50th Anniversary: Peter's Story
Peter first ended up on the streets after a breakdown in the relationship with his family when he was almost 17 years old.
“I was always very good at school,” he says. “I worked really hard but I always got totally ignored – by my teachers, by my parents. Nobody saw that I was doing any good.”
After leaving school, Peter joined the army but only lasted about eight months before he got a medical discharge.
“I came home and it was like I’d just gone to the shop. I mean I’d been 16 and gone off to the army by myself and they hadn’t cared. I stayed at home for about three weeks and then one morning about 3 o’clock, I packed my bags and left. I never went back for 35 years.”
Coming to Centrepoint
Peter travelled to London, but ended up alone and penniless with nowhere to stay. “I didn’t know London, I didn’t know nobody. It absolutely terrified me,” he recalls.
“I remember going to Centrepoint. You used to have queue up outside a big gate for 8 o’clock. If you got in, you got in. If you didn’t, you didn’t and maybe you had to go around the corner to the Dean Street Reception Centre.
“I kind of avoided talking to people if I could. I didn’t want to let people get to know me. I trusted nobody because it was the only way to survive.
Peter remembers being given luncheon vouchers in the morning. "What you did with it was go down to a little shop in China Town and got your ten cigarettes for the day. Then you had enough left over for a bag of chips.”
Travelling the country
While he was homeless, Peter used to travel all over the country. He never stayed anywhere too long and never let anyone get to know him.
“For me, it was the only way to survive. You have to learn to be strong and know that the only person you can depend on is you,” he says.
“I once found a purse and I took it back to a lady in Kensington because it had her address in it. She took the purse and slammed the door in my face. I was looking a bit worse for wear; I wasn’t very clean. She slammed the door on me.”
The more Peter travelled around, the harder he found it to trust others and form relationships.
“To settle, I had to trust people and I wasn’t there yet. I didn’t want anyone to trust me and get to know me and the only way to do that was to get away and be where nobody knew you. One day I might be in Leicester and then the following day I might be in Edinburgh and I’d have to start again.”
A different life
Altogether, Peter was homeless for 25 years – once for 15 years and once for ten years. He says if he was homeless today, he doesn’t think he’d survive.
"I think I’d be dead. When I was homeless, there was so much support in so many different ways and today there’s absolutely nothing.”
Today, Peter’s life is completely different – he lives and works in London as a cab controller.
“I’ve had some really lonely times, but my life is completely different now. I’ve got a missus, I’ve got kids, I’ve got a grandson, a job. My missus is the only person I’ve let in; she knows all about me.”