But the writer side of me wouldn’t let the matter lie. This side, as many writers will tell you, has an annoying habit of always asking why? Why were these people on the street in the first place? Who, if anyone, was helping them? And why did it make me so uncomfortable to see them there?
Then, one day, a character turned up in one of my stories. A young woman in a denim jacket and red canvass shoes. A woman with an easy smile and eyes that watched intently. A woman who was homeless.
I don’t think people believe me when I say that characters take over my writing but this certainly happened when Molly appeared. It soon became clear that her story was far bigger than the one she was already in and that, if I was going to do justice to it and to her, I needed to do the research. I watched documentaries and read piles of books but my real lessons about homelessness came when I began volunteering and talking to people who had experienced it.