No Place Like Home

In No Place Like Home we tell the story of Paul, an ex-rough sleeper, coming off the street, and tackling anxiety and addiction. The film is situated in this shifting and uncertain space between the familiarity of street sleeping and the challenges faced in trying to lead an ‘ordinary life’.

And the stories we are told? Brief glimpses, nothing more. We begin with no expectations, no storyboarded ideas of what it’s like to be on the street for years, to be long-term rough sleeping. Sometimes arrangements are made, changed, rearranged then cancelled: Paul’s is a chaotic life. We talk, listen, allowing experiences to unfold, although often not in any ordered sense. We know the value of being guided, as we attempt to tease out the narrative strands of a life, to fashion these scattered threads in the process of editing. The stories we hear, brief as they are, circulate around school as a site of conflict, care from an early age, substance use, prison, life on the street. Paul talks about the freedom, ‘Well not freedom, really,’ talks about being shunned, becoming isolated, invisible, but also about small kindnesses. We sit in a doorway off Oxford Street and he speaks of the generosity of passing strangers, but also about the arbitrary acts of abuse and violence. ‘It happens,’ he says. ‘It’s just something that happens, that’s all I can say about that.’ We discuss coming off the street, how his life is changing, and that old habits, old coping mechanisms essential on the street, are now no longer useful. Paul knows these changes come painfully slow. During the six months we’ve spent together we’ve witnessed breaks and ruptures along the way, watched Paul waver, vacillate between the certainty and security of substance use and the unsettling uncertain present. Resilience is a key factor in this process.

Over the months we fall into a routine: after filming, the material is replayed, he listens, watches and we talk about what has been said, what more is needed. This agreement is essential, the same for everyone we work with, to take all material back and talk it through before we move on. People talk, and in the process, may say more than they mean to; we’re aware of over-disclosure, of sensitive issues, raw memories re-surfacing in the conversations, of the need for people to have some control over this process.

This film continues our exploration of homelessness and senses of belonging first encountered in our work with Catch 22 and their resettlement programme.