In the United Kingdom, a homeless person is referred to as a rough sleeper or someone sleeping rough. While a different term for homelessness and homeless people is used, it’s still very much as horrible.
At the time of this interview, Peter had been sleeping rough in Manchester for four months. He had a flat (apartment), but he allowed a friend who was sleeping rough to stay. Peter was trying to help the man out. Peter learned from the police that his friend ripped the water boiler out and grew cannabis in the apartment. Peter ended up getting evicted.
Peter says it’s the other homeless people you have to watch out for. The Spice epidemic has hit the UK. Spice (a synthetic cannabinoid) is a designer drug made with analogs or a chemical structure similar to commonly used illicit drugs. The composition of these products constantly changes as manufacturers create new variations to remain under the radar. The manmade chemicals are typically sprayed on a plant or herb (not marijuana) that is most commonly smoked and mimics the effects of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Because it is marked as “not for human consumption,” the intended use is masked, and it is not subject to any quality control in manufacturing procedures or oversight that would be applied to other drugs. Spice is a cheap and dangerous high that has severe mental side effects.
Peter shares of a homeless person holding a needle to someone’s neck to get money. When dealing with mental illness and addiction, normal rules don’t apply, especially when someone is smoking Spice. While horrible situations like this happen, most homeless people are kind people just trying to survive horrible circumstances.
Peter survives by begging for money. Some charities help. Peter said Shelter gave him a phone the day before. Peter shares it’s hard for outreach workers to find him when he doesn’t have a phone.
Peter’s wishes are simple: a place to stay, his son back in his life, and to never become homeless again. He shares that people look down at rough sleepers, or they don’t even look at all. Homeless people are invisible in the United Kingdom, just like here in America.
This interview was recorded two years ago when I was invited by a UK charity, With One Voice, to participate in an international art exchange. You can learn more about the event here: