Lost Bungalow

LDHAS Feb/Mar 22

LDHAS is a small prefab building, looking like a little, lost bungalow, on the edge of a car park in town centre Lancaster.

Every weekday, people who are affected by homelessness come in for food, warmth and advice. A spiked iron fence surrounds the building and theres a padlocked iron gate. But inside, kindness can be found and perhaps a little understanding.

Some of the folk who come in are street homeless, which means they’re living outside in all weathers. Right now, although the local homeless shelter has been shutdown (the Council cites health and safety regs) there are few people sleeping on pavements, most have been relocated by the Council to hotels in the nearby seaside town of Morecambe.

Which means that this fragile, explosive little group has been scattered across two towns. For some, a 5-mile walk between the two places is required, to see partners, friends, chase job enquiries, and chase other needs, like substances.

These LDHAS mornings, I come into the small canteen and I sit at the big central table where everyone clusters, to talk and eat. This morning, an optician has arrived and is busy doing eye tests for all who want them. It’s a good day, everyone can tell it, people are full of energy and chat, there’s much hilarity.

For me, it’s a good day too. People plonk themselves down to chat with the writer and make a quick poem, just like the optician’s dispensing service. We make poem after poem, in between numerous pauses for jokes, deals and squabbles. I feel these lives surging around me full of such wild energy and I’m uplifted. It’s a joyous little moment and then they’re gone and suddenly the canteen is quiet.

I’m sitting with Spider, and as we talk we find some of the same threads running through our lives — Irish childhoods, same year of birth, shared books, shared music — and in the middle of chuckling, suddenly the conversation takes a turn into grief and there are tears streaming his face.

“How did I get here? How did I come to this? To fucking this.”

His voice strains with the enormous emotion of it. Then just as suddenly he’s free once more, chatting about books and films. And I realise how very little I know of the edges of this world and how far you can fall off them.

But we the people just want to see executions
And eat popcorn, we don’t care for revolutions
And all the money goes on guns
I wouldn’t fear a bullet, it just takes one —
A flaming chariot driven by the Sun.

(From Miraculous Bad Behaviour, written in collaboration with Spider)