I Am Chris

Splintered glass
Punctured hearts
Sharp enough to cut out reality in hurried
Gulps of alcoholic fantasy.
Broken,

Pieces fragmented
Lives uprooted
Smashed. Empty bottles dropped on pavements that are now substitutes for
Home
Less bricks exchanged for open 
spaces that are never filled with anything except the blistering cold and bitter chokes of bad choices 
lingering residue on the only jumper I own 
Another night passed swigging to escape everything except my son’s face.

Innocence that witnessed my demise
Soft skin. Daddy’s eyes. Mum’s survival. 
Tears a blanket over shivering cheeks; remembering the loss
House. Wife. Child. Job. 
Gone.
Sketching patterns of deterioration on relationships that offered short term tenancy agreements on battered sofas 
Intensity of my habits strained generosity till welcome mats were removed 
And I moved on

To darker caves housing loneliness 
Harvesting despair 
Self-medicating a mental illness I didn’t know was there
Throat choking on words fermented with the breakdown of stability 
Unemployed wallet seeking change by any means necessary 
engaged my soul in activities I wanted to erase 
Many nights I wept
Questioning if hunger justifies theft?

The day my mind failed to project my son’s face onto the back of my eyelids
I woke up on an uncomfortable mattress; hospital bed
Unsuccessful suicide attempt
Yet the system was blind to my symptoms 
Discharged to revolving doors 
Till I’m back in NHS hand-me-down gowns; with second stage liver failure, jaundice and a skeleton barely four and a half stone 

Turning point. 
My story woven in the fabrics of a jumper; transformed. 
Reborn
Strength of character proven in my present
I am more than my past
Standing on pathways to my future

By Jemilea Wisdom

Glimpse (Bean)

More than a forlorn torso
blessing pavements with heat
in winter, I am one-stop adventure

Homes where care expired at 18
Street corners that became familiar
Freedom nascent from truant guidance

Resolution to make adornment of scars
Buses mapping the UK by free festivals
Loving her to Spain, hot arms, warm bed

Pockets swallowed by thirsty landlords
Cushion again for rocky pavements
Cardboard box allies, ale sunrises

Desolation zipping me away from society
Talked about constantly, rarely spoken to
Questioning the potency of my potential

Yearning for new freedoms in stability
Discovering purpose in reciprocity
Using adversity as fuel to flourish

Wonderings on a world beautifully corrupt
Opportunities withheld on false assumptions
Laughter excavated from tears and misfortune

Hidden stories. Human. Normal. Like you. Like me.

By Tolu Agbelusi

I am Viv

There are a whole bunch of us 
I am just one of many stories of people 
who take shelter on street corners behind cardboard newspapers and headlines.
Newspapers are made out of trees so maybe the rain is just a dog confusing 
my body for another spot to mark its territory.
At least, this is what you tell yourself to feel better 
about your clothes soaking wet due to the skies lack of empathy
on days the clouds forget your body is too fragile to be used as tissue
to dry their eyes
Out here you become a place for pedestrians to rest their sadness and pity.

I once heard some passersby say it could be worse
You could be like them
You could be homeless 
You could be sleeping on the street
You could be her
Her has a name 
My name is Viv

However.
Viv is not something worth sharing
amongst those who think I and their worst nightmare
are blood relatives.
I was once a child in someone’s womb
though pedestrians insist that
it was the beer bottle or liquor that got me here.
They forget that once, you were just like them and then
you offer an explanation for your situation by saying the following
This is no drunken conversation 
This is shivering bones trying to start a fire 
I am just trying to keep warm by any means necessary
even if survival resembles an alcoholic 

Come close
place your fingers on my wrist and feel my pulse

Can you hear the voice of the man I ran away from?

Can you feel the baby kicking inside it screaming ’Mum! Where are you?’

Can you feel the weather attempting to drown out their voices?

Do you know every breath I am taking right now comes with a question mark?

There are questions inside my wrist you cannot answer with loose change

You call the bottle of liquor in my hand getting drunk
I call it the closet thing I have to central heating
since I don’t have a house anymore
I don’t see my children anymore

The worst part about being on the street is knowing that there is a better future waiting for when your eyes are closed

I try not to keep them closed too long

I try to leave them open

You’re right.

 It could be worse.

Thanks for the wakeup call.

By Emmanuel Sugoi

For Alister

If your heart is not where you are, then you are homeless
Charity housed itself within your walls
You gave what you were expecting
Gave what you deserved
A bricklayer with no place to lay his head
I pray your humility gives you a righteous bed
More fool us for thinking every role model lives in a model home

You didn’t.
You deserved to.
They deserve to.

I wonder if each bead on your wrist are the nights you almost stopped building on your faith
The beads on your wrist seem to reflect your perspective
We know the ones who are well off are well-rounded
Your perspective on life and the people more well off are like your beads
Well rounded but only one of you has good karma coming back around
Good karma must see you as a home itself
There is a strength in your frame no brickie could ever break down
And every person without a home is a home is a walking fortress looking for land to birth nations on

You will build nations
You are flag posts of determination
Your clothes are the flags of survival and resilience
You are not homeless. You are flagpoles. We notice you

You are beacons. We see you.
You are human. We are you. 
You are not homeless, my friends.
You just live outside.

By Jolade Olusanya

Thank You (Peter)

Much like Troy
His fall began with a woman wronged
And Peter took a stand like the hook of a romantic song,
Not many would risk losing their home
To defend a woman’s honour

not many would risk biting the hand that feeds, 
because a racist pig’s that hand’s owner.

But like any good television drama
Everything that could go wrong does so at the same time

right on schedule

and in what would feel like an instant

this damsel-in-distress-defending, knight in shining armour
Went
straight
Outta
Money and luck

Sometimes life hits like a truck
and Plumber Pete
Was knocked right off his feet
into night buses and a life, lived, lonely in the streets

But like rays of the sun find ways to creep
through the clouds and the storm

Thank God for the angels we meet
who have enough time on their hands
to take a minute and offer it

Those are the faces and names
That never leave our lips and brains
Like the memory of a first good kiss
those are the eyes we miss
Those are they who make your Thank you list
Though we all make mistakes,

Most don’t believe in love at first sight
But that is all that it takes
To assume, in the wrong light,
that that hoodie’s a thug, Or that mini’s a thot

They assumed him an alcoholic without second thought

and those mistakes they do cost

far too much

and now where relief should have been
Peter found the very worst days he had ever seen.

But it would seem, he had to go there to get here
to find the names that you would hear

 off his Thank you list

Like Lisa
Who took his name, and set him on his way back to hope
Thank you!

And Stan,
So always happy to meet you man, Stan
Thank you!

Pete could list them all
But there’s always one that stands taller than the rest
And that Aiden is you

You restored the blue to his eyes
Like the renegade rays of the sun, do the sky
nigh noon,
You’re proof, that it’s never too soon 
to paint a smile on the face 
of a man who needs a break
and even in death 
dream walker, you still do
You made the Thank you list too

Aiden 
Thank you!

BY Peter Fynn

I Am Julian

She was an hour glass.
I watched as the hours
Slipped away and felt 
Powerless when the last
Grain fell.

Her fragile frame was
A living diary and it was
Painful to see how many
Pages were left blank
When fate decided to place the
Final full stop at the
End of the line.

A cruel joke, I mean
How can I smile
At life when the air
That once gave me 
Life now fills me 
With sorrow?

She’s gone and there’s 
Nothing I can do.

Chinese whispers
Of a fallen empire
Confirmed…I waved 
The banner of the grim
Reaper and they 
Thrust his sickle 
Into my character.
Branded the Reaper’s
Accomplice I couldn’t 
Rid myself of the stench
Of death. Shackled by
Accusation I bought 
Freedom at the expense
Of my inheritance.

But it seems my freedom
Was short lived…
I was evicted from 
Where I lived, with 
Twelve hours notice.

The pitter-patter 
Of open toe sandals
Became my alarm clock.
The wails of foxes
My lullabies and drugs
Surging through my 
Veins the only means
Of escape.

My north star came in 
The form of a soup kitchen
And a open ear who 
Acknowledged all my hopes
And fears. Who knew
Four walls could make
A man stand tall. I felt
I had the keys to 
Opportunity jangling in
The palm of my hands,
It opened the doors to
Pathways…

By Moses Baako

Survivor (Megan)

Growing up I never felt like I fit in.
I was taken off my grandmother’s hands at eight,
placed in the pocket of foster care then adopted at twelve.

Home was a fighting ground
where me and my foster parents would clash.
Home was a place with nowhere for my misunderstood to sleep.

By the time I was fourteen I was lured into child exploitation
and then I wasn’t teenager anymore,
I was a theme park for monsters who scouted for fun in riding my bones.

My lonely, loud.
Lost and alone,
I fell into Prostitution.

Home was where the flames gathered.
Prostitution was the only exit sign.
It equalled survival.
it redefined family.

Family, now a group of people whose suffering spoke the same language as mine.

Home,

I was far flung from the concept of what it should be
because I moved around so much.

Scattered.
Strung out on drugs.
Alive, not.
Barely coping.

it was only till I met my son’s father
and knew life was going to be pulled from my womb
I started to realise there was more to living.
Ode to my children and their gorgeous; they are my world.
They are the reason I felt it was imperative to change.
To change me meant
this breath in my lungs would be an engine behind so much
more than this body alone.

This body alone
has seen some things in its time,
but the past is a chapter that closed its mouth after years of yawning.

Ode to those who helped give my tragedy a complete makeover.

My voice is a battle scar.
I speak and you see I survived the rough,
I survived myself.

Ten years ago I never thought I’d be here today.
I don’t know what the future holds but If I stared into its eyes for too long
I might go blind, it’s bright.

Home is my house
it’s where the happiness exists in excess of my weight
it’s where the heart is.

By Shade’ Joseph