Northern Ireland

Day Two: Drunken young women pose main threat

Andy West
Image caption On Andy West's second night on the streets, drunken young women pose the main threat

I heard her before I saw her.

A wail, a scream and a shout and then she was on me.

Her friend had already tried to wrestle my sleeping bag away, but she was unsteady on her feet and I was able to keep my grip.

Then I turned to see a tall, slim young woman with long black hair and heavy eye make-up. She staggered towards me.

Her voice was slurred and it took me a second to realise what she was saying. I was a "******* immigrant" who was probably claiming benefits.

"You should give us money", she shouted as I backed away against the wall of the pub.

I crouched down and pulled the peak of my cap over my face. I felt her knock my head and she tried to pull my cap off.

A brief pause, and then she turned. "Thank God," I thought.

A few minutes later another girl lifted her foot and I saw the sharp point of her stiletto heel. I moved just in time as it jabbed towards my face, narrowly missing my left cheekbone.

Her friends told her to lay off and pulled her away.

It came as a surprise to me that drunken young women, rather than drunken young men, were the main threat to my safety on the streets.

Sure, some of the lads gave me lip. One asked me if I knew a brothel. One threw money at my face. But at least it was money, which I could give to charity.

The previous night, many young women had shown me extraordinary care and kindness. Now it was girls of the same age, physically and verbally attacking me.

Another girl approached as I sat in my sleeping bag outside a takeaway restaurant. She pulled her skirt up and tried to rub her backside in my face.

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Media captionAndy West's second report about living homeless on Belfast's streets

She clobbered my head and scrunched a paper bag into my face and threw a mayonnaise-covered burger bun at me. And then she sat down by my side, her legs sprawled across the wet pavement, and fed me chips like a dog.

It may have been an apology or a gesture of kindness but that's not how it felt.

It was demeaning and as I lay down for my second night's sleep, I felt truly vulnerable.