CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Homeless outside Heal’s: Rough sleeper explains ‘normal life but with nowhere live’

'The biggest risk you have on the street is that if you have something nice it could get stolen'

12 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

BY night, David Fussell sleeps in the doorway of the Heal’s department store in Tottenham Court Road.

But by day, the filmmaker is up early either working, taking art classes or putting the finishing touches to a feature-length horror film he began shooting back when he had a home in a small town in Wales.

Mr Fussell is one of a growing number of people leading a “normal” life without having a home to go to.

The 52-year-old’s action-spy-horror film, Mystic Demon Killer, was launched on Halloween night and he is hoping sales from the release might help him put down a deposit on a cabin-cruiser on the canal.

Mr Fussell lost his home after it was flooded in 2004 and he was unable to pay a large repair bill. But he was determined to finish the film he had been shooting in the south Wales countryside.

He boarded a train to Paddington with the film on a hard-drive and set up a new life on the streets of London. Mr Fussell, whose mother was a child actress in Passport to Pimlico, said he had found lots of support for the homeless from the moment he arrived in the capital.

He said: “I went to the first Jobcentre I saw and there was a great guy on the door, who told me to go right opposite to West London Day Centre. “I was lucky, really, because you can walk around in London for ages and get bad advice. “I managed to get a part-time job and over the years I have saved enough money to get the gear together to do the final edit and do the final post-production with sound.”

He added: “I have been using [the internet in] libraries, or buying cheap meals in Wetherspoon’s. I think it’s really interesting that you can sit in a library and press a button and essentially distribute a film worldwide. My first sale was in Pakistan.”

Mystic Demon Killer tells the story of genetically modified, government-backed “super soldiers” that have special abilities and are running their own crime organisation. There is a conspiracy to shut down the organisation. It grossed $43 at the launch night on Halloween.

Mr Fussell said: “I hope the film will help me save up for a cabin-cruiser on the canal. Not a narrow boat. The hipsters have made narrow boats very expensive. They were made to carry iron and ore, but I would prefer to have something that looked a bit more like a modern apartment.”

He said he chose the Heal’s doorway to sleep in because it was in central London and had good transport links. “Me and my two friends stay outside the Heal’s entrance. We are very strict about keeping the place tidy. All of us work in the day – one on the market just over there, and one on the Big Issue. We all earn money. I think Heal’s tolerate us because I suppose it’s security for them too.”

On Monday night, as Mr Fussell spoke to the New Journal, a homeless man with a cardboard-mat approached him and politely asked: “Anyone bagged the doorway yet?”

Mr Fussell said the majority of people living on the street are kind and considerate, and busy in the day.

“I get up at 4am,” he said. “I’m off to King’s Cross in the morning. I don’t have a tent because it’s just another thing to carry around with me. My friends have tents though. I have my art class in the evening. Of course there are some people who are in a state and all laid out on the floor, but most of the time people are really decent and just getting on with their lives.”

He added: “The biggest risk you have on the street is that if you have something nice it could get stolen. We all look after each other’s gear. London cops have been excellent to me, as opposed to country cops. My theory was, if I slept on Tottenham Court Road, it would be quick enough to get into the city and central London. You see some interesting sights – people staggering to the bus stops. I’ve only had one bad incident on the streets.”

The bad incident was a bottle being smashed on the pavement and the glass hitting Mr Fussell’s face. He spoke highly of those who provide food handouts and work at soup kitchens, who he said had helped him with his film.

Mr Fussell added: “Most people giving food handouts are people either in media, or law, or in film. “If you need help and ask they are generally pretty clued up. I’m not knocking the Citizens Advice Bureaux, but they’re sometimes not as good as going to an outreach place.”

l Mystic Demon Killer can be bought by visiting https://vimeo.com/ondemand/mysticdemonkiller

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