A homeless man who lives in a makeshift camp underneath a busy railway arch has told how he’s happy living on the streets.
The man, known only as Paul, has made the dark tunnel his home by lining the floors with newspaper and creating a 3ft high bed to keep the rats at bay.
The 53-year-old earns a small wage through casual shifts with a local scrap yard in Birmingham before returning to his campsite next to a noisy dual carriageway.
Paul, who has spent in prison over the years but is now free from drugs, told how he comes from a large family and never imagined himself holding down a normal office job, Birmingham Live reports.
Despite lacking some normal home comforts, the father-of-two insists he’s happy with the way he lives his life and is totally self-sufficient.
He explained: “I wasn’t pushed on to the streets, I chose to be on the streets.
“I don’t live in doorways or park benches, I live in tents or places like this, squats, caravans and buses and all that.
“The people you tend to see on the streets now, they’re just too lazy to get off their arses basically.
“I know most of the homeless in town, some of them couldn’t be arsed to work.
“Basically we’re all the same family. But you’ve got to get off your arse and work these days, you can’t just expect other people to give you.
“Basically, right, they come round asking ‘You got this, you got that’ but you have to get it yourselves.”
Paul makes ends meet by doing casual work at local scrap yards where he earns enough to get by.
He added: “I can get £10, £20, £30 a day from the scrap yards if I want to and pay it back when I can. If I can’t pay it back, right, I do some work for them.
“I go to soup runs, a chip shop and Sikhs. Water comes from a tap just round the other side of the bridge.
“I’ve been here the last five years. I went away for two. And six years before that. So I’ve been here 11 years.
“The lock (on the gate) has only been there for the past few weeks since lockdown in case people are coming around looking for somewhere for themselves.”
He insists that he doesn’t miss many of life’s luxuries including watching television but insists it was a ‘lifesaver’ during his many prison stays.
Paul explained: “When I’m in prison, yeah. Then TV is a lifesaver. Other than that, I’ve always wanted to be out on my bike.
“Skateboarding when I was young, trying to get girls when you were getting older.
“I’ve never fancied telly. I’ll sit down and watch a film – I like Lord of the Rings type films, things like that.
“I was into Lord of the Rings before I even knew who’d written it.
“It was only about 2000 when I started to take an interest (in who’d written) it (and that author JRR Tolkien had lived in Moseley a few hundred yards from where he was born).
“I’ve got about a million books in my mum’s garage.”
The homeless man told how he had spent a number of years in jail for a variety of crimes but insisted he was not a violent person.
He said: “In the whole of my life, I’ve done about 15 years in prison. Three months here. Six months there. Two years there, three years there.
“It was for vagrancy acts, begging, trespassing… I broke in once, but I’ve never hurt anybody. I’ve never done violence.”
He spoke about his large family who live nearby.
Paul explained: “There were seven of us – plus parents. I am the oldest. Two went into the Army. My sister became a nurse. Normal layabouts the rest. And me.
“I didn’t want to be in an office. A factory. Just sitting there working. I went out and worked on a farm. I wanted to be out working and to see something before I got older.”
His 80-year-old mother is still alive and knows where he lives – as do his two children who he hasn’t seen since 1993.
Asked what he’ll do when old age starts to kick in and living in the tunnel may become more difficult, he said: “I’ll worry about that when I get there.”