Joe – Liverpool City Centre

“I’d like to hear the news reader say homelessness is over, it’s gone.” 

How did you become homeless?
My marriage fell apart because I was gambling. I once spent the money for the cable bill on a bet. I thought I could make a good win, make some money, pay the cable bill and take the wife out for a meal. But the horse stumbled 500 yards from the line and I lost the money. That was the beginning of the end. The wife threw me out at Christmas and at first I blamed her. But it wasn’t her. I know it was me. I was gambling, drinking, not paying the bills.

What happened then?
I slept rough for a couple of years. Well, I just walked around the back of the hospital. I barely slept, always knowing that someone could just do you in when you were sleeping. I knew of one lad who was killed on the streets just over a cigarette. I thought that when you were on the streets, someone would just come and give me a flat. I was too proud to ask for help.

You’re in a flat now – that must feel good.
If I lost my flat I’d kill myself. I can’t do the streets again. It’s hard out there – especially now. They stamp on you, kick you, urinate on you. There was this one lad who I knew – I saw him one time and his hand was all charred black. Someone had set him on fire.

And how is life now?
Life is much better. I gave up drinking. I was an alcoholic. I used to do two bottles of scotch a day. I was drinking since I was 13. A very good friend of mine, Tommy, he died when he was 35. He had cirrhosis of the liver and didn’t know it. His death helped me give up drinking, because I knew that if I didn’t give it up, I’d be seeing him again before long in heaven.

You’re a big Elvis fan, I hear.
It’s funny. When Elvis was alive, I couldn’t stand him. I thought he couldn’t act, sing, dance. If he came on the radio, I’d turn it off. But the night he died, they played all his records on Radio Luxembourg – and Tommy called me up and he said: “Go on, listen to his music, for me.” So I did. And the next day, I went out and bought as many of his records that I could get. That’s where my love affair started with Elvis – the night he died.

What support do you get from Big Issue North?
Big Issue North is a rock. The people who work here are not staff to me, they are like my family.

What are your hopes for the future?
I’d like to get up tomorrow morning, turn the radio on, and hear the news reader say homelessness is over, it’s gone. It’s not going to happen, not in my lifetime. But one day it will end.

Interview: Christian Lisseman

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