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Mobilizing English Authors: Kirsten Lytsen, Kevin Hoffman, Maureen O'Gara, Kulvir Singh Bhogal, Brad Bouldin

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Mobilizing English: Article

Lousy Shelters

It was an early morning at King’s Cross, where I live. Well, used to live would probably be the right term.

It was an early morning at King's Cross, where I live. Well, used to live would probably be the right term. You see I don't live in a nice flat or in a big house. I live on the streets. Actually I was a normal hardworking guy just like you. But all that changed when I lost my job earlier this year. But like most people with no home I don't like sleeping on the ground. So I do like most of us and go to one of those shelters the Government made for us.

So I packed my stuff and went to the nearest shelter. This was a shelter near my old home so I knew the way. I quickly brushed my hair; a good impression is everything. But it turned out that even a bum like myself was in better shape than the shelter.

It seemed nice on the outside though. Most of the windows had been smashed but most of the buildings around here had smashed windows so what did it matter? At least I could get a place to sleep, I thought. So I went inside.

I walked over to the counter and asked for room. I noticed that most of the rooms were occupied. It seemed I had to wait for a while. I decided to spend the time I had to "inspect" the shelter.

At first I just looked around the main hall. It was disgusting. The paint was worn off and there was a stench of old food and dirty clothes. People who couldn't afford a room were sleeping on the floor and on benches. But there were the people who didn't have enough money. Maybe I could get a room.

I got a key to one of the rooms at the shelter. It was on the second floor. As I went up the old stairs I took a look around the other rooms. They were no better than the hall. There was graffiti on the walls, which hadn't been washed for decades. The beds were filthy. The sheets needed a wash more than I did and the mattress was lumpy and hard. Not that I tried sleeping in one of them; it wasn't my room, but I saw a guy complaining about it. Also, most of the beds were crammed together no more than a few feet apart. There were no toilets but there were buckets by the beds for the residents to use. I continued upstairs to my room.

I managed to enter my room without touching the doorknob; who knows who's been touching it beforehand? I went inside to have a look around. My room was no better than the rooms I had just checked. There was no space, the wardrobe was broken and filled with moths and it was very dark except for a dim light bulb dangling from the ceiling. There were spiders in hiding in every crevice in the walls and I think I spotted a rat hurrying away as I entered the tiny room. I tried shaking the covers of my bed. Out flew a dozen moths and some empty syringes fell to the ground. As I examined my bed further, I found that there was no mattress. Instead was an old, greasy jacket and a bag of stale crisps some bloke had left. Seemed the fellow had left in a hurry... Who wouldn't?

I picked up my stuff and walked down the stairs. I quickly gave the receptionist my keys and left. Even I would prefer an empty dustbin to this dump.

More Stories By Kirsten Lytsen

Kirsten Lytsen has 20 years' translation experience and runs WordWise, a translation agency based in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her core fields of business management, media and entertainment, she has co-translated books on art and architecture.

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