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Oh, the places you’ll go!

August 01 2022

Navigating the streets as a young homeless woman in the big smoke. This story contains sensitive content, and the names in the article have been changed. By Rebekah

I wanted to share my experiences of homelessness in 1995/96 in London, I was then homeless in Oxfordshire but that wasn’t as exciting or crazy! I first spent time at Centrepoint, which was at 25 Berwick Street in Soho, as a terrified teenager but quickly made friends with people I still remember, such as an Irish lad called Martin, and also a Jamaican lad called Marcus, and a small deaf lad. We were all peas out of different pods who had ended up needing help and running from something.

The sights of Soho were something I’d never seen before and since then I’ve been in love with the place, although I now unfortunately live in Leicestershire. We could only stay at Centrepoint for a very short time and I gravitated to the Lord Clyde night shelter in Pimlico, which was a noisy, rough place. I stayed one night before I realised how vulnerable I was, something I’d denied to myself before then. I never stayed on the Strand but I remember somebody saying there was a man who went around picking girls up and they were never seen again. I see missing cases in the news all the time and worry about them constantly.


I made friends with a young Glaswegian man called Ron who was a heroin addict, although I’ve continually stayed away from all drugs, he slept in the doorway at Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road. A lad called Frank slept in the subway of the tube station opposite. There was a lovely small girl called Ruth who claimed to be Swiss and spoke with an accent, she was drugfree but slept in the subway too with the men, she was quiet and hated the fighting. I always wondered why she was there. She was about 20.

I hated Kings Cross, I couldn’t stop for five seconds without pimps and dealers trying it on and I used to tell them to piss off. They couldn’t get their heads round the fact I didn’t work for anyone. I’d see them all blatantly selling drugs or their women and nothing was ever done. One night I stayed at a cold weather shelter on either Caledonian Road or Gray’s Inn Road. I shared a room with a woman called Josie and she was lovely, she spoke very well and I was surprised when she told me she was a sex worker just like her mum had been in Kings Cross.

My only experience with a cardboard city was of meeting a lad called Milo who wanted to be an actor. I was out of my depth as a single, young, drug-free female so I didn’t hang around. I saw Milo selling the Big Issue in Waterloo later. A copper called Jodie used to check on me and tell me about people who had been murdered, Jodie was a legend among runaway girls because she had it hard at Victoria transport police with the old style discriminatory policing and certain coppers doing what they wanted to who they wanted. But nobody messed with her.

Millennium Bridge by Hannah Kaley. © Hannah Kaley

I had some lucky escapes and eventually settled down, with many ups and downs but having children saved me and forced me into adulthood really. I stopped running. I used to visit London with my kids but I’ve never told them everything, people wouldn’t understand and some things are best left unsaid.