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Issue 276

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street talk

street talk
Max Stone
I was an unhappy child, constantly attempting to kill time. I used to wander for hours, often late into the night. My father suspected I was gay and threw me out. I found myself on the streets. It was a bewildering experience. I travelled to London to explore the 'city opportunity'.

After a year of sleeping rough I enrolled for education and rented a flat. I propelled the pain behind me. Two years later the flat was declared unsafe and a health hazard. I rented a room in a house. I was forced to leave by a violent and sexually intrusive landlord. What a bleak future I faced then! I slept rough in parks and on friends' floors. Forced to look into myself, I discovered the source of my problems and made many important changes. My outlook on life was refreshed.

When I moved into this hostel I found the idea of sleeping in a tiny room with four bare white walls, a broken mattress and a naked light bulb suffocating and depressing. I'll soon be moved on to a flat of my own. I hope it'll work out, but who knows what life has in store?

Max Stone is a pen-name. He gave this interview to The Big Issue, London.

street talk
Thuli Mabena
I was born on 15 April 1979 - at Witbank in the township called Kwaguqa. My mother was only 16 years old when I was born and she was still at school. When I was three she went to Pretoria to find a job. She stayed there about ten years. At that time I was staying with my grandparents and their children.

Then one of my mother's sisters bought herself a house. So we stayed together until my mother came back. The problem started when my mother and her sister started drinking together. They were driving me nuts. So one day I told them I didn't like what they were doing. My mother's sister chased me out and said: 'This is my house. Pack your bags and go.' And that time I didn't know where to go.

I thought I must go to Jo'burg because I'd seen street children on the TV and I thought maybe I would meet friends. In Jo'burg I met a girl called Nokuthula. She told me she was staying at Park Station. That night we went to sleep in the movies.

In the morning we went to Benoni Children's Home. We stayed about four months. But the girls there hit and hurt us. The time came when we couldn't take it any more. We decided to go to another home in Jo'burg.

Thuli Mabena lives in Johannesburg. She gave this interview to Homeless Talk.

street talk
Scott Henry Turner.
I arrived in Hollywood early in 1993. The only thing that kept me going was the underlying will to survive away from the battleground I used to call home. I held on to the company of one guy for a while to try and learn my way around Los Angeles. He and I bounced around the city for some weeks, going from shelter to shelter until we lost each other. By this time I had stopped sleeping at night because it was too risky and cold outside. I hid in parking lots because they can't kill you or rape you if they can't find you. I always was, and still am, good at becoming invisible.

After two months of waiting I made it into the youth shelter of the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in Hollywood. I lived there for a year and a half, went through several jobs and finally moved into my own apartment this year. Soon I will learn to love myself.

Scott Henry Turner. has been a Peer Educator/Actor at the LA Free Clinic in Hollywood. His life story has been told in the LA street paper Street Scene.

street talk
Alain Fonteneau
The consumer market is a trap! I refuse to fall into it. On the farm where I used to live in Anjou we had no car and we never went to the cinema. My parents never had any savings.

I am the only one among six brothers and sisters to have got so far with my studies. When I got a degree in agricultural sciences at Nantes I knew there would be few openings - I would have liked to pursue my research into fungi that attack vines.

I taught biology for more than a year in different schools. But I was not cut out for it. In April 1992 I left Anjou for Paris. I saw posters on literacy at the hostel where I was staying. That gave me the idea of starting a course for residents, who were mostly foreigners. The hostel lent me a room and I began in December 1993. At the beginning of the summer holidays the classes ended.

After that I became a vendor for La Rue. I do not feel very comfortable, but it does enable me to meet different people, to have discussions with them and hand out my CV. I feel as free as someone who earns a lot. I have decided to do without anything superfluous. We must stand up to this society where consumption has become a hard drug.

Alain Fonteneau gave this interview to La Rue, Paris.

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