My name is Billie. I’m 47.
Well, I’m originally from London. Erm… I’m involved, at Back on Track, I’m involved, er, with Streetwise Opera. I love my karaoke, I set up my own singing group now, Singing for Wellbeing so, you know, I do love my music, you know. Helping others, you know, I want to give back, because people have helped me so I want to give back.
I was living with someone who was mentally abusive. You know, we lived in one room above a pub and I wasn’t allowed to, you know, be myself and, you know, I was basically a prisoner in there.
And one Sunday I just got up—and he went to church, believe it or not!—and I just packed my bag and came up here because I’ve got, you know, a small amount of family up here. So I just packed my bags and left. That’s all I had, my possessions in my suitcase.
Erm, I came up here, I stayed a week at my stepson’s and then I went to, erm, the council and said, ‘Look, you know, they can’t have me there full time, they haven’t got the room.’ You know, it was… It was horrible because, you know, you have to go begging. You know, I need somewhere to live, and I was put in a hostel in, just, I think it’s the start of Longsight on Plymouth Grove. And it was horrid because… You know, I’m not saying people are wrong for doing it, I understand if you’re homeless, or you’re in a situation like that, you do turn to drink and drugs. But I didn’t want to get into that situation, and the whole place seemed to revolve around that, you know, drinking and drug culture.
And it was quite, sort of, scary at times because people would, you know, obviously lose their temper and there would be fights going on. And it’s like, I’d do anything to stay out during the day, and just go there at night, sleep there and that’s it. And it was quite a scary situation because, [gulps] you know, although I had family up here they didn’t have room for me permanently, and it’s… You know, I felt quite alone and quite vulnerable, you know, I didn’t know the city, I didn’t know the people, and it was just that sense of being alone. I was away from friends, because all my friends were in London, and it was just that feeling of being isolated in a city full of thousands of people, which I suppose everybody feels.
Erm… Now, I’m in a much better place. I’ve got, you know, my own little flat, you know, I’ve got a partner who is exceedingly supportive. You know, my son comes to visit; you know, he’s just come back from Afghanistan, he’s in the Army, so I’m really proud of him. And we’ve got our two little fur-babies, our pussy cats, and life’s a lot better. You know, I’m looking forward instead of looking back now. You know, it’s like, what’s next, what can I do now? So it’s a lot better, I feel more positive.
Erm… [sighs] Become an international super star? Live on an island somewhere… No, I just want to be happy, and I want the people I know to be happy. I want to do something… You know, I used to work with children before I came up here. I used to work with autistic children, and now I work with adults that are vulnerable, and I love that. Not that they’re vulnerable, don’t get me wrong! But I love, you know, even if I can help one person, you know, that is such a nice feeling.
When you’re here, seeing the people progress, going on to volunteering themselves, or, you know, going out and finding a job, that gives you that, you know, immense joy, because you’re seeing someone progress, and you’re thinking, well, that was me. And I’m in a better place now, not fantastic all the time, but I’m in a better place, and now I’m helping other people get out of that situation, and be a better person for them.
I’m going to have to go with, erm, the George Michael version of Somebody to Love from the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. Because I love… You know, Queen’s music is phenomenal anyway, and I was devastated when George Michael died last year, er, he was one of my big influences in music and, you know, that… If, you know, I’m feeling down, that’s one of my happy songs, ‘cause it’s just… I love it. You know, belt out a tune. So, yeah. Definitely that one.