Homeless Thoughts

Homeless

Who loves a nobody?
Why does no one care?
Where will I sleep tonight?
How will I get there?

When will I find a home?
Who can tell me soon?
Huddled in a cardboard box,
In the evening gloom.

Food from a stranger,
In a moving van,
Wander in the daylight,
Sleep upon the strand.

Someone please help me,
For I really need a home,
Time waits for no man,
Again I’ll sleep alone.

* * *

First Published in:
‘LETTERS FROM THE SOUL’ ANTHOLOGY
ISBN: 0-7951-5160-8

That poem was written when I was a teenager, inspired by several news reports about Homeless people in the cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh… but mostly London if I’m honest.

I was innocent back then. I didn’t think that families COULD be made homeless. I thought that if a family was thrown out of their home, that the local council would sweep them up and drop them into a council house.
I had some justification for that view – it had just happened to me at the time; the USAF base I lived on was closing and one minute I was living in isolation in a tumbledown cottage on an airbase, the next I was in a brand new council house in the middle of a village with a shop and a school and people!

Back then – please remember that this was over twenty years ago… Yikes that makes me feel old! – there was a lot of nastiness in teenage society about how your parents got their money and where you lived. Living in a Council House was okay as long as you had both your parents and one of them was working (preferably your father) so while I was low on the scale, for a long while I wasn’t the lowest of the low.
When my parents divorced, I dropped down the scale somewhat. My Mum was still working, which kept me off the absolute bottom, and being sixteen and on my way to university by then, it didn’t matter as much to me.

As I kept getting told (by various “helpful” adults) I was working my way out of poverty, and one day I would have a highly paid job, a house and car of my own and be able to look after my own family in much better circumstances, maybe even living in London or New York .

I would never have to depend on benefits or the council ever again.

Being an impressionable sort of teenager (wonderful thing, Aspergers, huh) I believed what I was told and did my utmost to fulfil the fantasy they were spinning for me… but life being what it is, it wasn’t until I got halfway through university that I realised I was on the wrong degree course… and that it was too late to stop the course and start again.

But by this time I had changed and I knew that the life fantasy I had been fed was completely wrong. So I spent several years working out what I wanted from life and started working toward that. At the back of my mind however, was “I don’t want to depend on benefits or the council ever.”

It took me a long time to overcome that thought.

So here I sit… an author and mother of three gorgeous children, engaged to a lovely, gentle man with two fluffy master cats to entertain and soothe our souls. And yet again I am facing homelessness.

Only this time, I realise what my parents must have gone through when they were told that the base was closing and that my Father’s job was going to come to an end. That they would have to move our family to another house and he would have to find another job somehow. That they would have to go into a Council house because their credit score wasn’t worthy enough to buy a house of their own.

And now I realise quite how toxic that original thought of “I don’t want to depend on benefits or the council ever.” is. There are situations where you have to depend on the goodwill of other people in order to change your situation, like Homelessness. This is where the Council is supposed to step in.

Because neither of us is working (rather hard to be a full time Teacher when you can’t get to a school to teach) and because my partner’s back problem has become chronic enough to disable him, we are depending on benefits. Because our credit score is neither good enough to get a mortgage, nor secure us another private rental house.

Because the Insurance Companies believe that people on Housing Benefit are shiftless, unreliable and highly likely not to pay the rent – and insist that Landlords must pay another 40% on top of their premium to be able to rent to such people.

Because Private Letting Agents require Landlords to pay to have their houses managed and Tenants to pay for the privilege of even trying to find out if they are “worthy” enough to rent a house with them… and then make Tenants pay through the nose for paperwork, spare keys, visits to view the property, to maintain the property, to renew the rental contract, to pay for the damage that pets “might” do to the property.

Because those on Benefits are viewed as high risk tenants, no matter their previous working histories, current circumstances or actual personalities.

This is where Council Housing is supposed to stand. A place that anyone, no matter what their finances or situations or disabilities can find a house to live in for as long as they need it.

But…

The housing (in our area anyway) isn’t there. There isn’t enough of it, of a livable quality, capable of coping with all the needs of all the people. There are over 400 people on the Accessibility List that we’ve been put on – medical priority, top of the list, but needing special adaptations to be able to live.

So here WE stand. Waiting for a court order eviction to throw us out of the house we are in; waiting for a three bedroom bungalow or ground floor flat ( no stairs allowed essentially); Waiting for the nod to move into Emergency Housing that might not be suitable for all our needs (remember I have three aspies to cope with as well?) for an unspecified amount of time.

The stress is more than that of a normal move (done that a few times before) because it’s the uncertainty of knowing where we will be going, how much we are going to be able to take with us and if our Cats (who provide a much needed service in the form of bringing sanity and calm to a meltdown) are going to be able to come with us or if we are going to have to put them into a Cattery.

One of the ways I deal with stress is to write… and this morning I came up with this –

Homeless
Part Two.

Losing your home,
Is like losing a friend.
Is like being uprooted,
Again and again.

You sit and you worry,
About where you will go.
About how you will get there,
In a place you don’t know.

The more there are of you,
The more your mind flits,
From possessions to people.
All needing “their” bits.

Made homeless by paper,
Made homeless by greed,
Made homeless by people,
Who don’t see your need.

You’d be right in thinking it isn’t finished… there is no satisfactory ending to his one because, as yet, there is no satisfactory ending to our situation.

The thought that there are hundreds of people in the same situation as us, who need similar things and can’t get them because there IS NO HOUSING suitable for them… that is something that makes me hate the society we live in even more.

Being paid with Exposure…

There’s a skirmish raging in the publishing industry at the moment… no, I’m not talking about two of the Big Six going head to head over something, or Traditional Publishing attacking Self Publishing.

I’m talking about writers waking up to a strange concept.

Payment.

When I started writing in the hope of making it a career, I was naive and hopeful. I’d followed an article I read in a Writing Magazine and started out by trying my luck with the Short Story market.

With every acceptance for an anthology I gained, my ego was given a boost. I was going to make it and in just a few months, I’d have accumulated a writer’s CV with enough stories published to wow an agent when I sent out my first book manuscript…

… or at least that is what I thought.

I was careful. After a few submissions paid for in “exposure”,  I went for anthologies and magazines that paid a minimal amount rather than the “for the love of it” publications. My plan was to get a few of those under my belt and then try for the markets that paid multiple pennies per word.
That went awry when I opened my own webzine and realised that unless I paid for writers, I wouldn’t get more than my friends submitting… and I had a sneaking suspicion that my friends were submitting to either shut me up or to make me feel better as my webzine tanked on the views.
*sighs*

I came out of that period a lot wiser. I learned that being a webzine owner / editor wasn’t as easy as it looked and that the stress of getting an issue out each month wasn’t worth the small moment of pride I got each month.
It also taught me that unless I wanted to starve my family, I was going to have to work harder at bringing money in.

(Yes, I know. I live in the UK – our benefits system is supposed to mean no one starves… *snorts*…)

Anyway. That was where I started my inroad into novel publishing.
I’d sent out a large number of novel queries at the same time as the short story foray. It hadn’t gone well.
Exposure wasn’t worth the paper it wasn’t written on after all, I had discovered. Agents weren’t interested in my publishing credits with magazines, even ones that were popular in the genre crowd. They wanted something that they knew would sell to a big publisher, so that they could collect their 15% commission on a large sum.

So now I’m here.

Self publishing is almost as bad as working for “exposure” but at least I get to set the prices when I publish a book. And at least I do get paid… sometimes it might be pennies per book, but at least all those pennies are mine and mine alone.

Chuck Wendig writes a superb blog. He has an entertaining writing style that brings people to his yard for more than just refreshment…  He’s one of my Writing Heroes because he seems to find time to write Books as well as blog pieces. He’s a genius in the art of grabbing his audience by the throat and getting his point across in a few, well chosen words.

He’s also a tad sweary… which I appreciate because I can’t do it properly. There’s an art to swearing that I have never mastered. But I digress.

I’d seen the blog that Wil Wheaton had posted on the subject of Huffington Post’s refusal to pay for his work back in October.  And at the time, I agreed with it wholeheartedly. I’d chuckled and agreed with The Oatmeal’s take on Exposure Payment and then in the rush of creativity for NaNoWriMo, I forgot about it again. Until this…

SCREAM IT UNTIL THEIR EARS BLEED: PAY THE FUCKING WRITERS

Chuck’s post on the 18th whacked me full force in the face with a wet Kipper and forced me to pay attention to something that I thought wasn’t happening any more.

I don’t know why I thought it wasn’t happening anymore. I haven’t been in that world very much, having been spending more time trying to work on my own novels, worrying about my partner’s back and my children’s  schooling.

But now I realise that the “exposure” payment never actually went away… and that I will never again write anything for just exposure. I will expect some kind of payment – whether that is in kind (so a guest blog post on another blog will always mention my own work somehow; aka free advertising)  or an actual monetary payment.

The only place that you will find my words for free is here – on my own blog. And even here, should you wish to support my writing career, you can. I have several e-books available for purchase on amazon and other places; just type “Kira Morgana” or “A. E. Churchyard” into your favourite e-book site’s search facility.

Just buy yourself something to read and thereby keep my cats in Kittynibbles and my kids in socks… it’s as simple as that.

PS: The only work that will ever be entirely for free will be either my Fanfiction (I don’t believe in profiting from someone else’s work and if the copyright holder objects to it, I’ll remove them from my site) or the stories that get published through Cake & Quill – Charity Anthologies are worth the work for an entirely different reason.