Hard-hitting series on homelessness. Adam escapes the violence of the city's streets by sleeping rough in the woods, and Georgihka hopes to make ends meet by selling the Big Issue.
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This programme contains strong language.
Sleeping rough is becoming a reality for more and more people in Wales.
The number of homeless are on the increase,
and now they exceed 10,000.
I never though this would happen to me. Never.
I wanted to discover why people became homeless,
how they manage to survive,
and why the largest numbers of homeless people are found here in Swansea.
For some, the only option is to try and survive on the streets.
If you're strong minded, then you can do it.
If you're not strong minded, then the only thing you'll end up doing is,
you'll end up in a box.
And following the lives of those with nowhere else to go
would prove to be an upsetting story.
Filmed over three months in the run-up to Christmas,
the toughest time of the year for the homeless,
this is the reality of living on Swansea's streets.
There's no simple reason as to why Swansea has become a magnet for homeless people.
They come from across Britain, from the surrounding valleys, and even from other countries.
Big Issue, please?
Thank you, lady.
In the summer, many sleep on the beach,
but in winter, it's a different story.
The hostels fill up
and those left out on the streets find shelter wherever they can.
The lucky ones stay with friends,
but they are just one step away from being on the streets.
I met Gavin. He was staying at a friend's, or "sofa surfing",
but he's just been told that his time's up on their sofa.
It come to a head where she said, right, I've had enough.
I want him out.
My mate said, look, I'm sorry,
there's nothing I can do about it,
she wears the pants, you've got to go, you know?
Gavin's 32 and first became homeless six months ago.
After a family breakdown, he was out on the streets.
He was living in Maesteg,
but soon realised he'd be better off in Swansea.
The town where I'm originally from, it's just a very small town,
and if I was to... I was homeless over there,
but there's nothing over there, there's no facilities,
there's no soup runs, there's no soup kitchens.
There's nowhere you can go for help.
There's nothing. Basically,
you're on the streets, and you are stuck on the streets.
You know, I must walk around here at least 30, 40 times a day,
round and round.
You know, choosing different routes.
During the winter, homeless people not only walk the streets to keep warm,
but also to avoid the attention of the police
who constantly move them on.
Once the town empties,
Gavin's on the lookout for something to make his night a little more comfortable.
They're rubbish, mate, are they? They're rubbish?
And he's chosen to return to one of his favourite spots,
an alleyway between two shops.
I've no doubt I'll be joined by a gang of others,
because this is where a lot of people come, especially in the rain.
Gather under the shelter by here.
How much sleep do you think you'll get, Gavin?
Two to three hours.
Depending on the wind and the rain,
and I've got a bust sleeping bag, which doesn't help very much.
And that's me down for the night.
Sleeping rough is dangerous,
and I'd heard stories of homeless people being urinated on by drunks, kicked, and even worse.
Last year, a news report shocked the people of Swansea -
a murder of a homeless person right in the heart of the city.
Very quiet, especially opposite the supermarket when it's shut.
Alan, one of Swansea's long-term homeless, showed me where it happened.
Basically, there was two people involved in, um, in beating him up.
He got punched, stamped on, kicked.
And the scarf he was wearing he was strangled with.
As far as I know.
Well, apparently there was blood all over the walls, it was everywhere.
He wasn't even 30. He was only about 26.
And, um, after he passed away
there were flowers all down here,
on the wall, there, opposite, where the church is.
Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how many flowers you put down, it's not going to bring him back. You know?
I'd heard that violence, drugs, and alcohol
had led to the deaths on the streets of five people over the last three years.
I'd seen a guy cycling, who I was told was living rough.
I love my bike, I go everywhere on it.
It goes everywhere with me. It gets me from A to B.
I can ride from one end of Swansea to the other in half an hour.
Plus with this trailer thing I've got on the back, I've got something.
With a bike, it's easy to get away from the dangers of living on the city streets.
Most homeless people, they're just happy with a shop doorway,
or an archway or somewhere.
You get arrested, you meet the wrong people,
you start doing the wrong things.
You end up on a downward spiral, and, you know, there's no way out.
I followed him westward, towards The Mumbles.
I feel calmer down here, because I know there's no idiots,
nobody drunk, nobody on drugs.
That's why I like this place.
Adam grew up on the other side of Swansea Bay, in Port Talbot.
Now, he's living just beside one of Swansea's most affluent suburbs.
I've been homeless in Swansea twice, and came here both times.
Last time before that I was homeless, I was living in Cardiff,
and that was ten years ago.
It was Christmas time that I was on the street, then.
What's nice about living out here?
I can do pretty much what I want when I want, and how I want,
so, that's me, I'm happy.
Adam's well and truly off the beaten track.
The advantage is, no-one will bother him here.
I could have just been to the gym.
There's my tent, campfire,
and my stash of wood.
Adam is more resourceful than most,
and doesn't have to rely on charity for a hot meal or a drink.
Were you ever in the Boy Scouts?
-So, where have you learnt all this from?
Ray Mears and Bear Grylls.
Three weeks ago, Adam had a roof over his head,
but a falling out with a housemate resulted in a fight.
And he ended up in trouble with the law.
Adam is a loner. He finds it difficult to live together with others,
and when he has to, it all too often ends up in rows and disagreements.
Because of the way people perceive me, what they want,
and what they need, they're the ones that are creating violence.
'I don't want to get into trouble.
'Having something like that forced on me,
'I've got to, literally, knock them out or jump on them then ponder everything.
'Then I end up in court, in prison, and paying fines,
'and doing community service.
'But that's not me, I hate being violent.'
Adam knows only too well the realities of rough sleeping.
Last time I was homeless during the winter,
I didn't have the tent. I was sleeping in shop doorways, car parks,
lifts, people's houses, couch surfing.
And it's not an enjoyable experience.
What's the prospects of the weather for the next month or so?
Finally got the fire going, so things are looking up.
Whether or not I can keep it going all night, though,
that's a different story.
I'm going to get all my stuff together
and get in the tent before I get bloody soaked.
Two miles away in the city centre,
it's harder for rough sleepers to find shelter in bad weather.
They don't care about the homeless people over here,
they only care about the rich.
Tracy is homeless
and she's heading for an underpass.
Tracy is not the first Irish person to step off the ferry from Cork
and end up living on Swansea's streets.
I first noticed her four weeks ago.
When the weather was warmer, she was sleeping rough close to the beach,
but now she's had enough of the colder nights.
First thing this morning,
Tracy joined other rough sleepers at the Access Point,
a Swansea charity who have been helping the homeless for the last 15 years.
Each day, they allocate Swansea's one and only emergency bed for the night
to the homeless person most in need,
and Tracy's put her name down for it.
She's in competition with three others.
At 12.30 each day, the staff decide who gets the bed.
-All right, Trace?
Right, you didn't get the bed today.
-You all right?
Keep trying tomorrow, all right? Right.
It's a big disappointment for Tracy,
who has spent three days with nowhere else to sleep but the streets.
But then, luckily,
there's an immediate turnaround in Tracy's fortunes.
Good news, now, you've got the bed.
The person who we went to give the bed to has turned it down,
so you've got it tonight. Six o'clock, OK?
-Yes, thanks very much.
-Wasn't me, it was them.
-Thanks very much, pet, ta.
From the start, Tracy's had a tough time in Swansea.
When she arrived, she was with her boyfriend.
But after a fight, he promptly abandoned her.
What she revealed next didn't surprise me,
and wasn't untypical of Swansea's life on the streets.
This is my habit, and I'm not afraid to open the thing and drink it.
This has been my habit since a young age, since I've been nine.
I've been drinking at a very young age,
and I've been fighting it,
so I'm not ashamed to show people that I am a drinker.
I'll get done for this, for opening a can and drinking it,
but it's just a habit I have.
I drank when I was young,
but then I started going out with a fella who was an alcoholic.
He got me on the drink. I was turning into an alcoholic then.
I went on the drink more heavier.
Since then, it's the fighting. I'll come off it for a while,
then I'm back on it, off it and back on it.
It's hard to beat, an illness,
because a drinking problem is an illness,
and I'm not going to hide it and say I don't have a habit.
It's just an illness.
Tracy's family have no idea she's living on the streets.
My family ignore me now.
And she's not the only outsider who is separated from her family.
Big Issue, please? Thank you.
Swansea seems to attract migrants from everywhere.
The most recent arrivals are those from Romania,
who come here in search of a better life.
Many of them sell The Big Issue to help them towards getting a better job.
Georghika followed in the footsteps of others who came to Swansea.
And he's been selling the magazine three years. He's homeless,
but he's not down and out.
So you make everybody happy?
Yes, happy, yes, yes.
He buys each magazine for a pound and sells them on for two.
Two pounds, please.
Money, coffee, money, tea, a new magazine, tea, coffee,
very good people in Swansea.
Thank you very much.
What he lacks as a linguist he makes up for with his charm.
Yes, bye-bye, lady.
What was your job in Romania?
He was telling me he was a coal miner.
I had to find out more, so I found someone who could translate.
But what were conditions like in a Romanian coal mine?
HE SPEAKS IN ROMANIAN
He himself was the machine.
There were lots of accidents.
HE SPEAKS IN ROMANIAN
Most of the accidents that happened in the mine were deadly.
The mine closed and there were no other jobs in Romania.
So Georghika came here.
Big Issue, please?
Selling the magazine is hard going,
and he doesn't make anywhere near enough money
to pay for a permanent place to live.
Good, have a nice day.
But actually, Georghika prefers this to the life back home.
A couple of days later, I ran into him again on the high street.
He was in a different mood, and wanted me to follow him.
But I didn't know why.
-Where are we going?
No house, no money, homeless.
Off the main street, right next to a block of flats,
we came to a fence, beyond which there is a small pavilion.
It was here that he used to sleep.
-You sleep there?
HE SPEAKS ROMANIAN
He'd sneak in, climb over the fence,
and disappear in the morning before anyone found out.
This bench was his bed, sheltered from the rain,
but still exposed to the cold.
So, where was he staying now?
A friend gave him this key after he'd vacated his flat and left town.
But the trouble is, neither of them are paying the rent,
so Georghika is squatting.
The next day, I asked Georghika if I could visit him.
He would like to welcome you in his room,
but he doesn't want to have problem with the city and county of Swansea,
because they might kick him out of the room,
so he will be homeless again.
Even now, when he will go to the room, he might find the room closed.
But he will have troubles.
And he doesn't want to sleep in winter outside.
It will only be a matter of time before his luck runs out
and he's out on the streets again.
As winter approaches, it plays on the minds of those I met sleeping out,
and as it gets colder,
even the most hardened rough sleepers
make a more determined effort to find somewhere indoors.
On the outskirts of Swansea, Adam is still camping out.
How was your night, Adam?
What is that noise?
You're kind of roughing it, but not when it comes to your dental hygiene?
No, you've got to look after your teeth.
When I'm homeless, there is no point lazing around in bed,
because you miss everything.
And you don't get a place sorted.
It's getting colder, and Adam has to find somewhere to live,
but his options are limited. He's unemployed,
he's serving a community service order and paying off a fine,
so there's no money left to pay the deposit on a room.
Undeterred, he sets off to see
if there's a landlord who can offer a deal he can afford.
Close to Swansea city centre,
almost every day, the homeless wait for a free meal offered by one of the charities.
Mother Teresa's Sisters of Mercy have set up a mission here.
There are four sisters who are dedicated to helping the homeless,
but there are conditions attached.
..Glorifying and praising God.
The mission has 12 hostel beds, but the nuns have rules.
You have to be in by five o'clock,
and you can only get a place if you give up alcohol.
Sister Vinedha gives one of them a blanket.
She is the best lady in the world.
She gives us dinners,
and if I wish, in my own sweet way,
I'd get a bed.
If you are sober, I will give you a bed.
Timothy is one of Swansea's long-term homeless
and his life is dominated by drink.
Don't worry, be happy,
cos if you're not happy, I won't be happy.
It's unlikely that he will ever overcome his addiction.
After just one hour without a drink,
I'd seen Timothy become ill with the shakes.
And I hate doing that.
Timothy came here 15 years ago from Belfast,
after falling in love with a Welsh woman.
But the relationship broke down.
Now, the streets of Swansea are his home.
But just how long had Timothy been homeless?
Seven... About 20 years.
20 years. I'm 54 years of age. 20 years.
And is that nice? I've two daughters.
One is 27, the fourth of December,
and one is 20.
And do you think I enjoy this?
My life is gone.
Timothy is living on borrowed time.
The life expectancy of homeless men is 47.
And for women, it's even younger, just 43.
In the late afternoon, I get a surprise call from Tracy.
She wants to meet.
She's returned to the tunnel under Swansea train station.
The last time I saw her was five days ago,
when she had managed to get the emergency bed.
But since then, I had no idea what had happened to her.
And now, she wasn't making much sense.
She told me that she'd been staying with someone,
but an argument meant she was now back on the streets.
This morning, she had gone to the homeless charity
and tried to get the emergency bed for the night.
Lighter is not working.
Swansea's a shithole.
It's a fucking shithole.
Back-stabbing bastards, they'll talk about you behind your back
but don't say it to your face.
I lost touch with Tracy after this,
and two weeks later, heard that she'd left Swansea.
Adam, too, had gone off my radar.
I even went to his camp
in an attempt to find out if he'd managed to find somewhere to live.
Then, out of the blue,
at a church that has become a drop-in centre for the homeless,
Adam turns up.
I've finally got a place. Moved in yesterday.
Just come to get a cup of tea with my cousin.
I haven't seen him for about three years.
Adam can at last strike camp.
He'd managed to find a landlord who was willing to rent a room
without having to pay a deposit upfront.
I didn't want to be in a tent over Christmas, no.
This is home for me now.
All my criminal days are behind me now.
I can't see me going back to the way I was.
I love my music.
The whole time that I've been homeless,
that was what kept me focused.
So, do you think you're going to be happy here?
I know I'm going to be happy.
Any of you two ever heard of Feeder?
This evening, it's not just the homeless who are on the streets.
The whole town is out to see Swansea's Christmas parade.
But how will Timothy react?
What do you see?
I see a lot of people.
Oh, man, a fierce lot of people.
And they're waiting for something.
I shall ask.
Excuse me, what are they waiting for?
The Christmas lights are being switched on, sir.
Oh. Thank you.
I love it. Do you know something?
I love them kids up there,
because they look... Look what you're seeing.
You're seeing Wales.
I am delirious.
I didn't think it was going to be like this.
As the evening progresses, Timothy's mood changes,
and the big moment of switching on the Christmas lights is lost on him.
I didn't take any notice of them, man.
Homeless people, do they have Christmas?
I know I will never have a Christmas sleeping on the streets.
There are 34 days left until the big day.
For those on the streets, it's a heart-wrenching countdown,
a reminder of their broken families,
and children who they've lost touch with.
Next time on my journey onto the streets of Swansea...
Georghika has been kicked out of his flat,
and now he's sleeping in the park.
Very cold. Very cold.
The police crack down on drinking on the streets.
The way you're going, you'll get arrested!
Don't have a go at me, it's my daughter's birthday.
And a drifter turns up, who's been homeless for 30 years.
I'm feral, you know the word feral? What does that mean?
Is that a sweater? Fairisle?
No, it means, when, like, you live off the land.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The first episode of a hard-hitting documentary series on homelessness. Told through extraordinary and compelling personal stories in the run-up to Christmas, a unique insight into the day-to-day life of those living on Swansea's streets. Tracy ends up sleeping in a tunnel under Swansea railway station, Adam escapes the violence of Swansea's streets sleeping rough in the woods and Georgihka tries to make ends meet selling the Big Issue.