Swansea: Back On The Streets - Tracy's story

Wednesday 8 May 2013, 08:31

Tracy Harris Tracy Harris

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Filmmaker Tracy Harris, who herself hails from Swansea, followed the desperate plight of Swansea's homeless a year ago along with Chris Rushton.

Now they have returned to find out if things have changed. Here's Tracy's account of her time. You can read Chris' blog post here.

I felt quite naive at the beginning. I didn't know any homeless people and, like many people, didn't understand the full extent of the problem. Coming from Swansea, I thought I knew the streets inside out but I soon realised I didn't know them at all.

Street people started to know us by name and began to look out for us. There is a real sense of community on the street and one day it felt like we had been accepted into that world.

Even some of the homeless people who didn't want to be filmed would help us out, carry equipment or come over for a chat. Kay, Mickey and Bull to name but a few were always around, full of stories and anecdotes. That's something I love about Swansea - the characters, how open people are and the real sense of community.

One day I walked through the tunnel under the railway station on my own. The first time I went there I was so frightened; I had heard so many bad stories. I stumbled across Tracie, one of the girls we'd been filming. She was distraught and in tears and couldn't face another night on the street. I sat with her for about an hour on her sleeping bag and we just talked. It meant so much that she let me in.

My view of the city I'd grown up in began to change. I looked at places in a different light. I knew the secret hide-outs, doorways and tunnels and ventured places I would never have gone before. I found it hard when I went out with friends to not go and say hello to the homeless people I knew would be sitting by the blowers getting some heat.

Chris and I made a good team. It was a real journey for both of us and we managed to keep smiling through some difficult times. It was important that we depended on and were there for each other when the going got tough.

The one and only happy homeless person we met was Paul, who for the last 30 years had been drifting around Britain and living rough outdoors. We spent Christmas morning with him having coffee and cake in a dark tunnel and I think that memory will stay with me forever.

Paul taught me to slow down and look at things around the city. His one bag held everything that was important to him and he always had time for people. So, after the first series, I had a clear out and gave away a lot of things I didn't need.

Chris Rushton and Paul Chris Rushton and Paul  

Some of the women really opened up to me. Their stories were shocking. I remember one bright young girl in particular. She'd become a prostitute and told me she charged £20 a time, all just to fund her drug habit. She was homeless but streetwise and one day she just cracked and poured her heart out to me. It was awful. It made me really angry and upset. I couldn't stop thinking about how her life could have been so very different.

Although it was emotional and their stories were hard hitting and powerful, it never ceased to amaze us how there was always humour on the street. People who were in dire situations remained so positive and were able to laugh and joke.

We learnt a lot from the first series and it was hard to let go. We have dug a lot deeper in the second. Both times it took over our lives and I think that's important as we had a duty to all the people who willingly and openly let us in, to tell their stories with honesty and integrity.

The last day of filming was hard. We had spent so much time with homeless people and walking away from their lives was heart-breaking. On the last day, Susan, one of the girls we'd been filming, offered us a cup of tea and gave Chris and me a coat each!

This six month experience on the streets has taught us a lot and some of the people we met are now more like friends. Next time we're in Swansea we'll definitely be meeting them again for a cuppa.

Swansea: Back On The Streets is on Wednesday 8 May at 10.35pm on BBC One Wales. It is a Mentorn Cymru production for BBC Cymru Wales.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Powerful and punchy - thanks for highlighting these issues, attitudes and stories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Really great episode last night, can't wait to see the stories develop. Strong messages and reflective concepts, a lot to consider in our privileged lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Enjoyed the second series as much as the first, it is a reminder that sometimes hardship is just around the corner and being homeless can happen to anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    A very insightful and thought provoking programme. Some great characters dealing with tough times. It made me think how fortunate I am and how a change in circumstances could leave anyone in the vulnerable situation these guys have unfortunately found themselves. Thanks for shedding light on the subject Tracy and Chris. Looking forward to seeing what happens to their lives through the series. Hopefully they'll get more help as a result of your work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Missed it yesterday but just watched it on Iplayer. Gret piece, great characters.
    It certainly puts things in perspective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    It is a rare thing for filmmakers to put themselves in situations most of us avoid on a daily basis. This programme proves how important it is to shed light on such situations. Well done for raising awareness, making unheard voices heard and listening to these people. It is very moving stuff

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    i just watched last night`s episode, although thought provoking and in some instances very sad, i can`t really feel any empathy for some of them, there`s alot more help out there, than they are saying , they sometimes just don`t want it, what makes them end up on the streets, i mean whats susans history , why do most of them end up on the streets what type of people are they ???


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