A guest blog written by Tracey Ford, on her experiences of taking part in Shelter’s Writing Home poetry project
Recovering drug addict, single parent and homeless: this was me over 30 years ago. I have come a long way since then, but I still bare some of the scars left behind. Memories – or should I say flashbacks – can take me back in time in a nanosecond, and I must remind myself I am no longer that vulnerable person I once was.
Journaling, getting words, thoughts and feelings off my chest has helped me to reconcile and forgive any poor decisions I made in the past – and it has also helped with the present. Being able to offload my words has helped shed light into some very dark places of my life.
Why I got involved
I have worked in the addition/recovery field for the past 20 years, championing the right for people with lived experience to be heard. So, when I heard that Shelter was looking for volunteers to take part in a poetry project to mark World Homelessness Day, I jumped at the chance to get involved.
I got in touch and had an introductory zoom meeting with Millie, the producer, to see if it was for me, or if I was what Shelter was looking for. Turns out I was.
What I got out of the project
Apart from the filming, the whole project was conducted via zoom. There were between eight and 10 people with various lived experience of homelessness at any one time. We met in the evenings: over seven session times in a two-week period, (which was a big commitment at times). But I have to say, I got something out of each and every one.
Just having the opportunity to share lived experiences with a diverse range of people was special, so much so that the group have planned to continue meeting up after the project is launched.
Creating the poem
Will Harris, a renowned poet, led the sessions. I had never heard of the term Renga before. In fact, I kept referring to the poem as a ‘Jenga’ (which is in fact a well-known board game), much to the amusement of my peers.
But I can safely say I now know the difference between both. In fact, I was inspired to write an additional poem in a blog, based on the sessions, called ‘There’s a saying that “Home is where the heart is” – But what if your heart is broken?’.
Unfortunately, I was away when filming of the poem took place. I was gutted to have missed the opportunity to share my own words and finally meet people from the group, who I’d formed a mutual bond with. So, you can imagine my surprise when everyone agreed to call the poem Jenga in recognition of my hapless use of the English language.
Providing a roof over someone’s head is just the start. I think we have got a long way to go in society to recognise that those that live under those roofs still need practical and emotional support – and more importantly have RIGHTS.
I feel extremely privileged to been part of this amazing project and to support the work and endeavours of Shelter, and I’m grateful for the opportunity and to everyone involved.
Watch the full poem below:
Tracey is writing a memoir about her journey and writes a blog about her experience of addiction.