Tears of a clown...I’ve slept in doorways, rummaged in bins for food to eat and even been urinated on by yobs, reveals performer (From Southend Standard)
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Tears of a clown...I’ve slept in doorways, rummaged in bins for food to eat and even been urinated on by yobs, reveals performer
12:20pm Thursday 31st October 2013 in Echo News
"IT’S a very tough world being a homeless person.”
That’s the understated testimony from one former rough sleeper.
Salvo the Clown is a well known face across south Essex. He has kept families entertained on Southend High Street and at different events for many years.
But the performer, who doesn’t reveal his real name, spent a lot of time on the streets in his younger days.
He spoke about the plight of homeless people as it emerged the charity Harp helps about 2,000 people a year at its day and night shelters in the Southend area and was only able to house 387 of them in the last year.
Many homeless people are now taking to sleeping rough in churchyards, but this has prompted some to seek planning permission to install gates to keep them out.
Salvo said he had to find anywhere he could to bed down for the night.
He said: “I slept in churchyards or anywhere I could – the important thing was just to get out of the wind and the rain, to just be a little bit more comfortable, and I was fortunate I never suffered in the snow.
“I would go up and down the High Street to find a place to sleep and then once a week, I would roll my roll up bed and move on.”
Salvo was at first critical of the plans by St Alban the Martyr Church in Westcliff to put up gates to keep out rough sleepers, but then changed his mind when he saw photos on the Echo’s website of the mess left behind by those sheltering there.
He added: “I had to sleep anywhere I could, in shop doorways, churchyards, anywhere, but I would keep them clean.
“It’s just sad that for those people that if they had kept that area clean (in St Alban’s), they’d probably be allowed to stay there.”
As a teenager, Salvo left his home due to issues with relatives and tried to become a travelling performer.
However, during the low season, he couldn’t find work and had to sleep rough.
Part of his world was looking through bins for food.
It is a problem homeless people continue to experience as last year Harp gave out 6,600 food parcels to people in need, up from just 1,700 two years previously.
A foodbank at The Storehouse in Coleman Street, Southend, is also feeding more than 200 people a day who would otherwise go hungry.
Salvo said: “I used to go around the bins, picking through the mess to find food.
“It’s a very tough world to be a homeless person. The most unpleasant thing I had was actually getting peed on.
“The people that did it thought it was quite funny, that they can stand over you and pee on you while you’re sleeping. It happened a couple of times. They couldn’t care less about you, they’ve got a roof over their head. You couldn’t do anything about it, if you did, you’d end up getting arrested.
“You can get into a rut with depression being homeless, I did.
You can turn to drink, I did.”
Salvo said his life picked up once he became settled in Essex, and has stopped drinking.
He still maintains friendships with homeless people and said they needed support to help them access services who can offer accommodation and food. He doesn’t believe in giving them money.
He said: “There are services there to help, like Harp, but not everyone wants their help. Some will come out of being homeless, and some won’t. Some will unfortunately end up being carried off in a box if they don’t, which is very sad.”
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