Desmond,
Leeds city centre

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How old are you?
I’m 50 years old. It’s a good age to reach after all the crap I’ve been through. Over the years I’ve abused my body with drugs and alcohol and I’ve seen people die left, right and centre in their thirties and forties. So I’m pleased to reach the half way mark.

‘The temperature dipped last night. I got an extra blanket’

How did you first end up homeless?
I was 22 when I started using drugs. I had my own house at the age of 18. I did a bricklaying course and got into the building trade and I was self-employed. Had a wife and a kid. I turned up at this one job and there were these lads sat around this room smoking a spliff. That’s how it started. My wife couldn’t handle the drugs and I ended up walking out on her, on my life. I pissed everyone off I knew – my family, all my friends. I lost everything. It only took about a year for things to fall apart.

What drugs did you use?
I used to be into speed. That was my poison. But I haven’t touched it since the year 2000. Speed is a horrible drug. It’s hard on the body because you don’t eat properly when you’re on it, and it’s hard on the mind. It’s a confidence drug. When you take it, it makes you feel 10 times better than what you do naturally, so when you stop it’s like coming back to the reality. And then you’re lacking in confidence, then everything is negative.

Where are you living now?
I’m on the streets. I was staying in a derelict caravan last year but I’ve been travelling on and off for years, selling The Big Issue and Big Issue North in cities up and down the country. I’ve been to all sorts of places – Cambridge, Reading, Bristol, Exeter, Bath. I was in York for the last few weeks and this morning I turned up in Leeds.

Are you worried about winter coming?
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that lately – where I’m going to be. It dipped last night. I felt it. I got an extra blanket and I slept with my socks on for the first time. I could feel the cold close around me. If the weather turns really bad I will do something about it. I don’t really like hostels. I find it hard to follow rules and I don’t like being woke up in the morning. I’m a bit of a rebel. And the thought of being in a flat, on my own, with a remote control in my hand and just lying on a sofa – that’s not for me.

What make you happy?
I wake up happy. I think I was born happy. If I didn’t have the magazine, I’d be stressed and miserable because I need to have something to do. I can’t just sit around.

Do you know where you’re going to sleep tonight?
No, not yet. I’ll sell some magazines and then just follow my nose a bit and find a place to sleep.

Do you have plans for the future?
No. I just woke up this morning and I thought – where am I going to go? A mate went down to Sheffield but I came over to Leeds. I don’t know where I’m going to be one week to the next. Sounds like a daft old life, doesn’t it? But it is what it is. There’s no point in trying to understand or explain it.

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