Tuesday, 20 July 2010

26) Cornerstone Day Centre 1

Cornerstone Day Centre

On Tuesday 13th July I went to Cornerstone Day Centre with my leader Soraya to meet people in a more comfortable environment. The day centre offers homeless and lonely people food, drinks, showers, clean clothes and provides many other services.

On arriving, there were people sitting outside smoking, which I liked as it seemed like a relaxed environment and inside the hall was filled with people. I felt quite intimidated, I said to Soraya, “I feel like everyone is looking at me.” She said, “yeah, there is nothing wrong with that.” We got given a cup of tea and spoke to one of the leaders who welcomed us and said there was a few people willing to speak to us, so that was brilliant.

I always find it a little awkward arriving at new places, people often stare at you trying to work out who you are and why you’re there. I can see them thinking, is she homeless? is she staff? When the truth is, I’m neither.

We sat down at a table and took in the surroundings. I liked having my cup of tea, it gave me something to do with my hands. A guy called Neil came over, he was very happy to speak with me and answer my questions. I thought that was really sweet, then found out he was getting a free meal for it. I like that! At Cornerstone it is 50p for a meal, 20p for a sandwich £2 to wash clothes and tea and coffees are free.

I told Neil what I was doing and asked if he wanted to write in my sketch book, he said no because he didn’t like his writing and all he would write is, “I want a drink.” I said no problem I would write.

Neil / 34

Neil is a young man, 34 years old, he lives in a derelict building a mile away with his girlfriend of 5 years. He said his girlfriend had been badly beaten and the hospital didn’t help them. I saw his girlfriend, and she had a very black eye, it was swollen and closed. I find it hard not to stare. I asked Neil if he had any stories from living on the streets. He told me one day he was sitting on the street with his three mates when a man walked past. The man asked him if he was homeless. Neil instantly offended, stood up and gripped the man. Eventually the man went away and came back with £2000 in £20 notes. The men shared the money and took £500 each. Neil was stunned and felt bad for gripping the man. He gave the money to his family and girlfriend’s children. He says now if someone asks if he is homeless he gives them the biggest sob story he can. I like Neil, he is like a cheeky little teenager.

“I drink because I came off the drugs, and I just kinda swapped it. But I havn’t really stopped the drugs. I’m always worried. I’m scared about walking down some streets in case I get hit. It happened before, they take it in turns to hit me. I prefer to stay in town, there are more people about. I just want to be happy.”

Richard / 46

Richard lives in the tower block where Shameless is filmed. You can see his building during the opening credits.

Homeless for 5 and a half years Richard got a flat from the council 3 months ago.

“I’d like to get a job. I’d love to go back to the wagons, I was driving the lorries for 2 and a half years, I went to Holland and Ireland.”

“I learnt to survive on the streets. I’m not daft. I found a nice little door way with a heater above it. Every morning a man would wake me up, he often slipped me a fiver for a coffee. He was alright.”

How have you turned your life around?

“I went to church.

I talked to the vicar.

Ever since I had a talk with the him everything seems to be going my way”

I asked Richard what he thought of the photographs of his hands, he said "aw yeah, they look like proper homeless peoples hands."

He was really sweet in wanting the best for my project. I noticed him staying behind when the day centre closed to help tidy up and put all the chairs away. Bless him.

Alan / 54

Alan spent a year and a half on the streets.

When you look at your hands, what do you see?

"Kind, coolness, helpful”

Alan has done voluntary work for Mustard Tree in the past restoring furniture.

“Everyone has their ups and downs.”

Alan taught me how to bingo.

Steven / 57

Manchester born and bred.

Steven and Alan are old friends who met in a hostel.

“I can see in him a brother.”

Steven volunteered with Mustard Tree for 4 years restoring furniture.

“Life is ok. I’ve got my friends and my family.

I have no blood family, I lost my mum and I lost my dad, I was an only child. I have been at a church for 8 years, and that is my family.

One church, one family.”

Mohammed / 40

Lived in Manchester all his life.

Mohammed has done a lot of labour work in a factory, worked in a warehouse and in a shop.

He has 5 sisters and 2 brothers.

“I never had a dream. Having a baby or marriage is not really a dream of mine. If it happens it happens."

"I like to read. And I try my best to follow my faith, to be a nice person."

How would you describe yourself?

"Mr Softie"

I am happy with my first attempt to collect peoples words and stories. It is quite difficult to find the balance between listening to people who don't know you, and asking to photograph their hands. As soon as you mention you want to photograph peoples hands they move them into an unnatural position.

I have to be pretty quick with the camera, and you only get about 3 seconds to get the one shot. People move and you don't get a second chance so it can be a little hit and miss with the photographs.

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