100 Strangers Project - 37/100 / by Michael Pung

I was walking out from Stratford station when a man called out to me and asked if I wanted to take a photo of him after he noticed my camera.  He was sitting on the pavement with his poetry laid out in front of him written on the inside of pizza boxes.  

From the outset, Tom was very engaging and was happy to chat. He told me that he finds satisfaction whenever people stop to read his poetry. He was inspired by the street, the people and the interactions that he experienced on a daily basis.

He currently lives in a home which houses 40 people and has made some good friends who he has lived with for the last 4 years. 

"We've been quite lucky recently like in the last year and a half where the building is quite stable."

"There was a period about two years ago where I was moving at around two weeks, three weeks, a month, constantly moving, constantly moving, constantly moving, constantly getting bailiffs woken up by security with dogs and stuff like that, violent police evictions... I got woken up once with 200 riot policemen, broke down the door and the whole street was blocked off. It was on the news! It's crazy, it's crazy."

"We try to negotiate with the owners all the time, we try and talk to them. A vast majority of the buildings that I've been kicked out of, as soon as I've been kicked out they've remained empty for years afterwards. Sitting doing nothing. Public buildings like the school, there was a school we squatted, we tried to talk to them about it, if we could do a community project like gardening and stuff like that.. and they were like, they just wouldn't talk to us, they didn't see us as like responsible people. We went to them to talk to them. And then, they kicked us out and now they are paying private security to guard that building. For thousands and thousands of pounds when people looked after their building for free. They don't think outside the box. They don't see you as a person. They think more for themselves. You got a lot of vulnerable people in there as well, like all you got to do is you gotta force these people on the street. Make them homeless. Make them what? Like force them on to sleeping out in the cold. I had a friend who died in the cold, it's fucking disgusting, especially in the winter. I was doing this thing called the Street's Kitchen in the middle of Trafalgar Square and I was feeding people. And I slept out in Trafalgar Square, you cannot believe how cold it is. A guy who has cerebal palsy, he was seriously disabled. Left on the street. Girls 17 years old vulnerable. No one cares about these people." 

He said that there should be more people who should question the issues surrounding people who are underprivileged, and also for other social issues. Despite the challenges he has encountered and so far in his life and for the others around him, he feels free.

Thank you Tom for taking part in the project and sharing your story!