After an eventful 47 days, Barry Etheridge has made it back to his native Bournemouth, arriving on 11th September. The Pavement
caught up with him on the way through London, with just over a fortnight left to hobble on.
Since we last spoke to him (in issue 13), Etheridge has had an interesting time. He left Scotland after two weeks of walking and headed over the border in good time. Despite losing a battle with a skateboard, Etheridge and his erstwhile companion hit York after 19 days.
For those who missed the last issue, the objective of Street People's Action & Awareness Group
's (SPAAG) One Big Walk, which covered the length of Britain from Inverness to Bournemouth, was two-fold. Firstly, Etheridge hoped to gather information from members of staff in homeless centres and those who use the services, to understand what works, what needs to be improved and what is outdated.
The second objective was to look at homelessness on a national level, rather than one that can be separated by borough or county line. By highlighting the similar experiences and concerns that people have, and successful models across the country, SPAAG was hoping to connect a usually disparate community.
Travel the length of the UK isn't easy going, and, walking slightly faster than schedule, problems arose in Cambridge. An old knee injury got the better of companion James, and he had to call it a day. "He didn't want to let me down," says Etheridge, "but of course, he hadn't. He did a fantastic job getting as far as he did."
From then on Etheridge was on his own. Having stayed with the Simon Community in Leeds, and visiting day centres in Newcastle and York, he already had a fair idea of what people wanted and needed, and as he continued further south, a theme emerged.
"Of course, everyone is an individual," says Etheridge. "That is the main problem with the system. Not everyone is a round peg that can be fitted into a round hole."