WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

The dossers and tramps may have gone…

28 February, 2019

• FURTHER to your report (Streets Kitchen claims new patrols are making ‘hostile environment’ for homeless, February 21) where have the dossers gone?

It was a way of life in which people decided to live out in the open, maybe through alcoholism and the need to keep the cash for that and not spend it on accommodation.

Some would happily move throughout the country by various means, hitch-hiking, jumping on trains or lorries. They were usually called tramps.

WH Davies (1871-1940) travelled throughout the UK and the US and wrote The Autobiography of a Supertramp.

“Yorkie” was probably the last romantic tramp figure who dossed down in a park shelter in the Parliament Hill area.

He was always nice to people. Teachers sometimes brought pupils to see him in his shelter as representing the “freedom of the road”.

Then there were others – like one who was alcohol-free and dossed near the Magdala pub back in the 1970s.

Another group who dossed around the bus hub of South End Green begged constantly and drank themselves into oblivion. But the point was it was their way of life.

Now they would be called homeless though it is doubtful if they ever wanted permanent accommodation.

So now the dosser and the tramp are no more. They are the homeless. The media sometimes report on someone lying in a doorway as being 15 years homeless. Is it possible to be homeless for 15 years?

Some of the genuine homeless might spend a couple of nights in the open but is usually something they don’t want to do any longer that than.

WILSON JOHN HAIRE
N19

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