How old are you, Jo?

I’m 47. Mum died when I was 5. Dad brought us up, me, my brother, I’m the youngest of three.

I’d quite a good life, do you know what I mean, there was no—apart from obviously the fact that my mum died and there was only my dad. Not really any problems until I reached teenage years.

Er, so I started smoking weed when I was 13, and started taking Whizz when I was about 15. Party drugs when I was about 17, going out raving in the late eighties, taking acid and Es. Got introduced to crack cocaine when I was about 19. My sister’s boyfriend introduced me to it, um, said, ‘Here, here’s a friend for you.’

I’ve got a son. I had my son when I was about, when I was 22, not about 22. I was 22 when I had my son, and started taking Heroin when I was about 24, so I’ve had a long history of addiction.

So I started seeing somebody, erm. I used to sell it, and I worked, and I sold drugs, and I worked, and sold drugs, and worked, sold drugs, and worked, for years. And then I found myself in prison at the age of 41, after, erm, losing… I had three jobs at one time. One of them I got made redundant from, one of them was just a Christmas job, and the other one I ended up working just match days at City and it wasn’t enough to support my habit. And the guy that I was seeing, he was using as well.

Went through my savings, went through his savings, and then come, like, Christmas 2010, we had no money, it had all gone, and couldn’t go to the bank ‘cause it… The way the days fell over the Christmas and New Year, there was loads of bank holidays and the banks weren’t open, so couldn’t go to the bank to get an overdraft, or anything like that, to get any money. So I had the bright idea to commit a load of robberies. So we ended up committing seven robberies in seven days, erm, and then once we ended up going to the bank and getting some money, stopped. So they were like from something like twenty-seventh December to about the fifth January, committed seven robberies. Didn’t do it ever again, that was it. And got arrested. Apparently the police were looking all over for us, so got arrested three months later. A drug dealer grassed on me. I couldn’t believe it, a drug dealer grassed on me!

I ended up getting arrested obviously, then went to jail. I was, like, in the police station for three and a half days and then, on a Saturday morning, court.

I was in a sweatbox on my way to Styal prison, and I was like, ‘You’re having a laugh, is this…? What’s going on?’ Do you know what I mean?

I’ve never been to prison, not been arrested for over twenty years. Last time I got arrested was for shoplifting when I was about 16, 17, and it was like, pff. So anyway, I got five years. Got five years in jail. Did two and a half.

Ended up… I was in Styal for a couple of months, and once I got sentenced they sent me to Drake Hall which is in Staffordshire, and that’s how I ended up… Coming out of prison is how I ended up homeless. Because I was in Staffordshire, they said—because you only start sorting it out two weeks before you leave anyway—and they were like, ‘Well you’ve not really got any links to Manchester so there’s not a lot we can do. There’s nobody you can go and stay with?’

And I was like, ‘Well, no not really.’

But my cousin had already said to me, ‘You can come and stay with us if you want, when you get out.’ But she lives in Buxton, so I ended up having to ring her the day before I got out. I needed to come back to Manchester because everything… I just couldn’t stay in Buxton, it was like… I tried getting a job there; there was no jobs. I’d already started using drugs again anyway, because every time I came back to Manchester I was using, so I’d already got an habit again, so I just came back to Manchester. Erm.

I was supposed to be staying at a friend’s, I’d already asked him if I could stay and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, no problem, it’s not a problem. Of course you can come and stay.’

And I got to Manchester… I got on the train, and I got a one-way ticket from Buxton, and it’s like an extra 20p to get a return, but I got a one-way ticket ‘cause he was supposed to be meeting me at the train station, but he never turned up. And I was ringing him, and ringing him. And I was ringing him on the train on the way there, and I was ringing him when I got to the station, and his phone was just ringing, ringing, ringing, and then it started going to the answering machine so I thought, ‘Nice. Wanker.’ Do you know what I mean? ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this. You should have just said to me, you know, “You can’t stay”. If you’d have said, “No, you can’t stay” I would have found somewhere else to stay. Or stayed in Buxton a little bit longer.

So, er, I rang an old friend of mine who I’d not seen for a while, but I’d spoke to him a couple of times when I was in jail anyway, I’d phoned him and that, and er, he was in a pub in town. And he went, ‘Just come down here, we’ll sort something out. Don’t worry about it, we’ll sort something out.’

So I went to Mother Macs in town. With my fucking suitcase, dragging it behind me, and he was asking me what… Because I’d already been to see him, when I got out, I’d seen him, like, I think I’d seen him once when I got out, or I went to visit him, say, ‘Hiya, I’m out. Hello.’ Bit awkward to stay at his, so one of the other lads, his missus was like, ‘Come and stay at ours. You can just come and stay at ours for a couple of nights until they sort things out.’

So I ended up going and staying in Stockport for a week. Went back to Manchester council while I was there and said to them, like, ‘Right, I can stay at my friends for a week, and then that’s it. And I’ve got nowhere to stay.’

And they were like, ‘Well, you’re still not vulnerable.’ You know.

So, how are you not vulnerable? In a week I’m going to be sleeping on the streets, so how is that not vulnerable? You know what I mean? I’m going to be a single woman, sleeping on the streets of Manchester, how does that not make me vulnerable?’

And they were like, ‘Well, you’re not a priority.’

And I was like, ‘Right OK, so what do you need to be a priority?’

And they were like… So, they knew I was a drug addict, they knew that I’d just got out of jail, and because I didn’t have any mental health problems—what they call mental health problems—they said that I wasn’t a priority. And that’s the reason that I ended up homeless, because it was like, that’s it, do you know what I mean?

‘You’ve got no mental health problems.’

‘Well, what do you want me to do, start kicking off in here? I’ll show you fucking mental health problems, if you want mental health problems, I’ll show them you!’

I couldn’t got stay with my… I asked my dad if I could go and stay there and, er, his missus doesn’t like me, ‘cause, pff, whatever reason, anyway, erm. And he said, ‘You know, I’ll ask her, but…’ It’s my dad’s house, not hers, it’s actually my mum’s house and er… She said no, and my dad said, ‘She’ll leave me if I let you come and stay.’

And I was like, ‘Oh right, so it’s alright for her kids to stay, and her grandkids to stay, but I can’t stay in my own…’ That’s my house, that’s my childhood home, do you know what I mean? It was my mum’s house.

Anyway she ended up getting me in the Narrowgate, which is a night shelter, but it was only open at the time, Monday to Thursday. So I stayed there Monday to Thursday, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I stayed on the streets. But there was, erm, I met a couple of guys in there, so I got quite friendly with them, and one of them used to go and stay at his friends in Oldham over the weekend, and the other one, he was about 17, he went, ‘You can come and stay with me. It might just be a little bit safer for you, if you’re with a man on the streets.’

I was like, ‘Right, OK.’ So I ended up staying Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights round the corner from the Post Office on Spring Gardens, and it was like, there’s a building right opposite, and it’s got, like, a little ramp on it, but you can go round a little corner thing round the thing, so it’s like, kind of protected from the wind. But also you can’t really see you, do you know what I mean, so as people are coming past… Because the threat… The weekend in town, it’s just manic, ain’t it?

The sort of bands that I’m into, I like The Stone Roses, and one of my favourites of theirs is Ten Storey Love Song, but I also love… Do you know what I mean, I’m proper into the Specials, and Pretenders, and all that sort of stuff as well, so… And recently I’ve been… [laughs] I don’t, for some reason I can’t get that Jilted John song out of my head. Recently.

It was on the telly the other night, did you watch it?

Was it? I’ve been listening to… I just can’t get it out of my head. [sings] ‘I’ve been going out with a girl. Her name is Julie. But last night she said—‘ I don’t know, I just can’t get it out of my head at the moment, so that, and Handbags and Gladrags is one of my all-time favourites, Rod Stewart.