George Justice, 19 was brought up by his Mum in Stoke Newington, London until the age of 3 or 4 before then moving to Brighton because living expenses were too high. “Which is ironic because it turns out it’s way more expensive here.” His Mum and Step Dad met when George was 6.
He attended a prep school called Drive, funded by the council throughout his primary and secondary education after being kicked out of the local public school. “I was too much of a problem. I didn’t go to any classes. That is how much I wasn’t able to study there.”
George discovered he had dyscalculia and anger issues when he started school and so spent a short period of time having extra lessons with Ace (special unit for children with emotional behaviour problems) before sticking his education out at the Drive prep school.
When George was 16, he was kicked out of his Mom’s house and since, has been living in squats, council hostels and staying on friend’s couches. He’s spent these past years skipping, begging, busking and working here and there.
What was school life like for you?
“It was tough at first. When I started going there, they had only just begun bringing in children with learning difficulties. So the ratio of students who did and didn’t suffer from learning difficulties was very different. We had extra attention in after class lessons, which I went to. I figured I might as well do what they ask me to do.”
Did you always do as you were told?
“Not really, I’d say that when I was 6/7, I hit the peak of my immaturity which also happened to be when I started to get bullied a lot.”
What were you getting bullied for?
“Excuse the French, but just for being a complete and utter spastic. For example, from the age of 12 and onward, my nickname in Brighton was ‘Downy’.”
“No, no, no! I loved the name, honestly, it’s so funny. One time, I called up my best friend at the time, who used to be really shit with his phone and I’d say ‘Hey, It’s George.’ Obviously, he knew loads of Georges, and he’d just be like ‘George who?’ And I’d have to bite my lip and just be like ‘George Downy…’ Hahaha.”
So are you saying you didn’t mind getting bullied at school?
“No I did mind, but I had major anger issues at school, I’d get all riled up, get into scraps. And then one day something just switched in my head after an incident with one of the kids that were bullying me. I battered the shit out of him. I was about 13/14. There are definitely people that have been bullied worse than me, it was mostly verbal abuse, and on the occasion, it would get physical, but my tolerance was so low.”
What switched in your head that day you retaliated against one of your bullies?
“Life started going up. I’m definitely still violent but I don’t indulge in it like I used to.”
Why do you call yourself a violent person?
“I know this because of a lucid dream I had when I was 16, living in a squat. My first ever lucid dream and I remember it like it actually happened, that’s how lucid it was. I remember going on this rampage in the street just fucking torturing loads of people that for some reason pissed me off. Like doing all the little things in life that piss me off. For example when you ask someone for the time and they completely ignore you. You know that they’ve heard you and they’ve just walked into you and pushed past you. It was just little things like that. A delusional moment, in which I could do whatever the fuck I wanted. I went crazy in that dream. I remember getting a knife and slicing gently around some guys arm so it was loose, then ripping it off and beating him with his own arm. So fucked up. I woke up, and for the first time in so long, I felt completely relaxed, I felt euphoria. I was physically zen.”
What happened when your Mom kicked you out of the house?
“She sent me a message on Facebook when I was on my way back from college saying ‘Hey George, I give up on you. Go to Ovest House (Youth Advice Center) before it closes at five.’ And I was like… You fucking what? Obviously, I thought it was a fucked up thing to do, I’m sure she had her reasons though. This is when I found out about my Dad. All I’d known up to that point was that he’d walked out on me and it turns out there’s a lot more to that story. I still don’t know the whole thing because none of my family want to talk about it. But what I did learn from my Mom is that he was a Scottish gangster scumbag who she never really wanted to marry having seen how abusive his own Dad had been to his Mom.
“I know she loves me, I can feel it. I just think that she had walls up, protecting herself from her own fears and I guess I had walls up too. A really fucked up relationship.”
What happened when you went to the Youth Advice Center?
“They put me in some emergency b&b accommodation shithole called Percival Terrace, by the seafront.
“Whoever is reading this, please read carefully, if you’re going to send your kid anywhere, DO NOT send them to Percival terrace because it is AWFUL.
“When I went in there, they were handling the keys to the rooms with pens because they didn’t want to get HIV. Everything was run down, the showers didn’t work, it was filthy and infested with ants. I took my curtain off the rail to place it over the bed because that is how disgusting it was. And the kind of crowd living there were mostly heroin addicts ‘Skag heads’.”
How did you feel staying in this dump?
“I was just like, ah, great! You don’t really know what to feel in that situation. You’re just like, I guess this is how it goes. Now I know that in reality, it can be so much better. I’ve been to abandoned buildings that had been parties in which were cleaner than Percival Terrace, and safer! I ended up leaving there after waking up to a knife in my door one morning. So then I called up a mate and asked him if I could stay in his squat. So I left the council b&b to go stay in an abandoned building because it was too dangerous.”
What was your experience begging like?
“At some points, I was getting up to 60 to 100 pounds every day. That was lush. I’d spend it on food, then I’d buy tobacco and then I’d give whatever was left over to all the other homeless people who weren’t getting the same pity as me because they were older.”
What would you say about the help in Brighton for rough sleepers?
“It’s shit. It’s worthless. My friend has been waiting on the list for 7 years and that’s just to get into accommodation like Percival Terrace, not even a council flat.”
What would be your message to humanity?
“Give a shit about one another. Stop just caring about yourselves. If everybody helps each other then nobody will need anything. You’re hungry, the person you helped the day before will give you food. You’re thirsty, there will be a place to get some water. You need accommodation, you’ve just looked after the majority of people you’ve ever met so therefore in return, they’ll happily give you a place to stay. People just need to care for one another. We’re a society, which is a form of community. There is no community here, it’s just us trying to stand on one another.”