Home (less)

I arrived home from my trip to London roughly ten minutes ago and it got me thinking. Over the last three days I have experienced many different versions of home. All of them are so far removed from each other that they almost feel like something completely different. Yet they’re all homes, they’re all versions of ‘houses’ that we live in either on our own or with other people.

I walked into a house full of students; a bunch of lads sharing a house. I don’t know how well they get along, I imagine there are times when tensions can be high and problems arise. Whilst I was there they played Fifa on the PS3, they watched television, they drank alcohol and they talked about things that people (namely boys) talk about. They may all have other homes somewhere else, but for the university year they share that place and in a sense they’re a family.

The film I helped to shoot involved strangers living together, which is a concept quite alien to me. I’ve stayed in hostels where strangers spend a night or so in the same room together and I suppose it’s a little like that. Except that you have two choices: you can either get along harmoniously or fight like hell. Like the situation above, issues can occur and it’s not always going to be plain sailing. But once again, it’s home.

I also went to see a photography exhibition about homelessness. Each and every picture told a story. They were all people in the public eye (actors) but in those pictures they were playing a role. Every photograph told the story of a life that is different to many people’s. Living on the street, sleeping out in the open, struggling to feed yourself or keep yourself clean. It’s a world apart from the other homes. Yet, the absense of a home is sort of like a home itself. It’s just extremely different.

I’ve lived my life in the same house. Even if I hadn’t, I imagine I would feel the same way about the house I live in. It’s home.

When I looked at the photographs at the exhibition I realised a couple of things. One photograph in particular stood out for me, the focal point was the person, but you could see where he was. It was a tunnel of some sorts and there were people in the distance. When I saw that something hit me which I never really think about when I think of homeless people. The usual thoughts around not having enough to eat or drink, not having a warm place to sleep weren’t there. Staring into his eyes and watching the scene made me realise that one of the biggest things a homeless person is faced with is a lack of security. Whether they become desensitised or not, the situation they’re in is not entirely safe.

Having lived in this house for all of my life I feel safe here. When I walked down the street, when I stroll towards the shop or the park, I feel safe. On a dark night, at three am, in a storm, I feel safe to be in this place.

If I take a trip away from home I often feel a certain level of fear, how well I know the place I’m going determines the level of fear that I do face, but it’s usually there in the background in some capacity. I used to feel an immense fear when in London, so much so that I almost held my breath until I left. I don’t feel that anymore, but there are still aspects of London that do scare me. Being out at night, in the dark is a big one. Taking a trip outside of Central London, as I did this weekend, scared me.

Arriving home, I went to type the words ‘home sweet home’ into Twitter and that’s when I connected the dots. When I feel fear about a place I am in, I always have the comfort of knowing that I can come home. No matter where I travel to, no matter what I do, eventually I will be on a bus, train, plane or even a bike, on my way home at some point.

Homeless people who lack security don’t just face potential dangers on a daily basis, but they don’t have that safe place. They don’t have somewhere where they can go that is constant, that is their home.

Living out on the street is hard, I imagine. Not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, not having the money to buy a hot drink on a cold day, being moved on by police from a location you were hoping to sleep in. I imagine you get used to it, you probably learn to live with hunger pains, learn to adapt to the cold, and just deal with being moved along.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been living on the streets for days, weeks, months or even years. I wonder if there’s ever a point where you actually feel like you’re in a safe place.

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