Friday, 5 November 2010

40) My Eighth Soup Run

5 November 2010

Standing on the street with the homeless people waiting for the Mustard Tree van to arrive, a prostitute walks up the street. She leaves nothing to the imagination, black boots, black coat, boobs. She looks likes she has so much confidence, everyone watching her walk past, she is yelling about something. She puts up a very strong exterior, I guess she has to.

As she walks past I hear two guys say, "she thinks we're coppers" I asked him what he meant. He said that the woman told them they looked too clean to be on the streets and that she thought they were undercover policemen. They didn't know wether to be offended or not.

There is a very loud man, he asks where I'm from. I tell him Belfast. He begins to copy my accent and repeats everything I say.

"Do you want a sandwich?"
"Do you want a sandwich?"

"We have tuna?"
"We have tuna?"

It gets annoying. I begin to ignore him.

I found out later he was on speed.

I said to a man, "would you like a sandwich?"
He mumbled, "you can keep your sandwiches"


I spoke to a young boy who I see every week. I always wanted to talk to him, but he keeps himself to himself. His name is Wilson.

I said "like from Castaway?" smiling

He said, "everyone says that." not smiling.

He is 17, he now lives in a houseshare with people he likes for the first time. I asked him how he pays for it. He said he no longer can receive benefits because he didn't prove he was looking for work. I asked him what he was good at. He said "nothing."

That made me sad.

I said "of course you are!!!" He said he didn't like studying, no one ever helped him. I asked if he liked doing anything practical. He said he used to do plumbing and labour work. I said, "well why not get back into that?" He said he would, but he doesn't want to work if he doesn't get paid.

It's difficult because I struggle to get work with GCSEs, A Levels, a Bachelors Degree, a Masters Degree and with work experience. I would still work for free.

I told Wilson he had to try. It's frustrating and it's tough times, but he's only 17! He can still do something about his situation. At 17 I was still a child at school, I couldn't do what Wilson does.

I asked him about going home to his parents. He said no and began to walk away. I knew he didn't want to talk about family life. I so want to know more.

Wilson is a really lovely boy and I just want to listen and help him find the right path.

He is so young, I just want to shake him.

I think next time I see him I might tell him about Mustard Tree's Freedom Project, where he could gain practical training, work experience and help him into employment. I think he just needs a little encouragement and confidence.

Another boy turned up, he is 23, same age as me. He was going to have to sleep rough that night because he was locked out of a friends house. It was so cold. All he had was a t-shirt and a thin jacket. We offered him a blanket, he said no thanks.

Wilson said, "mate take a blanket, it's freezing."

He said, "yeah, ok, maybe I will, I've slept rough before with less clothes on."

He didn't want to look stupid carrying a blanket. I told him to wrap up in the blanket, then put his coat over the top.

He smiled and said, "Yeah, I will look massive!"

He said he will probably find a skip somewhere to sleep. A volunteer told him that was a bad idea, as there have been some tragic accidents before with people sleeping in skips.

He said, he probably wont sleep actually, he will just walk around all night.

He and Wilson walked off together, I gave them both a quality street.

I spoke to Robbie in the car, he had been in hospital again. There is something wrong with his brain I think, he is in constant pain. He says he hopes not to wake up.

I listen.

I didn't really know what to say.

I offered him a slice of Swiss Roll.

He smiled.

Monday, 1 November 2010

39) Hardcover Softcover

This is a sample of the book printed in a hardcover and a softcover from I took the samples to Mustard Tree Charity to discuss the quality of the books and to see if they were happy with the final outcome. Paul Wenham, the chief executive was very happy with them and decided to order a large batch 100/200 of the softcover book.

The plan is to send out the softcover in time for Christmas as a gift to encourage people to donate during the festive season. Inside the book will be an invitation to invite those to a small book launch in January where I will have the opportunity to tell people about my experience of making the book. There we probably sell the hardback book and soup run entries as a fundraising event and hopefully some media interest would help in raising awareness of the issues of homelessness.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

38) Mustard Tree Exhibition

On Friday 8th October Mustard Tree held an art exhibition as a fundraiser and I was very happy to be asked to display some of my work. It was a great evening and it was exciting to see people taking an interest in my work.

Friday, 1 October 2010

37) My seventh soup run


Even though my Masters is finished, I still want to volunteer with Mustard Tree.

I care about the people.

Because I hadn't been on the soup run for a few weeks I noticed how dark it was when we arrived. It just makes it that little bit scarier being in the dark and serving food from under a street lamp.

There was roughly 30 or 40 people there tonight. I noticed there was a lot of younger people this week, I was told some of the girls and boys were as young as 13 years old. I didn't really get a chance to speak to them.

I was giving out sandwiches to begin with. Ray turned up, the 69 year old who has been on X factor. I read about him last week in the MEN newspaper, he had got in trouble for graffiti in Salford. I was going to mention it to him as a bit of a joke, but I overheard him having a serious conversation with one of our volunteers. Ray has been having a tough time lately,a man who said he was from the welfare office asked him to get into his car, he was going to take him away and pay him if he took his clothes off. I think there was some sort of fight. Ray is very upset about it.

I don't really understand what happened, but it's sad.

Ray was not himself.

I was a bit hungry myself, and as everyone had had the hot food, I thought I'd have some myself :)

It was strange being on the opposite side of the table. It's not that easy taking food. I felt quite uncomfortable as I was served baked potato, beans and cheese. I said no to the salad.

I don't know if it's because I am a volunteer and I know it's not for me, or if it's a shame thing. But I do remember a man saying he felt embarrassed once taking food. And I can relate to that.

I then found I liked having the food when talking to people as I was doing exactly the same as them. I wasn't standing behind a table watching them eat, I was with them with beans dribbling down my face.

I heard a man say "I know you!"

It was Richard a man who features in my book. He's hands are photographed holding a mug and the photograph is titled 'Tower Block'. Richard is a lovely man who was very helpful with my project. I asked him how he was he said some days are better than others. I told him I had finally finished my book and that he was in it, and I told him all the nice things I said about him. Then I remembered the main point of my book was to encourage people to listen to those on the streets, so I asked Richard why some days were better than others? He said:

"Oh I'm going to sound really silly now"
"No you won't, go on"
"You know the bridge that goes over Mancunian Way?"
"I tried to jump off it on Tuesday night."

My heart sank.

"WHAT! Really? Richard! Why?"
"Just depressed n that."
"Richard are you serious! That's terrible! Surely nothing is that bad"

He looked to the floor and laughed.

"I'm just stressed, and money and I was diagnosed with TB."
"What's that?"
"It's to do with the lungs."
"That's awful, did you go to the doctor?"
"Yeah I been in hospital for two weeks."
"I can't believe you did that! What happened? How were you feeling?"

"I was literally on the edge, I was ready, I wanted to."
"And what happened?"
"The police showed up, they asked me my name. I said "Computer says no" you know from Little Britain?
"Are you kidding me?"
"I did! They asked if I smoked, I said yes, the policeman gave me a fag. He was called Darren, he was alright.
They asked me if I had children, I said yes, a daughter. They asked me if i had a wife, I said no. Then I started swearing about women. Then they told me to calm down. I came down by myself. They told me to get in the car, I asked if I was in trouble they said no. In the car the police man told me to take my frustration out on a prostitute, to go down the street and take my anger out. (His words were more graphic)

I said, "WHAT!?!"
he laughed.
"And did you!?!"
he laughed.
"No but I got time yet."
I laughed. for some reason?

The police man showed Richard how fast he could drive and put the blue lights on. They were going to section him, but instead left him with some friends. Richard's daughter is 22, she lives in Salford, he sees her occasionally.

"Richard I remember you told me you wanted to get a job and work on the lorries."
"Yeah, I been stressing out about my passport, a woman robbed me."

"Are you going to do it again?"
"I don't know, depends if I get depressed."
"No Richard! You can't you just can't, you have to try"
"Ok, I'll try"
"Do you promise!"
"YES I promise."

I starred him out.


"Kevin tried to commit suicide too on the bridge this week."


"Didn't you Kevin?"
"What? oh yeah..."

Kevin is the young man who appeared in the Granada news report. He was with his girlfriend zara who is pregnant. I really like Kevin, he seems to look out for everyone.

A man turned up in a truck, he tried to take the 13 year old boy for work. One of the older guys stopped him. It's a con. We recorded the registration number.

There seemed to be a suspicious atmosphere. people were whispering and I kept hearing the word 'dead' people would rush off and then return.

I tried to listen in.

A guy I know called Nathan was there, his pupils were large and black. He took 6 sandwiches with him. I have never seen him like that before. It wasn't Nathan.

A 17 year old boy Ryan was there, he had fallen out with his mother and didn't want to go home. It's weird knowing his mum is probably worrying and I have just seen her son.

I'm glad I went tonight.

I learn a lot.

36) Final Outcome

Well I have now finished my Masters! The last couple of weeks have been pretty intense, therefore the blog has suffered.

The final application is an A5 book. The size is appropriate for the client, Mustard Tree, to fund and send out to key partners. It is a book of two halves. The first half, called Homeless Hands exhibits the photographs of homeless people’s hands alongside the appropriate tiles. The second half, called Underneath the Fingernails includes the personal stories of those who’s hands have been photographed. The second half of the book is printed ‘upside down’ in relation to the first half. This makes the two halves of the book distinctly separate and encourages the audience to interact with the book, flipping it to match the photographs with the stories.

The book is professionally bound, representing the professional business aspect of the charity. The book is black and white throughout, however, splashes of red appear to reinforce the brand colour of the charity.

The concept of the book is to introduce a selection of the people Mustard Tree support through their work. The layout of the book controls the pace in which people receive messages, therefore strategically addressing misconceptions of the homeless community. The overall message is intended to impact the reader on an emotional level, to inspire or encourage them to interact with the homeless community.

As part of the final submission the diary entries documented from the Mustard Tree soup runs have been individually printed and presented as a series. The personal accounts are bound using cardboard covers as a reference to using waste resources found on the street. The documents are bound using red string to signify the Mustard Tree brand colour and linking the personal entries to the book.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

35) My sixth soup run

Friday 27th August

I wasn't going to go on the soup run last night. I thought I should really do some dissertation writing instead.

However, I have begun to realise going on the soup run is as beneficial to me as it is to the people we serve. After spending a day sitting at a computer, to get outside in the evening to meet new people and do something practical is an enjoyable break. I find the whole experience exhilarating.

When we are preparing the food and gathering toiletries to hand out I often think, 'I need some toothpaste...' I have to remind myself, ''re a student...not homeless.'

Volunteering reminds me why I am doing the project. Without taking photographs, without recording people's stories, just listening and spending time with people means I am practicing what I preach. And I love it!

When we arrived they were about 60 people. It was a busy night and there was a great buzz!

I was handing out sandwiches. I find it funny how picky people are when they are getting free food.

"Can I have brown bread"
"Can I have egg instead of tuna, it's a bit lighter on the stomach."
"Can I have a chocolate bourbon biscuit?...What do you mean you don't have any...that's a disgrace"

I girl walked up to me and starred, I said:

"Would you like a sandwich?"
"Yeah, ham, cheese and egg."
"Sorry, you're only allowed one each."
" but I just arrived."

I gave her three.

she wins.

There was a tall, black, slim lady, probably in her 20s. I don't know why but she seemed so much older than me. Her voice, her stance, her confidence. She made me feel like a little girl. I think it's because when she speaks she doesn't smile.

Now that I think about it. Most people, when asking for a sandwich would smile as they say it. Or their tone of voice would go higher. Her's didn't.

I heard a tall camp man say, "Oh they are giving out bread rolls! I must get some bread rolls!"

I laughed.

As I was walking around with my bag of tuna sandwiches a man complimented my hair. I offered him a sandwich. He started talking about star signs. He says he has come across Libra's before...apparently I'm balanced. The man said he used to be a plumber, but he lost his driving license, and he can't carry all of his tools. He says he has two weeks to wash out all the toxins in his body to pass his blood test. I asked him how he was going to do that. He said drink water and eat protein. He said he was embarrassed to be eating from the soup run, because in reality he can afford a tin of beans, he just can't be bothered to cook them. I said there was nothing to be embarrassed about, it's a great place to meet new people. He agreed. He wanted to know what age I was. I told him to guess. He said 34.

He tried to rectify the situation and said 19. The damage was already done.

His friends came over and said, "Just get her number and you two can sort it out between yourselves."

I offered the friend a sandwich.

He left, after giving me an awkward kiss on both cheeks.

I met the man who had been on Britain's got Talent. He says he is going to be on it again this year. He said he had been with a girl who looked like me yesterday. Same height, same hair, but apparently she looked quite young, like a teenager.

A young guy was very restless waiting for 10:00pm. He would not stay still. He was waiting to get a train at 10:00 to Bolton for a house party, he was going to return the following afternoon. He really did live for a friday night! He said he was summoned to attend. His teeth were black.

An old man approached me. This conversation lasted for about 10 minutes.

He said, "Do you want me to save plastic bags and bring them next week for you?"
I replied, "Oh I think we're ok for plastic bags. But thank you."
He said, "I used to volunteer for cafe charity, and I always saved plastics bags. But I quit for private reasons and since then I havn't been saving my plastic bags. If I had of known, I would have saved my plastic bags for you."
Slightly confused.
I replied, "No really, don't worry about it, I think we have plenty of plastic bags."
He said, "They will be from asda, if that's ok?"
I replied, "Yes! Lovely, plastic bags from asda would be great, thank you very much."
He said, "No problem."

I have no idea how that conversation got turned around.

A young guy came over to me:

He said, "Do you remember me?"
I replied, "Of course I do, I met you at the day centre, I saw you in the car the other week and I saw you on the news!"

I asked him why he was on the news?
He said, "because I have been homeless for 14 months."

Granada Report : Kevin

Kevin is waiting for his pregnant girlfriend to get out of jail so they can get a flat together.

He had a fishing rod with him, he bought it for £20.

I saw him on my way home.

He jumped out in front of me for a laugh.

I thought I had died.

He is a really nice friendly guy.

You start to build friendships but you have to keep your distance for safety reasons.

A lady brought a dog with her. I love dogs. I wanted to give him food. My leaders said, "that's why she has brought the dog, to get more food."

It worked.

I see a prostitute storming off screaming about something. Apparently one of the prostitutes is a bully and took her money.

On the way back my leader told me sometimes women carry babies, uncovered, in the winter months to get more sympathy and food.

That's horrific.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

34) Just Thinking

I have started realising I don't really switch off from thinking about the people I meet on the streets. Especially at night when I close my window because it's too cold and I get into my bed and listen to the rain outside. I just wonder where they are and can't imagine how they must be feeling.

To earn a little money I do waitressing, often at big parties and events. I realised that last week I served both millionaires and homeless people. Two social groups at completely different ends of the spectrum! I was serving the lords and ladies of Yorkshire and the ladies who work the streets.

I noticed that my manner was completely the same during the two different situations, "Hello, would you like a cup of tea?" "Can I get you anything else?" I spoke with the same tone, the same smile and with the same attitude.

I noticed that although the two parties of people visually appeared very different, they acted the same. They were both drunk, they were both looking for drugs and they were both showing off.

Albeit, they were showing off about different things.

At the millionaire's birthday party:

"Say Richard, didn't I see you in a very nice car yesterday?"
"Yaa, Henry, I don't really know much about cars, but it gets me from A to B."
"Oh yaa." They laugh.

I roll my eyes as I hold the name plate for their table.

At the soup run on Friday night:

" I'm cold now, because I'm only wearing a vest, but I don't care, I have a tent and a double layered sleeping bag! It is so warm, I slept right through till 6:00pm the other day, because I was so warm! It stayed up during the floods and everything! I have got a little gas canister too, I have it made!"

I said, "Really? Where is it?"

He replied, "Mancunian Way."

I thought to myself, I'm heading to V festival next week ... I havn't got a tent.

From serving the different people I personally thought the homeless people had a bit more class.

They said please and thank you.

Friday, 13 August 2010

33) My Fifth Soup Run

Tonight was a really successful soup run!

Having spent all day stressing about jobs, accommodation, studying etc, the soup run really helps put things into perspective.

I arrived and one of the volunteers was now sporting a tag on his ankle. He told me he had been in jail for 9 months previously, drug related, and the tag came about from 'taking the rap for a mate' regarding theft. He could not come with us on the soup run as he now has a curfew to be home for 8:30pm.

When we arrived at Hoyle street I saw the two street working girls who I am usually quite scared of. They were actually really approachable this evening, one said, "ohh I wish I was wearing your hat, I'm so cold, earlier I was in shorts and a see through top."

It is a nice hat.

They were starving, and couldn't wait to eat. The girl Meg, was really concerned about Matty, who sits in the car. I have photographed his hand, giving the finger. She said he has had another stroke and he shouldn't be allowed to drive his car. She said he has to use his hands, to lift his leg to press the break. She explained that he does not have permission from the doctor to drive and he doesn't have a license. She wanted us somehow to get his car taken off him, but also mentioned without his car he couldn't get to the soup run to eat and would probably be arrested. She kept repeating "don't say I told ya. Please don't say I told ya!" Apparently Matty had smashed a bottle towards her and tried to knock her down, although she still thinks the world of him.

I asked where she was staying tonight and she shrugged her shoulders. She said she can stay at Matty's as long as she brings in £40 of crack. She said, "but I don't wanna work tonight."

It's such a shame.

Everyday people say that, "I don't wanna work." But the meaning can be so different.

There was a good crowd tonight, maybe 50 people?

There is a man I always see who I think looks like a proper homeless guy! Backpack, Hoodie, sleeping bag etc. If you were to draw a homeless person...

I have always wanted to talk to him, but he's pretty quiet and keeps himself to himself. Tonight he said, "can I have a bit of hot chocolate in my coffee?"

I said, "excuse me?"

He said, "it's really nice." I poured a bit in. He said, "wooow that's enough." I said," Oh sorry, I wouldn't want to ruin your coffee!" He laughed.

Another man backed him up! It is really nice you know... you should try it!

By this point I felt obliged.

For your information... It is very nice.

A couple arrived, the woman was obese and she and her partner were very drunk. The woman had a bruised face, all down one side, from her head to her chin. Her eye was badly swollen and everything was black. I have seen a bruise or a black eye before, but never the whole side of a face. She had been very badly beaten, repeatedly.

I later found out she was 3 months pregnant.

As I watched them sitting on the kerb, starring into space, struggling to sit up, I couldnt help but think of her unborn child. They will be sleeping rough tonight. For the sake of that baby I hope someone gives them accommodation fast.

A woman came storming up to me, "I was about to give up on you!" she shouted. "Me? what, why?" I asked. She yelled, "I was here at a quarter to 6!" I said, "We don't usually come till 7:30?" She said, "Well, I wasn't going to come back, but I'm out on a walk, so you're lucky!"

I wasn't sure how to feel? Confused, guilty, sorry ...... or lucky?

A woman called Alice arrived in tears. Her mouth was swollen like a snooker ball. She has an ulcer with an abscess on it. The pain is unbearable and i don't know what she is going to do about it. I hope she gets help.

I walked over to talk to Matty in his car. He is so smily and chatty its hard not to like him, but I know he's a bad egg. I asked him why he smashed a bottle at Meg and tried to knock her down. He said, "She pissed me off." I asked, would you knock me down if I annoyed you?" He said, "I would never physically hit a woman with my fist."

I told you he had morals.

I asked how she had upset him, he said, "just drugs n stuff." At this point the man sitting in the passenger seat said, "I knew I'd seen you before, at the day centre!" Matty tried to explain to him about my project about communicating with your hands. He didn't explain it very well, and the man now thinks Matty talks to his hands.

I didn't correct him :)

As I was talking to them a blond man turned up in a truck. He walked over to the tables, he didn't want food or a drink, he didn't speak, he was just observing. A police car then slowly pulled up. I watched Matty get very edgy. He focused on the police car and stayed totally still. I said, "you look a bit edgy there Matty..." He smiled and winked.

The police man said to our leader, "do you want me to move the gypsy on?" It turns out the man observing was a gypsy who was trying to offer homeless people jobs in construction. Apparently he recently employed people to work down south for two weeks and only paid them £20. That is why the police were following him.

The man in the passenger seat was looking at the police man's gun. He said, "I have a gun." I said "really? Is it on you?" He said no. I asked why he needed a gun, he said because his friends get shot in town. I said, "there was a murder near where I live recently." He said, "over by the Salvation Army?" I said yes! he said "I live there!"

As it was time to clear up Timmy arrived. Timmy is very creative minded. I said, "Where have you been Timmy, you're late!" He said he had been boxing in London, World Championship, he won, knock out, one punch.

I said "goodbye" as it was time to go,
he said, "wait, I'll give you my number"
I lied, "I've already got it"
He said, "not my new one"
I said, "I havn't got my phone on me"
He said, it's ok

he pulled from his pocket a tiny piece of paper, already prepared with his name and number.

he said, "give me a call"
I lied, "Ok"

Bless him.

He has written is name TiMmy

I won't call him, but I'm keeping the piece of paper :)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

32) Writing Words Down

I havn't been to the soup run or the day centre for about 2 weeks now. Life has got in the way and I have made a conscious effort to begin writing my dissertation to keep up with the theory side of the project.

This evening I went to talk to the security officers at the front desk in my student flat, about my own issues of not having any accommodation before the end of this degree.

We got onto talking about my project and they informed me of a few updates regarding events I have recently posted about.

At the end of post (31) I talked of a group of homeless people gathering outside my building, Billy said he was tired from not sleeping and the group was concerned with something, it was obvious something had happened. Well, it turns out that night there was a murder around the corner. I assume they know of people involved.

I was also informed the rapist who has been offending recently in Manchester, who was known at the day centre, has been caught.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

31) Cornerstone Day Centre 4

Thursday 22nd July

Soraya and I arrived at the day centre at lunch time. I feel more confident walking in now, I know where to go, I recognise a few faces and generally feel less intimidated. I got a bowl of soup and a man offered me a free seat. During the walk there Soraya had got me thinking about why exactly I was doing this project and how I wanted the audience to react and respond after receiving the message.

We concluded the conversation with agreeing that I needed to meet with the client again to clear up a few loose ends.

The man from the previous visit, who pulled off his finger nails, called us over to his table. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to photograph his hands, however, once again he left before I had the chance. It's a difficult thing to bring into a natural flowing conversation.

He's explaining to me about British history and politics and I'm smiling, nodding along thinking, "how can I link this conversation with, can I take a photograph of your hand?"

I love watching people at the food counter. A man asked for a few slices of cucumber and a tray bake to be put in a little bag for ten pence. Watching him take the time to count out 10p from the money in his pocket was so touching. I can't remember the last time I bought something for 10p, it made me appreciate the value of money.

To me 10p is just loose change that makes my purse heavy, to that man 10p is worth a few slices of cucumber and a tray bake.

I forgot to mention on a previous soup run that a man gave me a marble. I was serving food and one man said, "Are you going to smile properly?" I looked up and he was smiling at me. I think he was trying to be nice. I took it as a compliment, rather than, 'what's wrong with your face?' Then the next guy in the queue gave me a white marble that he had found earlier. He didn't really say anything, he just gave me it. I know a marble isn't worth much, but the sentiment of someone offering me a small token meant a lot. I'll keep that marble.

Back at the day centre I got a cup of tea and sat at a table with an African man named Ali. I asked if I could sit down, he nodded, Ali seemed quiet shy. I am very wary meeting new people in the day centre, as you just don't know how people are going react towards you. I find myself speaking as I would to a child. Very slowly, clearly and asking basic questions. What is your name? Have you had your lunch yet? Was it nice? It gives people a chance to suss me out and get to know me. I notice when people are feeling a little uncomfortable they rarely sit still. They go to the bathroom, they go and get a drink, they go and get food, they are always on the move. I back off.

Ali eventually settled down. He saw me speaking to others which gave him more confidence. His friends seem to make fun of his memory. Saying, "Ali what's my name?" He says, "He is my friend but i cannot remember his name." His friends ask him what day it is? Ali guesses and says "Monday," it was Thursday. Everyone laughed, including Ali. I told him about my project, he seemed interested, but not enough to be involved. I decided to show him the photographs I had already taken of other people's hands and asked him what he thought. He began to understand the concept. I showed him the stories of other people I had collected and he was interested in how the stories matched the hands.

I asked again if I could photograph his hands. He said yes. I asked Ali what he thought his photograph said about himself. He didn't know. I explained that I could see he was hard working. He agreed. That he was a kind and honest man. He agreed. And I told him he was a good listener. He agreed.

Ali is from Somalia and wants to go home to see his mother. He came over and studied at university however he says he has somehow lost all of his ambition.

“ I think I am open minded and always willing to learn.”

We talk about living in England and I ask if he likes the weather, he simply says, “Not really… I get wet.”

I ask Ali about his plans for the future and if he sees himself getting home to his mother. He says,

“I am waiting for something to happen” he pauses “Some people make things happen” he looks at me and smiles, “Maybe I should make something happen.”

I smile and nod.

There was something very simple and charming about Ali. He then went and got me a cup of tea and a biscuit. Later that afternoon Ali taught me the basics of Arabic.

We both learnt something that day.

There is a guy with special needs called Darren. He sat beside me. Someone told me Darren likes girls in skirts. I was wearing a skirt. I asked Darren about the ring he was wearing. He told me his girlfriend gave it to him. I asked him what his girlfriend was like? He said, "She's lovely."

As I was speaking to Darren I overheard Ali talking to someone else, he referred to me as a journalist.

Sitting outside with Soraya, who was in deep conversation with someone about the Mustard Tree Charity, I noticed a man stumble over to the table I was sitting at. He was obviously on something. He turned round and asked me where I was from. I didn't really want to talk to him so I briefly said, Northern Ireland. His friends called him, encouraging him not to speak to me. When he turned to walk away I saw he had half an ear. There was one large bite mark. I couldn't believe it. Soraya was in too deep a conversation to interrupt.

I was ready and waiting to go, when I heard an argument start. A foreign man in crutches was arguing with a woman, possibly his girlfriend, and the manager of Cornerstones. I didn't quite understand the issues but they were yelling about heroine abuse, money, lying and the man was being asked to leave and told to sort himself out. It was very awkward as everyone sitting outside went quiet. I didn't know where to look, so I just watched a pigeon hop down some steps.

I passed the man in the street a few days later, he was on his own.

My parents came to visit me at the weekend. I had told them all about the work I was doing for my final major project. I explained to them that it is a very interesting topic and that I am being very clever. They leave me to get on with it.

One day returning to my flat, there is a homeless man sitting outside the entrance with his face in his hands. I know the person and I have in fact taken a photograph of his hands before. It's Billy, the first person I photographed, the person who got a free meal for speaking to me. I ask him if he is ok? He says yes, he is just tired. He asks if any of us smoke. We say no. He wishes us a nice day.

I reassure my parents by saying, "I feel safer knowing the people on the streets, I know that they won't hurt me." My mum says, "yes, but now he knows where you live."

A good point.

Later I see 9 people sitting with Billy. They say, "Hiya love, take care" They all seem hyped up about something, something has happened.

10 minutes later they are moved on by security.