Terminal blues: What it's like to live in an airport
Homeless people are increasingly visible on the streets of our major cities but the news that around the world airports are the home to many may come as a suprise. In London around 110 people live in Haethrow and 20 or so at Gatwick, largely invisible to the travelling public. In the highlighted story below UK journalist tries living in Gatwick for three days and nights and finds it grim even with his pocket full of money.
I'm huddled on a hard plastic bench. Harsh fluorescent lights beat down on me. Armed police patrol nearby. I haven't slept for three days and I'm so bored I'm having hallucinations. This is not life on the street. This is life in a big, centrally-heated, windowless cube. I am living in the South Terminal of London's Gatwick Airport.
I'm following in the footsteps of a homeless and unemployed 48-year-old German woman known simply as "Bettina". She's been living in Mallorca's Palma airport for 10 years, pushing around three suitcases, a blanket, a pile of books and her white cat Mumu. Bettina told a local newspaper she'd arrived in Mallorca over a decade ago looking for a new start after a relationship ended and she lost her office job. After a short spell waiting tables, Bettina's work dried up and she found herself with no job, no home and no money. Her only choice, she says, was to live in the airport.
Luckily for Bettina, Spanish authorities tend to turn a blind eye to people living in the terminal, as long as they don't bother passengers. Other airport dwellers aren't so lucky. Briton Anthony Delaney made headlines in February when he defied an ASBO banning him from living in Gatwick airport – his home for three years.
And here's a story from May 2008 that Jason Sanders has highlighted for us - the story of one of the residents of Heathrow:
With pink lipstick and freshly brushed hair, an attractive woman queues to buy a cup of coffee at a restaurant overlooking the departure hall of Britain's biggest and busiest airport.
It is just before 7am, and the passengers ahead of her at Costa will soon be rushing to catch their flights all over the world. Yet Eram Dar has no passport and no ticket. What's more, she isn't in a hurry to go anywhere.
Eram's home is Heathrow's Terminal One. Over the past year and a half, she has lived at the airport with all her possessions in a blue canvas bag.
Today, she plans to do a bit of window shopping at the airport's stores and, perhaps, buy a bowl of pasta for lunch. She often finds a discarded newspaper and reads it to while away the day.