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Story of Don Pollard


He has been homeless for 10 years. Luckily, it was summertime when Don began moving between churches and shelters in London. The first winter he stayed in churches in West London. During this period of 20 week, Don moved between night shelters carrying all his belongings with him.

Moving. From one church. To one shelter. To another. Moving. From church to shelter.


To another shelter. One after another.


Each night.


‘That was really tiring. I did that for one year,’ said Don, ‘but I have never done it since’. Don would always be punctual in order to make sure that he would have a place at the shelter. He would make sure to arrive just before the closing time at 8pm. For once he had found a shelter, it would be more likely for him to keep it. So just like every social structure is functioning in its own way, the system of homelessness has its own internal structure. Where getting into the system of homelessness is not as difficult as it is to get out.

Don is not that afraid of facing death, only afraid if the act of dying is terrible. He believes that each one’s life only goes on by what one does. What Don does is to pump water from out of his boat. ‘I try to keep this boat afloat’, Don says to himself ‘between the tides’. Between the tides that are running along the river of Thames.


The water never disappears.


Don has set up a routine whereby he pumps up and out the water about three to four times a week. He pumps up and out the water, but no matter how much he pumps, the boat it never gets dry. Sometimes he uses automatic pumps. As a matter of fact, he has about four to five hand-pumps down in his boat that has become his home. At present, Don is only able to fix the water leakages temporarily but is looking for a long-term solution. Don does not need to work to pay for his rent, but he need needs to work to maintain his boat off floating.


Getting reintegrated into the social structures is not an easy task. The quicker people get back, the more likely they are to stay resettled. It is not easy, particularly for people like Don who refuses to claim benefits. ‘It is very hard work to claim benefits...’, Don sits quiet quietly for a while and continues with a distant voice. ‘It’s very stressful. I could not cope to deal with the bureaucracy. I would rather do without’. As a conse- quence of doing without, Don has been homeless for a longer time. As a homeless, he is deprived of his rights, or opportunity to act within the social structures. He is not even able to open up a bank


From working for about 16 hours a day as a pub manager and working with refurbishing of pubs, Don’s daily labour has become keeping his boat floating. Working with pumping water out from his home.

Being homeless, is it difficult? ‘No’. Is it better? ’It's not difficult it’s different’.


The life of an artist, or the art of living is for Don to give the future after you are gone. To give to ones one's own existence. ’Everybody lives on in the sense of the memory in the other people. That memory might

change in different people’s perceptions’ he continues ‘it is the art that lives after you are dead...’. But our memories are somewhat unreliable and fluctuate. Therefore, also less stable.


Don’s love for the arts, particularly for drawing, brought him to be part of an organisation for homeless people, which is managing services for people dying on the streets. Around 150 homeless people die on the streets each year in London. Don never expressed an interest in drawing whilst being a child at school. But he later discovered his interest in painting when seeing the picture of a guitarist from the cover of a TNT magazine and decided to draw it. Don is today part of a committee for the homeless consisting of 5-6 members that are holding regular services during the Remembrance week at St Martins in the Fields. The committee, a charity called The Connection, is other than organising church services, deciding on the mu- sic, art and the theme of the year. The committee also gets together to develop a concept for what is more than just a church service held in London’s Trafalgar Square. This, to commemorate homeless people having died in the capital during the past year. In fact, the whole service is really a celebration.


‘It has some sort of poignant’, says Don ‘particularly when you hear the same names announced’. ‘Donald. Donald. Donald’.
Or three Smith’s.


‘That part is always very poignant’.


There are of course, joyous and uplifting parts of the ceremony such as performances by the Streetwise Opera, an opera company for homeless people.

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