Words by: Ryan Child
Gravel faced and hardy, covered in hair and sweat, Tony is the man you see sleeping on his hands outside of the shop, shouting at no one.
“You a copper then,” he snorted, face like a teddy bear left out in the rain.
“No, I’m writing about homelessness for a magazine.”
“So you’re a journalist, well, I’ll get my head clear and be out of this soon,” he said. “Then I’ll see my kids again.”
“Are they in Bristol?”
“Yea, down in Whitchurch, good kids, I’ll get my head straight and see them soon when I get a home sorted.”
What is Bristol doing to help people like Tony?
A Freedom of Information request by Oliver Musgrave revealed, in 2015, that there are more than 500 empty council owned buildings in Bristol. That’s enough to comfortably house everyone without a home in the city.
The city’s Mayor, Marvin Rees, is championing the ‘new office’ funding program, which pulls the council and homeless charities together to solve the problem. This solution has been tried before, however.
In 2010, a program bringing charities and the council together with local state funding was launched as ‘the hub.’ The Hub building has, ironically, been left empty since 2011, apart from a brief period when it was squatted by homeless people in that year.
Ben Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Bristol Housing Action Movement has some advice for Mr Rees.
“If the Mayor wants to reduce rough sleeping in Bristol he should look at supporting rough sleepers in their attempts to better their own circumstances, rather than giving more money to ineffective poverty pimps most homeless people try to have nothing to do with.”
Sleeping At The Hotel
After feeling a bit sketched out by Simon and Tony I walked onto college green and puked up the kebab bulimia-style. In full hypochondriac mode, I went to rest under the blue lights of the Mercury Hotel, huddled with a sleeping bag in a side door.
At 4.32am an open palm of frost woke me up. Simon had started talking to himself when we sat together earlier, sometime after the family sized Banana flavoured Yazoo. And now I was thinking about him and the obvious mental issues he had. Maybe he feels abandoned by his mum. The state has definitely abandoned him.
Same with Ian and Tony. And the delirious little women with the bearded man. And the bearded man. These people, this defunct tribe, are the accepted consequence of society. The dregs left at the bottom of the bottle of human development.
Simon had said to me that this was the life he had chosen. It was ‘just how it is.’