Living on the cold, unforgiving streets of London is an experience that most will never be able to relate to – but it’s a harsh reality for many.
Moses the Artist has had to live through this everyday for the last five years.
Rather than a symbol of struggle, he has become a beacon of hope on the West London streets he calls home.
READ MORE: Four years homeless in London but now off the streets – one man’s story of hope
‘I nearly died out here’
“Three nights ago I nearly died out here,” Moses tells MyLondon, “I had to start a bonfire on the floor. I can’t afford to care, I’m too cold. I don’t care what people think because it’s not going to help me.”
Despite the dire circumstances he finds himself in, Moses is adamant about one thing.
“I refuse to beg,” he insists, “I’ve been homeless on and off for the last five years”.
According to Moses, the worst that could ever happen to a drug addict is to be homeless and discover begging.
‘Art is my release’
Having battled and overcome addiction to heroin, Moses can relate to this from personal experience
“I’ve lost so much weight compared to what I used to look like,” he says, “People who once knew me look at me and think I’m dying.
“I was in and out of prison and alcohol and drugs killed the pain. I thank God that I’ve got art as a release and I’m changing my life”.
(Image: Mohamed Abdin)
Last year a study by the charity St. Mungo’s found that substance misuse among rough sleepers appears to be on the rise, with six in 10 people sleeping rough now suffering from a drug or alcohol problem (an increase from five in 10 people four years ago).
Rather than beg for money, Moses earns it. His distinctive style of chalk artwork made from plywood found in construction heaps, has caught the eye of the residents of Queensway.
Moses sells his art on the side of the pavement and has been embraced by the community.
His most popular drawings are original Nike trainers. “Every design on these canvases is mine, they’re original ideas. I think that if I was in a conference room with Nike they would love my ideas and it comes so naturally to me,” he tells us.
Moses was one of seven children and his parents were unable to afford expensive Nike trainers for him and his siblings. This would later inspire his artwork.
”Children are cruel and I used to get bullied a lot. I used to look at their trainers and draw them.”
‘Being homeless is anti-social behaviour’
(Image: Mohamed Abdin)
“Someone from the City Council served me a piece of paper for anti-social behaviour,” Moses recalls, “because apparently being homeless is anti-social behaviour.
“They don’t want to say that exactly so they label it with other things and say that I’m blocking the pathway or defecating.”
Whilst Moses has not always received a positive response for his art from authorities, he has always been embraced by the local community.
‘His art lights up the street’
(Image: Mohamed Abdin)
Blessing Okoye, 54, has lived in the area for the last 10 years and is firm in her belief that the artist and his work are an asset to the community.
“He’s such a nice man. He’s really great with people and the children in the area are so fond of him,” she beams.
Blessing adds: “His art really lights up the street and if the right person saw his work I’m sure it would be in a gallery somewhere. It’s special.”
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Moses hopes that his journey will inspire other homeless people to be creative and in time change turn their lives around.
“I’m still trying to get off of the streets and hopefully exhibit my artwork somewhere. A lot of homeless people are extremely talented, but they just need to be given a chance.
“We’re more than drug addicts and beggars.”