Sign of the Times-0427 Image by Christine Renney 2015

I took this photo on arriving at Southend and on our return to the car this young man was still in the same place. It was New Year’s Eve and absolutely freezing. I had a chat with him – he told me that he had been homeless for some time following falling into arrears with his rent. He admitted that he had not been as responsible as he should have been. However, I have been irresponsible many times but am fortunate enough to have had a strong safety net around me. Clearly he has not.



I began talking with a young man outside a bookshop as I had seen him earlier, looking to the ground for money. He was poorly dressed and his clothes were grubby. Although clearly in need, he had not asked anyone for anything. He told me he has a little place where he sleeps that pretty much keeps the rain out but is hoping to be rehoused under the city’s rehousing schemes. No parents and has only just caught up with his sister. He told me that he self-harmed and I asked if he would show me his arms. I was shocked when I saw the pain etched out so clearly on his skin. He assured me he is under the Mental Health Team and is now receiving counselling and has not self-harmed for some time. His other arm was equally damaged.

I know that this could be seen as intrusive but I feel it necessary to publish the image. I did give him money for a meal and some cigarettes not in payment but because, apart from the cuddle we had, I had nothing else to give him. He is a very gentle person. I hope he survives.