Down & Out in London

BY ANDREW MOODY

The first time I was homeless, I openly slept in parks in East London, dehydrated and exhausted from sleep deprivation.

The second time I was homeless, that wasn’t an option: I’d have been murdered.

Once you’ve been homeless enough times, you have to be streetwise, or else you’re dead.

Luckily for me I have never taken any drugs whilst homeless, surviving off fruit from various all night off licenses, cans of Nourishment Milk, Green Machine protein shakes, and cigarette butts for their synapse enhancing qualities.

I have also never stolen whilst homeless. Whilst having had real, lived experience of homelessness, the hunger, the stress, the danger, the boredom, I was lucky enough to have parents who loved me and had a stable home, and I was eventually, after spending many months inside psychiatric acute wards, rehoused. Even though I have, quite openly, written about my experiences in psychiatric wards, this is really to draw attention to the plights of the other patients, and not to moan about my own predicament. Interview With the Vampire author Anne Rice wrote that the real bestsellers were always written from the first person. It was heart-breaking to see how the doctors neglected those in real need to play silly power games with me to exert their influence in the face of a losing argument. Always, it seems, from broken homes, who are sex abuse victims, heroin addicts, confused, doped up criminal psychopaths, and often the homeless, who are always turned away after a week. If you are homeless, it seems, it is much harder to get sectioned, if you are a defender of psychiatric units and their dubious efficacy, you can ponder that one as you hurry past another shrunken faced, homeless crystal meth addict asking you desperately for three fifty for the bus.

I also understand crack and heroin addiction. I fell into crack use when I was abandoned from the work market aged 21 with an unfit to work tag of Bipolar Affective Disorder.

I started doing class A drugs after my A-Levels in 2001 and didn’t stop until a couple of years ago. I realised quickly as my writing career picked up in 2016 that crack and heroin would be the worst mistake I could make.

Luckily, by the time I was homeless on the streets, I was not an addict, and I rarely drank. The longer you walk through London alone drunk or on drugs, without a safe abode to return to, the quicker the ghouls of the city come for you.

The problem is that many people feel homeless before they become legally homeless. They have no real roots, they didn’t learn much at school for various reasons, (typically dyslexia) they were bullied into a life of fear and sadness, and when society inevitably scorns them with silence and poverty, they enter an even harsher world.

Both homeless men and women (and in the darkest parts of the city, children) become prostitutes, paid in crack and heroin, and begin to drift in and out of prison.

Criminals who have served their time are not afforded Government Benefits like psychiatric patients are entitled to, released essentially into a resentful poverty that causes more crime than it stops.

A crack dealer can make up to £1000 a day from as few as ten customers, and an organised crime gang can make millions.

Homeless people who take hard drugs are a commodity for the criminal community. Don’t be fooled, it’s possible to make a hundred quid in an hour if you spot beg in the right place, and that’s ten rocks.

Having been an addict, I understand the glory of those two words: “Ten rocks” just as any crack addict reading this will also.

I find psychiatrists have no lived experience of the world they are trying to control, and that’s why the psychiatrists recommended ECT a few months ago: He read my book and thought I was crazy.

Once, whilst homeless, I was sitting outside Strand McDonald’s with a bag of my clothes and someone asked me for a cigarette. He was also homeless.

“Have you ever been sectioned?” I asked him, watching the cars go past slowly towards Trafalgar Square.

“Yeah,” he said, “I prefer this.”

Follow Andrew Moody on Twitter @VoguishFiction