as ‘salesman drone’ did not suit him well. Although he had enjoyed building up a business that he believed in, his new job required him to practice deceit with a smile. “I wasn’t a happy salesman,” he says, happy to be free from those times. “I hated persuading people to buy things whose pitfalls I could see so clearly. The trouble is, I was always on the customer’s side.”

To assuage his pain Jeff sought the consolation of oblivion. At the end of each working day, he would drink and smoke himself into a stupor. The world faded out. Nothing of himself remained but monotony and escapism.

Such a rhythm of life is difficult to sustain indefinitely. In 2004, he returned from a holiday in Hawaii, closed the door to his flat and did not emerge for two years. While the bridges of his former life, his work, his friends, crumbled into nothing, depression and drugs pushed him to the limits of his sanity. He became obsessed with thinking about what would happen if God were to appear on Earth. Often he reached the same conclusion. That life was so utterly vile that God would destroy everything in a heartbeat.

One rainy day in January 2006 his money ran out. His landlord told him to leave. The door of his flat shut behind him. The black and white of the streets greeted him. He was completely destitute.

When Jeff became homeless, his feelings were confused. On the one hand, he was free from the black hole of his former life. On the other hand, he was completely destitute without a clue as to how to survive on the streets.

His initial reaction was shock and disbelief. During those first wet, cold January nights, after wandering aimlessly through the city, he would find himself, as if driven by an automatism, in the same street of his old flat. Only when he was a few steps away from the front door would he remember that he no longer had the keys. In those moments he remembers thinking, “I really am a failure. I don’t even know how to be homeless.”

More than fear, Jeff was deeply embarrassed by his predicament. He did not want anyone to know that he was homeless, because of the stigma attached to homelessness in Britain. Nor did he want anybody to help him because that would only intensify his shame, even though ‘his best friend’ was a successful Harley Street dentist. “Every story is different, but the big question is, where were their social networks? Many people think they have one. Then, when they finally fall through the drop zone, they suddenly realise that all their friends are actually acquaintances.”

He felt as though an aura surrounded him, a glass between him and the world. They, the normal people, were going about their business. Sitting in offices. Buying things. Talking to their mobile phones. While he could only think to himself, “I have nowhere to go, nothing to do. I’m hungry and I’m cold and I’m wet.”

To mitigate his shame he would hide. At night, if he wanted to rest for a few hours, he would seek out the darkest, remotest corners of the city. In the day he would enter libraries surreptitiously and crash out between the least frequented bookcases where few people would see him.

Fear gave him another reason to hide. He had heard stories of homeless people set on fire for fun in Hackney. In 2007, Garry Turner, who was homeless at the time, was beaten to death by three youths who filmed the attack on their mobiles (in England this type of assault goes by the name ‘happy slapping’; that it has its own name shows that it happens too frequently.) Emily Hamilton, a care worker for the famous soup kitchen Connection, quoted one of her clients as saying:

“It doesn’t matter what age you are you’re still scared. First night I slept on Germaine Street, Piccadilly and it was about three in the morning and four men were urinating on my face.”

Despite awareness of such crimes, Jeff was more scared of the police than the public. According to him, the City of London is generally empty at night because the City of London police immediately move on any homeless people they find. Even if the speculators who operate in this neighbourhood are part of a system that facilitates the production of so much poverty in the world, their own streets should be kept clean. The gatekeepers admit no beggars.

In a bid to resolve his crisis, Jeff presented himself to the local council, thinking they at least could provide him with some emergency accommodation. He was shocked when they said there was nothing they could do. London is one of the richest cities in the world, a symbol of status, progress and power. British governments are able to spend billions of pounds building a new underground line, or to lavish money on disposable baubles for the Olympic games. 850 billion pounds alone was spent to bail out failed banks that had ruined the country. But for the seemingly modest task of housing the poorest, those without a roof over their heads, apparently there is not enough money.

The lady at the council office handed Jeff a list of private charities and told him to be on his way. Some of the hostels were closed, others full up. The famous charity ‘Shelter’ suggested he try a hostel six miles away. But he had no money for the bus fare. Disillusioned, he walked away.

Four difficult weeks later, he decided to seek help again. On the now crumpled piece of paper that the council lady had given him he noticed the address he had not seen before. It was the address of a day centre in St John’s church of Hackney, just a few minutes down the road.

There he went. Without expecting anything, he knocked on the door. A man opened up and asked him what he wanted. Jeff said that he was homeless. The man smiled and said, “that’s the magic word, come in!” When he sat down in the warmth people started asking him questions, taking an interest in his life. When they gave him a cup of tea he burst into tears.

The shame Jeff experienced is a common story among the homeless. Dr Emma Jackson spoke of her encounter with a young Somalian woman who was living in a hostel in central London but keeping it a secret from her friends and family. Fixed in constant motion, she had to make long journeys across town to keep up the pretence. The most obvious examples of homeless people are the ones who let themselves be seen. But there are many like Jeff and the Somalian woman, who are desperate not to be seen. According to the Poverty Institute, today in Britain there are 3,500,000 statutory homeless (both ‘primaries’ and ‘secondaries’).

The idea that poverty is a consequence of individual failure has deep roots in Britain. According to a recent government survey, 35% of English people believe that “most homeless people have probably made bad choices in life that have got them into their situation” as opposed to 27% who believe “most people have probably had a bad start in life and society has treated them unfairly.”

The prevalence of the former view exists despite clear evidence that the increase of poverty levels in the UK is a direct consequence of structural, societal forces: changes in job and housing opportunities, soaring rent costs, a shortage of social housing, an insecure job market. Since 1983, GDP has doubled, but so too have poverty levels, as the 1% have enjoyed a larger share of profits and those at the bottom of the ladder have seen job security diminish, salaries stagnate and prices rise. The average pay ratio between a CEO of the FTSE 100 and the average salary is 219:1 (409:1 for the minimum wage), according to research conducted by Equality Trust, a dramatic increase since the seventies. None of this is the fault of the individual.

Nor is the current housing crisis. London tenants pay an average of 72% of earnings on rent, according to the latest figures from the English Housing Survey. This figure jumps to 88% of earnings for the 16-24 age group. While the CEO of the supermarket Tesco’s pays himself around £7,000,000 per year, the lowest paid workers receive the minimum wage of £6.70. The average rent of a one bed flat in London is £1,500, a month, a 12.5% rise on the previous year, according to Homelet. That is 223 hours for someone on minimum wage, to say nothing of taxes and bills. This is virtually impossible. The majority of English people are just three pay packets away from destitution, according to Shelter. The result is more overcrowding, more roomshares, more insecurity, more vulnerability and more homelessness. While rough sleeping has doubled since 2010, “secondary” homelessness has risen by a third. None of this is the fault of the individual.

The current government’s undiminished political will for further deregulation stymies hope for change. One obvious solution to the housing crisis is the installation of rent controls. But this is unlikely to happen, because of the assumption that interference is ‘bad for the markets’. The other solution is to build more council housing. But free market theory vehemently opposes any expansion of the state. In the present day, at the height of the housing crisis, the government is actually doing the opposite. It is selling off social housing, which puts more pressure on the private rental market and pushes up rents. This further accelerates the process of the transfer of wealth from the poor (the homeless and the tenants) to the rich (the landlords) and is tantamount to a type feudalism in which the winners take all and the working poor work so their landlords can go on holiday. None of this is the fault of the individual.

If the odds are so clearly stacked against people at the bottom of the pyramid, why does such a pronounced culture of shame surrounding poverty even exist? London is an extreme, intensely materialist city, with echelon upon echelon of class, prejudice and snobbery, a city where money is the most common measure of value. “Society does not exist, only individuals and their families,” proclaimed Margaret Thatcher, a self-fulfilling prophecy that accelerated the atomisation of British society, setting man against man, dog against dog.

Add to this highly competitive, materialistic environment a sustained propaganda campaign that stigmatises the poor as lazy ‘parasites’ and the ideology of shame is complete. In 2010, the conservative party spearheaded their election campaign with the slogan: “let’s cut benefits for those who refuse to work.” The idea was to shift blame for the recession away from the bankers and onto the welfare state. In 2012, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne described the “unfairness” of the shift worker getting up at dawn to see the closed blind of his neighbours living a life on benefits. Many newspapers corroborated this narrative with headlines such as “four million scrounging families in Britain” (The Daily Express). But this is a vast distortion of the facts. Only 3% of the welfare bill goes to the unemployed. 50% goes to pensioners. The rest goes to people who work but do not earn enough money (what is known as ‘in work poverty’). This is tantamount to a subsidy for landlords who charge high rents and employers who pay low wages. – another example of a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. It is a type of socialism (wealth redistribution through taxation) for the rich.

One example of the success of the shame narrative is its internalisation among the poor themselves. Sophie Malleson, an ex-case worker for a liberal democrat MP, used to deal with many housing benefits claimants, and especially families in overcrowded accommodation. What struck her as odd was the way some would speak of others they knew in similar situations. “They would say things like, ‘we’re genuine but that family next door, they’re good for nothing, they’re lazy.’ They would try to distance themselves, to promote a sense of difference, when in reality there was little difference.”

2010 General Election Campaign Poster

2010 General Election Campaign Poster

A few months after he had wept over his cup of tea, Jeff began to participate in philosophy classes (at this moment he was living in a disused railway signal box in Hackney). These classes, run by the homeless charity ‘Crisis’, took the form of roundtable Socratic dialogues. In the context of a hierarchical society that systematically stigmatises the poor, meeting in terms of perfect equality can be a powerful experience. “They were deeply therapeutic, for me,” affirms Jeff. “An important step on my road to recovery.”

A warm, humane, and eloquent man, with blue eyes and a black and white speckled beard, organises the classes. His name is Paddy Gormley and he closely identifies himself with the plight of the homeless. After working many years in financial services, he entered a deep depression, lost his job (in 1992, the same year Jeff lost his) and suffered all the humiliation of a fall. The difference between Paddy and Jeff is that Paddy had a house to fall back on and a family to support him during his moments of crisis.

“The principle loss I’ve observed is the loss of self-esteem,” he says to me in a crisp English accent that does not betray his Northern Irish origins. “Once self-esteem is gone it is terribly difficult to rebuild. But I believe there is something powerful, emotive and infinitely remedial in participating in these discussions, as those who have been denied a voice for so long, who suffer so much violence at the hands of the system, begin to realise they are capable of the most astonishing, most beautiful thought. Such value has no limits.”

The structure of the class is anarchic. There is no teacher (Paddy is merely a mediator). The students are not students. They are contributors. Listening is the principle virtue. The emphasis is on conversation. Unspoken rules are absorbed by osmosis.

The classes owe some of their popularity and success to the idea that the homeless have valuable insights to make; that extremities can produce startling clarities which often elude those who live comfortable if shrink wrapped lives. This is nothing new to philosophical thought. It is found in the Stoics and the Cynics, in philosophers such as Boethius who postulated that bad fortune is actually good fortune in disguise because it shows us what is real in life.

“When you’re homeless,” said Jeff, “You’re more likely to see the structure of society, the scaffolding, the way things are put together. There’re no more distractions. You don’t have to worry about keeping up appearances or the mortgage. You’re homeless. You’ve been stripped of everything. The scales have fallen from your eyes. You see what’s going on. And it can either make you feel angry or sad or helpless. But almost every homeless person I have met has something to say, something to get off their chest. They want to speak.”

Vision has always had an association with suffering. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus, a talented, resourceful man, blinds himself when he finally sees the horrific truth of his life, but becomes more real than he was before, a vagabond-prophet who has learnt from his mistakes and no longer inhabits a false consciousness of reality. What are Greek tragedies but spectacles that celebrate the wisdom that is born of error and misfortune? In the words of the philosopher Alain de Botton: “The audience does not leave the theatre thinking of Oedipus as a loser (even if he is no longer king). Greek tragedies show that terrible things can and very often do happen to good people. Therefore we must be sympathetic and kind in the face of failure. This is something that appears again in such Christian teachings as the ‘meek inherit the earth’. Poverty erodes arrogance and invites dependence on the divine.” Jeff Agrees;

“Homelessness changed my perception of myself. It helped me realise what is real and what is not. At last I understood that I didn’t need to compete with anybody or worry about what others had. I didn’t need to make false comparisons and say to myself I should be somewhere because they were there and I was not. These days I am a complete cynic and totally at home with being the benign nihilist that I am. There’s probably sod all value in anything other than feeling good about being alive. The rest is nonsense.”

From the window of the classroom you can see the immaculate skyscrapers of the City of London. The phallic Gherkin gleams insolently in the fog. Men with expensive suits rush about outside Liverpool Street Station.

In the classroom everything is still. A group of twelve men of various ages and nationalities are sitting at three large tables that have been pushed together. Some have beards, some are shabbily dressed, some are clean shaven, some are smartly dressed. There is no one single image to homelessness. It can look like anything.

The topic Paddy sets at the beginning of the class serves as a divining rod, a wand to draw a flow of thought out of memory and experience. This week the question is on right and wrong. What happens when two sincerely held but mutually exclusive opinions collide?

After patiently waiting his turn, N. begins to speak. He resembles the stereotype of what some people expect homeless people to look like. He has a bushy Karl Marx beard, soft, amiable blue eyes, long fingernails and cuts across his leather hands.

“I heard this story from someone who goes to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). There was a group sitting in a room. A speaker comes along. A medical guy. He presents two bottles to the class. One is labelled ‘pure water’ and the other ‘pure alcohol’. He takes a worm out of a tin and puts the worm in the bottle marked pure water. And the worm just swims about. He takes a second worm out and puts this worm in the bottle marked ‘pure alcohol’. This time it dissolves. There’s nothing left of it. Silence in the class. After a minute or so the doctor says, ‘right what does this teach you?’ A lady puts up her hand and says, ‘so long as I carry on drinking I’ll never have any problem with worms.’”

N. quickly follows up the story with his real point. “It’s not always about the right or the wrong answer. It’s about a problem with the question. Take these kids with learning disabilities. You expect them to perform in certain ways. And when they don’t, you tell them they have a problem. But sometimes I think it’s more a question of teaching difficulties than learning difficulties. Right and wrong are never black and white.”

A broad shouldered, dark-skinned man is next. He takes an absolutist stance on the issue. “Sincerely held beliefs mean nothing to me. Last week I read in the newspapers that some parents let their nineteen month old baby die of meningitis because they believed in natural cures as opposed to medical intervention. That is clearly wrong, is it not? Who cares what the parents sincerely believed?”

The notion of sincerity is examined, questioned, critiqued.

Paddy states his approval at the turn of the conversation. “Creative thinking,” he affirms to the class, “is always based on uncertainty. There’s a thing called inductive reasoning. You take a bunch of facts, then you spin anything you like off them to create a completely new thought. It is the most enjoyable thing. We do it here, of course, twelve fold, every week. If you know everything already, what’s the point in speaking?”

Theo begins to speak. He is clean, smartly dressed young man, with a proud and powerful voice. “That gentleman said he was from the middle east. But the middle east didn’t exist until the colonialists came along and started dividing and separating peoples. Is that right or wrong?”

“There are some people on this earth who are called terrorists. Who calls them that? Is that right or wrong? Weren’t the colonialists also terrorists? And if not, why not? Instead of looking at right or wrong, I think we need to look at what is righteous and what is unrighteous. Is it humane? Is it good for the universe?

“True freedom is the ability to unite with others in a way that benefits everyone. It is freedom from oppression, from slavery. The wrongness of society pushes us away from that unity. Money is our god now. Money is the god of gods. When you have money, you can do anything you like. We need to remember the original purpose of living on this planet, which is neither right nor wrong, but to live righteously, to live humanely.”

homelessness and the story of one man

From The Telegraph


Although homelessness is on the rise, Jeff’s story has a happy ending. After discovering a passion for photography at Crisis, he decided to become a freelance photographer. He is now in stable accommodation and runs photography classes for Crisis. A poacher turned gamekeeper, so to speak.

In 2012 he became the first member of the public to take an official portrait of Prince William. The Telegraph could not resist a sensation – it ran the headline – ex-drug addict takes the Prince’s photo. Jeff, benign cynic that he is, was able to laugh off the attack. “There is a lot of cynicism among my students”, said Paddy. “Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is armour for the real world.”

Jeff specialises in black and white photography. “It’s that thing that black and white does, it takes away distractions, it seems to give you tunnel vision towards what’s actually in the photo, as opposed to your eye being distracted across everything. There’s a deep need in me to create those photographs. It covers a whole spectrum of emotions, including nostalgia. It takes me back. I can see some of the pain in my photographs. Because I can see it, I can deal with it. I’ve never had much confidence in my ability to do anything, which is why I was delighted when I started liking my own photography. If you read the Golden Bough, you realise that society has always known this, that you need to get this dark stuff out of you. Even if it is by some kind of voodoo thing, a fetish, a religion, philosophy, whatever, it takes the pain with it.

“I believe we’re a cosmic joke. Life forms. So what? We live, we die. End of story. There’s no heaven, there’s no hell. The nice think about being dead is that you don’t know about dying. Heaven, hell, purgatory, it’s all here on earth. There is nothing else. Some people would worry about that. For me it takes away the fear. You weren’t supposed to be here anyway.

“As long as society forces people into roles that do not suit them; as long as violence is directed, at an everyday level, to the poorest among us, people need places like Crisis to recover, to look back into the mirror, and say, hang on a minute, perhaps it isn’t all my fault. Perhaps society does shoulder some of the blame. Perhaps there is another way of being.”

“One of the things I know is that it’s been a very interesting life. I wouldn’t have had it if I hadn’t been me. There’s no point wishing to be someone else. Bizarre the way the world is. You might as well accept this life. There’s no use wishing it away. Whatever happens to you, good bad or indifferent, so long as you are of this mind-set, it’s worth having. Imagine going through life and never knowing the huge disappointments, the failures, and only having success. At some stage, you would say to yourself this is boring as hell.”

Homelessness and the royal photographer

One of Jeff’s photographs. Reprinted with kind permission



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