Homeless people living on canal banks, forced to fish for their food in desperate struggle to survive
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Mon Jun 26 12:04:14 BST 2017
Homeless people living on canal banks and forced to fish for their
food in desperate struggle to survive
As pedestrians walk above, a man below casts his rod into Bridgwater
Canal in Salford, Greater Manchester in desperation of catching his next meal
By Charlotte Cox 23:16, 25 JUN 2017
Next to the humming streets and just a few feet away from a busy city
road lies the shocking truth of the state of Britain's homelessness epidemic.
As pedestrians walk above, a man below casts his rod into Bridgwater
Canal in Eccles, Salford, Greater Manchester, in desperation of
catching his next meal.
This isn't a day out for Stuart, his girlfriend Georgia Twemlow, and
John - this is their life, at least for now.
Stuart sits on a disposed sofa by the banks with a fishing rod
propped against his leg. Abba is blaring from his stereo, reports
Manchester Evening News .
He's fired up a barbecue and drinks from a bottle of water.
His friend 'Russian John' sits by his side. They both look towards
the water, hoping for a bite.
I have to work two jobs to make ends meet but I'm lucky - there are
homeless people dying on our streets
All are homeless and Stuart and Georgia say they've been turned down
for housing and have nowhere else to go.
Last week they were sleeping in a bus shelter, now this canal bank is
The unusual settlement he has made with Georgia and John is now
attracting attention from passers-by, but Stuart says people have
been mostly supportive.
"I've made it my home, until the system changes," he tells us.
"I chose this spot because it's in my home town, it's close to
church, and it's near the doctor's - although I wasn't allowed to
register because I've got no address.
"It's not near housing so we're not bothering anyone. It's all right,
hopefully I'll be able to feed myself and anyone else who needs it. I
can totally Ray Mears it."
Stuart has even planted chilli, garlic, apples turnips and onions in
a patch of soil by the canal.
When he needs a wash he jumps into the water with his shower gel.
Friends who do have a home arrive to take a load of washing off him.
They bring him food and cigarettes. Having lived here all his life,
he's well known in the area.
One visiting pal tells me: "Stuart's a good guy, we've known him from
growing up together on the Winton estate - he'd do anything for anyone.
"It's sad he's fallen on hard times and we want to help him out."
Their camp isn't going down well with everyone though - a visiting
PCSO tells me there have been 14 complaints in two days.
But as the day continues, Stuart, Georgia and John are joined by more
companions. Many explain they have mental health issues and they come
to pass the time - as well as to draw support from each other's company.
At night, they will take it turns to keep watch while the others sleep.
Georgia, 28, who suffers with depression, says she just needs a base
to get her life back on track - but claims the council isn't helping
her because she's classed as a 'single person'.
She says she's worked in the past but claims her landlord changed her
locks to get her out, and without an address, she can't get a bank
account and is struggling to find work.
Faced with difficulties in her family estranged, she doesn't like to
ask friends for help.
Stuart, 35, known by pals as 'Pottsy', has led a turbulent life. In
the past, he says he's worked as a cobbler, locksmith, painter and
decorator and in factories.
Stuart has been living on the streets ever since he was evicted from
his social housing flat (Photo: Manchester Evening News WS)
But after suffering a breakdown and losing his family, he was kicked
out of his rental property two months ago.
The housing system can often be hard to navigate - although housing
bosses generally maintain that temporary housing, in the form of
hostel places, is there for everyone who wants it. Stuart, however,
insists he's tried to get help from Salford Council but says he was
told that he 'was not a priority'.
"Look, I've got a criminal record," he explains. "I've done some bad
things in my life, but it's all been petty crime. Drugs have been my
problem but I don't take them any more.
"But I'm in this situation for helping a homeless man. I met him in
Rochdale and he needed somewhere to stay. I was on benefits, was
living in a flat and I let him stay in my lounge. I wanted to give
the lad a chance. But the landlord found out and kicked me out. He
was a good landlord, he just couldn't deal with it at the time.
"We were both made homeless. I sofa-surfed for a while, tried to find
somewhere new but I couldn't. Without an address, I can't get a bank
account, it's the system."
Forced out of a tent in Manchester city centre and resorting to
sleeping in a bus shelter, both say they've appealed again to Salford
Council for housing.
The camp hasn't been welcomed by everybody, with 14 complaints in two
days (Photo: Manchester Evening News WS)
"They said we aren't a priority. When will we be? When we're beaten
up, stabbed? They wouldn't even tell me what their criteria is," says Stuart.
"It's just got worse and worse. People end up in prison because it's
the only place they have somewhere to live. The system isn't working,
someone needs to shake it up.
"I'll keep living here until I get my life back."
"I want everyone to have a nice home. Everyone says there's enough
fish in the sea - and I know for sure there's enough land and houses
for everyone to live in but there are still people starving while at
the supermarkets there are bins brimming with food."
Stuart looks back at his rod, a maggot dangling from the end of his
line. "We caught our first fish last night - a roach. We had it for
dinner. We're dropping bread in and we hope that will attract the little fish.
"And then those little fish will bring in the pike, then we'll eat.
I'll feed anyone who needs it.
"It's about playing the long game. The slowest horse wins the race."
Salford Council has been contacted for comment about Stuart and
They have a sofa and two chairs, a bookcase and a bed to sleep on
which they found chucked out by a nearby furniture dealer. They've
managed to find a carpet to cover the concrete towpath as well as an
old tent cover to shelter them from the rain.
With the sun shining as it has done today, it looks like the open air
set of a sitcom.
But the grim reality of life outdoors is anything but funny. The
fishing rod isn't just a way of passing the time - it's to give the
group food for their next meal.
Stuart is a 35-year-old dad-of-four. He once had a stable life but
has been living on the streets - including a spell in a tent in
Manchester city centre - ever since being evicted from his social housing flat.
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