Dark Forbid is a homeless blogger in Oxford, U.K. I found out about him when he linked one of my posts to his blog: “Life on the Streets – down and out and blogging.” Dark lives on the streets of Oxford, sleeping rough and visiting drop-in centers during the day. He says he’s been living on the streets for over 8 years now, after he “gave up on this society’s version of life.” The homeless life was, at first:
freedom from the relentless pay to exist society the UK has become, not an easy life but hell of a lot cheaper. Freedom from the consumable must haves, a way to kiss goodbye to this [life] in a box society.
For a time Dark sold Big Issue copies to make enough money to pay for food, but he grew disillusioned with the loosening of controls over who could sell the magazine when he found himself competing for sales with people who were not homeless. He then reluctantly returned to receiving Government benefits of 65 pounds per week, something he finds ‘robs him of all hope of a normal life.’ Selling Big Issue magazines gave him a sense of pride, “I like the fact that what I earn a day is all I have to live on.” He often kept his sales low, choosing to limit his income so that he could only pay for his basic needs. He thought this should help him “give up my addictions, or at least control them.” He kept his daily income below £10.
Like many of today’s people who live on the streets, Dark uses free wifi to blog from his smartphone, or writes longer pieces at the free computers at the homeless day center. He is an active commenter on online news articles and forums, commenting on issues such as whether ‘gipsy’s’ (the Romani ethnic group who in Britain, like many other countries in the world, face institutional and cultural discrimination) should be allowed to park trailers on ‘green belt’ land they have bought; and the issue of theft of private property. He has been quoted in local media in Oxford, and interviewed/filmed by a range of people including arts students, a television producer, and the BBC (for its ‘Inside Out – South’ radio series).
Aside from spending nights on construction sites and other outdoor hideaway spots, Dark squats abandoned buildings in winter. For a while in December 2010 he lived on a boat.
Last week Dark and I began an interview via email. Here is the beginning of our conversation…
MN: In NYC, many people live on the streets because of a shortage of low-income housing in the city. Is the situation similar in Oxford?
DF: Oxford has a real low income housing problem, but the main problem here is being able to afford the housing you get. being a big university town much of the low cost accommodation is taken by students.
MN: You say “the homeless are not just the un-housed.” I am curious to hear more of your thoughts on this. How can someone have a house, yet still be homeless?
DF: Sorry bad quote… homelessness is not housing issue, for most people its keeping the house you get… I know many people who are just unable to be housed, like chronic hoarders, pyromaniac fire [users] etc..
MN: Do you meet a full range of homeless types on the street there, or is there one ‘typical’ kind of homeless person?
DF: That made me smile… what is “full range” homeless… Oxford has them all from trolley pushers, insane drug addicts, and those who just like the life.
MN: What do you think about people who travel full-time, living in campervans or camping on the beach? I mean, people who are wanderers. Do you think they are homeless too?
DF: I think it depends if they enjoy the lifestyle they have, a campervan liver who likes the life it gives is different from someone desperate for a flat forced to live in a van… It’s being happy with the life their accommodation provides.
MN: Do you think a person can be “emotionally homeless?” And how about “spiritually homeless”? (I’m not sure how I would define spiritually homeless, so whatever this means to you… if you have any thoughts on it.)
DF: That all comes down to what you seeking from your life… can bad housing ever be called home?… Spiritually homeless? If your belief is affected by your housing, you must have the wrong God, or are you talking about the misery sub-standard housing brings to those forced to live there?
MN: In all your time on the streets, have you ever felt “at home?”
DF: Me I’m at home every where… some say Dark was born homeless.
MN: Do you think you need a house now, to feel at home, or do you think that something else makes up a home for you?
DF: I squat empty houses sometimes… usually winter, a house of my own differs by having bills I’d never pay.
MN: In the video of Jeff on invisiblepeople.tv here: http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/ (if you scroll down, Jeff’s story is the second one, below Amy’s), Jeff says that the last time he slept inside on a ‘real’ bed he felt “caged.” Has this ever been your experience, or have you heard about other homeless people having trouble sleeping inside after years on the streets?
DF: No I sleep inside fine… I sometimes use the whole claustrophobic story to avoid staying with people I rather not live with.
MN: Alexander Masters is a British author who wrote a biography of a homeless man. The book is called “Stuart: A Life Backwards.” In that, he says that self-confidence can play a role in why people end up on the streets, for example if they have had a bad divorce or a business failure. I’m not sure I agree with his viewpoint, but I’d like to hear your perspective. Do you think self-confidence is an important factor in why people become homeless? Do you think it has played a role in your own homelessness?
DF: Most would say my self-confidence is fine… over critical of myself is just the way I am.
MN: Finally, what does “home” really mean to you?
DF: Nothing really never had roots so deep it would cause me pain to leave… but for most, happiness-safety and home should never be apart.