What it’s like to be homeless in Portsmouth at Christmas

A rough sleeper in Portsmouth. Picture: David George
A rough sleeper in Portsmouth. Picture: David George
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FOR many, Christmas is a time to celebrate family, friends, and a general sense of togetherness.

But for rough sleepers in the streets of Portsmouth, it is set to be a quiet and lonely Christmas – despite a number of services offering something for them.

David Standing, 49, lives out on the streets of Portsmouth. He says that he will be looking for somewhere to go for Christmas, if only to meet some new people. Picture: David George

David Standing, 49, lives out on the streets of Portsmouth. He says that he will be looking for somewhere to go for Christmas, if only to meet some new people. Picture: David George

Many charities and churches will have somewhere for rough sleepers on Christmas Day, but some are hesitant to attend anything.

The reason for this, they say, is that they are wary of one another, and do not feel comfortable in each other’s company.

John Stone, 52, said: ‘I have a little tent set up and live in there with my cat.

‘I’ve been homeless for 15 years now, so I am used to spending Christmas on my own.

John Stone, 52, has been homeless for 15 years. He plans on spending Christmas alone, saying that he is wary of other rough sleepers. Picture: David George

John Stone, 52, has been homeless for 15 years. He plans on spending Christmas alone, saying that he is wary of other rough sleepers. Picture: David George

‘That is the plan again this year – I don’t think many places would be happy if I turned up with the cat.

‘There are services available but I feel like I already have everything I need.

‘Other people aren’t so lucky – you can go days without having anything to do, or anyone to talk to.

‘We all tend to keep to ourselves out here – people might be heavy users of drugs or alcohol.

‘You just don’t know who you can trust, so for the sake of having a quiet Christmas you just keep your head down.

Nicky Smith, 43, said: ‘I’ve been out on the streets for about a year – this will be my second Christmas in the city.

‘Last year I was put up by a friend which was really nice, but this year I think I’ll just be keeping to myself.

‘You take each day as it comes – some of the things available aren’t always suitable for everyone.

‘I honestly just don’t want any drama over Christmas.’

Another rough sleeper, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘There are places to stay at Christmas and beds to sleep in.

‘There are churches opening up but quite a few of us homeless people don’t want to go in.

‘Some people are afraid of how official it looks – they just want to go in for a hot meal without having to worry about anything else.

‘There are a few people that will go along, of course, but the majority of people who have been out here for a long time won’t entertain the idea.

‘I think a lot of us would rather be on our own at Christmas – as strange as that sounds.

‘When there are so many people together, that is when the drama starts. If you want a quiet Christmas, you end up staying away from these places.’

But David Standing, 49, says that he will be finding somewhere to go, if only to meet new people.

He said: ‘I don’t really know anyone out on the streets.

‘I have a brother but don’t speak to him, so I guess I am a bit lonely.

‘There is a lot here to be fair, so I think I’ll probably try and find a place to go for Christmas.

‘I know there are a couple of things going on at least – and a hot meal is always really appreciated.’