I've just caught part of a programme on BBC3 tonight about homeless people in Bristol. The interviewer, who has been homeless himself, spent time talking to people he has met as he had wandered the city with a camera and over time re-visiting them, tracking and discussing the stories of their homeless experience.
One young 17-year old lad, homeless since 14, talked about a place under a bridge that he'd lived in for about 7 months. They filmed him in the location, talking with three other young men who lived there too. They'd created a tent like structure from blankets, had a laptop to watch films; things had places, there appeared to be an order to the space, and it was dry.
The comment that caught my attention and prompted me to write this note occurred later in the programme, when the young lad is again being interviewed after he'd not been since in the regular gathering places for a while, the interviewer had caught up with him to find out why. Sat on a bench, overlooking the river and near to the bridge he had lived under, he explained that there had been a fire, someone who had found needles was trying to get rid of them, but that action had sparked a larger fire.
Since the incident access to get under the bridge had been closed off with metalwork fencing and a lock. Paraphrasing his comments to camera:
"The thing is that's taken away some of my childhood. I mean I've lived there for about 7 months they've stopped me from getting in now".
It appears to be a simple insignificant comment, yet could it be that even in the direst of circumstances we can still form an attachment to place? Can we still see a place as in some way 'ours', our home, our space that is our own, which is ordered, has a purpose, provides shelter with others. Could we even say there is some sense of community here, community of place and of a shared situation, which triggers and strengthens the sense of loss when access is denied.
I felt it was a significant comment that has provoked considerable thought for me and piqued my questioning even more about the significance of place in our lives.