My Homeless Experience: The Last Chance Saloon

Poor woman in dirty clothes feeling cold, homeless lifestyle, hopelessness


Yes, I had one of those.

It overlooked the beach and it had a tiny garden, and I filled every room with candles and Buddhas.

It smelt of oils and incense. I would sit out on the balcony, drink my glass of wine and feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

And then someone pulled the rug from under me. Suddenly there was no flat or tiny garden, no Buddhas, candles or incense anymore. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything by the time I gave the keys back. I had to sell all my things or give them away as there was nowhere else for them to go.

Because there are no drawers in homeless world. No shelves to hold your books, or wardrobes for your things. Because there will be no books, and there will be no things.

And so you take yourself, some clothes and some shoes, maybe throw in a cat for good measure.

You become a homeless, rootless, petrified version of yourself, that either people pretend not to see, or that they don’t know what to do with.

It’s sink or its swim. But it’s mostly a sink, because carrying all that fear and uncertainty around starts to get heavy. And you might start to drink a lot and you mostly don’t eat much. Every day you sink further down, until you actually find yourself sitting in hell.

And then the devil says, “hi.”

Welcome to his pad, make yourself at home. Oh, and would you like a shot to take the edge off things? After all, it’s not like you’ve got a home to go back to.

And so, he passes you a bottle and you take another swig. Soon you give precisely no shits what happens to you as long as that drink is in your hand.

Years go by.

And you cry and you cry, and you drink and you drink. You grieve for what you lost. Then one day you come across some photographs … ones that the devil didn’t want you to see. Pictures that show you what you could have been, should have been, but never will be now unless you get your shit together.

And then the penny drops.

Right before the bottle does. As you finally realise that you’re in the last chance saloon and you really don’t want to die this way.

And the devil wants to keep you there. With his endless supply of booze and bad thoughts and absolutely no way out of this hellhole. You must be literally willing to crawl over hot coals while his back is turned. And you are so emaciated and broken by now that he doesn’t think you have it in you. So, he gets careless one day and forgets to lock the door.

You start to crawl.

Denise Harrison

Denise Harrison


Denise Harrison is a writer, blogger and podcaster bourne out of her own personal experience of homelessness, addiction and poor mental health. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Big Issue, Metro, The Guardian and Happiful Magazine as well several not for profits. She is passionate about raising awareness and tackling stigma around addiction and mental health and recently wrote the film script for an educational film called This Is Depression.

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