Audio Stories

Storage Blues by Paul Atherton FRSA

Reported by Paul

Published on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Accommodation Emergency Accommodation Mental Health
Audio Stories

Storage Blues by Paul Atherton FRSA

Written by Paul

Published on Tuesday, April 13th, 2021


Emergency Accommodation

Mental Health



The mental health pressures during covid lockdown in my Marylebone apartment that I’ve been placed under ‘Everyone In’ since April 3rd 2020, (we’re literally about five, six days away from it being a year) has been immense. The constant threats of eviction, they’ve been eight now. First in July, then in August and again in October, again in December, again in January, February, twice in March, and now I’ve got the sword of Damocles hanging over my head until the 30th of April. It’s soul destroying. You’re like, why didn’t you just up front say

‘ We’re going to put you in for a year, we’re done, we can lock it off, a years long enough for us to sort everything out. It’s long enough for you to reacclimatise. It just works.’

But no, three months, then another month, then a couple of weeks, then and month, then a few more weeks, then we’re never going to help you again. Oh, but we’re in the press, so we shall. And then over Christmas. So 3rd of January was the first eviction date I had this year, then 3rd of February, then the 1st of March and then 31st of March. And as I say now, the 30th of April.

But none of that, none of that comes close to realising the possessions that I’ve kept in my access storage unit for the last 12 years ,cost me in excess of twenty three thousand pounds, is about to be eviscerated in two days time. And the reason for this is three fold, really, the first and most important is access storage have doubled the cost of my unit. Now, this has come about because of a variety of different complexities. But the issue was, when I went to them originally, the manager there was great. I said,

‘look, this is my situation. This is my problem, this is how much money I’ve got. Can you do me a deal whereby I’m only paying half of the disability income? I’m coming in from the DWP.’

And so that’s what we did. So every month since I’ve been homeless, I have paid half of my disability benefits into a storage company. Turns out to do this, he had to sidestep some various bits of software, so he reduced the size of my unit, put me on an everlasting discount and a whole bundle of things that I was totally unaware of. He departs, new manager comes in, new computer system comes in, new accountant comes in, and suddenly they’re saying,

‘oh, we’re not going to honour this deal.’

Now, in all fairness to them, they said, we’ll give you an extra year. And that year was supposed to coincide with the launch of my citywide items and museum cases, treasure hunt across central London, which was originally going to be privately funded. Now we’re hoping it’s going to be Arts Council funded called Paul Atherton’s ‘Displaced, Dispelling the Myths of Homelessness.

But, of course, lockdown hit. Now, being the stupid, rational human being I am, I thought, oh, I’m going to go back to them and say,

‘look, obviously lockdown hit, it’s completely upset everything. Could you give me another year if I pay for this up front at the current rate?’


I was like, ‘okay.’

And of course, I used to run businesses, so I find it really hard when a business turns down income. The space that I’m going to vacate, the next person who comes in is going to get a 50 percent discount because they’ve got a 30 percent discount offer on at the moment to try and attract customers.

I was offering to pay a year upfront, so there’s absolutely no risk. And it’s just inconceivable to me people wouldn’t have bitten my arm off, but this is not how 21st century life is. People see that’s how much it is. That’s how much you should pay, as opposed to we should be bringing in revenue. We’re a business. why are we throwing away revenue? That’s foolish.

But what it means is, as of the 31st of March, I have to find somewhere to put an entire one bedroom flat worth of furniture, clothing, paperwork, crockery, saucepans, cutlery, all of which, of course, and the whole point of the exhibition, are luxury items. Saville Row suits, Saville Row, John Lobb handmade shoes, global knives, La Crozier saucepans, Wedgewood Crockery. Not to mention, of course, all the personal and emotional stuff, actually, all of it is personal and emotional, it’s the whole point of the exhibition displays, is to say, hey, look, I bought Wedgwood when I figured out that buying cheap crockery was a stupid idea. It was meant then to never be replaced, if you broke something, you’d replace a single item. That was it. That was my crockery done for the rest of my life. The same with my global knives. You never need to replace, Circle On pans lifetime guarantee. La Crozier pans lifetime guarantee. You buy them once and you never have to replace them. If they need replacing, it’s done for free.

So I’ve got two days, 48 hours to try and figure out how, without a bank account, I can open up a new storage account with a different company. who will either take cash or find someone I can pay you can pay them and move the entire stuff. Now, mental health pressures like that generally are bad enough but when you’re also dealing with the threat of eviction, as I was less than four days ago before Westminster Council graciously decided to extend it to the 30th of April, bizarrely, after getting a phone call from a journalist that ran an article about me last week. It’s insane.

It’s just overwhelmingly insane, instead of people going, hey, look, we’ll support you, hey, how do we help? Hey, how could everybody and I mean everybody in these situations, who should be supporting are not and then all the people who have no reason to be are, and it’s weird and I’ve never understood it, but I’ve now got to get back to trying to sort this problem out as I’m watching hours literally tick by to the end of a 15 year fight.

Hundreds of London’s Homeless Facing Eviction from Hotels across the City – Owen Sheppard – My London – 24th March 2021

Rough Sleepers still on the Street despite “Everyone In” – Julia Gregory – 19th March 2021

But this recording contribution is about losing all my possessions that I’ve managed to keep since becoming homeless in 2009 and which are designed to be in my London Citywide Art project Paul Atherton’s Displaced: Dispelling The Myths of Homelessness next year.

Written by Paul

Paul Atherton FRSA is a social campaigning film-maker, playwrightauthor & artist. His work has been screened on the Coca-Cola Billboard on Piccadilly Circus, premiered at the Leicester Square Odeon Cinema, his video-diary has been collected into the permanent collection of the Museum of London, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was selected as one of the London Library's 2021/22 emerging writers during covid lockdown, where he is currently writing his memoir.

He achieved most of this whilst homeless, an ongoing experience that has been his life for over a decade in London. In the last two years he’s made Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 his bedroom and became part of what he coined the #HeathrowHomeless before being moved into emergency hotel accommodation for the duration of Covid-Lockdown in Marylebone on 3rd April 2020.

In the past ten years he’s experienced every homeless initiative that Charities, Local Authorities and the City has had to offer. All of which clearly failed.

With the end of “Everyone In”, Paul has no idea where his next move is going to be, but he expects he’ll be returning to Heathrow.

Read all of Paul's articles


Accommodation Emergency Accommodation Mental Health