London, UK

“Try your hardest not to get used to it.”

William has survived without shelter for over twenty years following a family tragedy. Having recently lost his tent and belongings due to a council ‘clean up’, he now has to start again from nothing.

Photography: Sophie McCook
06-08-2021
Est. 3 minutes

William has survived without shelter for over twenty years following a family tragedy. Having recently lost his tent and belongings due to a council ‘clean up’, he now has to start again from nothing.

“We lived in Grays, near Tilbury, my family and me. We was in a house fire and I lost my parents. And I got my brother out….but I didn’t get my mum and dad out. After I lost my parents, I lost my head. I took to drink. But I haven’t drunk for seven years now.”

Unfortunately, William no longer talks to his surviving family. “I never speak to my brother. Does he worry about me? I don’t know, I just don’t know.”

William lives in one small area of Holborn, at the crossroads near the tube. “I like talking with people, I know nearly everyone around here. I do the same thing nearly every day. I take what comes, but I’m outgoing still, I haven’t really given up.”

“I’m a qualified care assistant and physio, that’s what I used to work as, before, with disabled kids. But then, I got into this hole. Once you’re deep in it, it’s hard to get out.”

William misses somewhere he can call home, and a place to put his belongings. With the start of Covid, William’s situation suddenly worsened.

“Two years ago I used to have a tent, pitched outside Sainsbury’s. I had pictures up on the wall, flowers, everything. Everyone loved it because it looked like a home. But then the council came and destroyed it.”

William returned to the site to find he had lost all his belongings and paperwork. “That’s what they do. They move us on, but where do we go?” 

On the day we spoke to William, he had just been issued a fine by the local authorities. “They bring the Bill [police] just in case, makes them braver. They’ve fined me £800 just for sitting here.” There is a chance that William could be imprisoned if he doesn’t pay the fine. It’s happened to him before. Life is easier in prison in some ways, but, as he says, “Who wants to be locked up?”


William was pleased to receive a Shelterbag, especially as he had lost most of his belongings the previous two years. After sleeping one night in a Shelterbag, he had already felt the benefit of a better night’s sleep.

William asks people not to judge the unsheltered and has some advice for those who are new to the streets:

“Out here, there’s a lot of people brainy people, qualified people. There are people who have done things for their country: there’s a lot of soldiers out here too. But the way people are to us affects us psychologically, it can become a cycle. Do your best to get out of it because someone fresh can get help quickly. Try your hardest not to get used to it.”

“They’ll work best in the rain I think. We don’t get snow in London. Just colder rain.”

– William

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About this project

For this ongoing project, we engage with unhoused communities in various cities. The intimate documentary reflects the unraveling of society and exposes the equal measures of strength and vulnerability of each of its characters.

By capturing these raw moments in a new light, we challenge the mainstream representation of a growing, forgotten group. It reminds us that people who experience homelessness should neither be labeled nor disregarded. Everyone has a story to tell.