Hus Forbi vendor Dirk: “I’m not the right person to give any advice to young people”

INSP has been asking vendors from across the street paper network to write letters to their 25-year-old self to mark the end of INSP’s 25th anniversary year. Hus Forbi vendor Dirk (63) looks at his life through the prism of Danish politics and society and how it shaped his journey.

Dirk Semey

We’re in 1981. I’m a waiter by profession, working full time, having to work days of 12 hours plus. I had a girlfriend back then. We lived together in a section of Denmark called Jutland. I worked at a place called ‘Rold Stor Kro’, that’s some 35 kilometres south of Aalborg.

Denmark in the 80s was no fun. The unemployment rate was high, especially for young people. It was known as “The poor 80s”. The then government was Social Democrat (left wing), which lasted till ‘82, and in came a right wing government whose prime minister was Conservative.

I had no problem getting work. The hotel and restaurant business was very busy at the time, but that went down in the latter 80s. Denmark entered an economic crisis, unemployment went on the rise – there was a lot of insecurity amongst people. AIDS came here too. I had no knowledge whatsoever about what homeless people were going through at this time in my life. I had never seen any that I can remember. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have known they were homeless. There was no street paper here at that time. Now Hus Forbi has developed a very strong brand, even 25-year-olds here know us.

Hus Forbi vendor Dirk Semey. [Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen]

How did I land on the streets? Well, I had a relationship that went sour in early 2005. I had started drinking too, and had no place to live. A lot of things had gone wrong. Living rough on the streets in Copenhagen, I came know the homeless people, and some of them introduced me to Hus Forbi. That gave me a purpose and pocket money.

I have sold this paper since 2005. Touring around Denmark, I have tried living in two flats that didn’t work and I’m now in my third. I have to succeed; I’m at an age now where I want to have a roof over my head. It can happen to anybody, getting homeless; there’s as many reasons for that as there are homeless people.

I’m not the right person to give any advice to young people. Having said that, I’m pretty sure most young people here don’t want to end up like any of us [at Hus Forbi]. We are pretty visible, due to our clothing, plus some of us go out to schools telling young people what this life is about and how we got here. That spreads understanding and respect – that is our experience.

Check back in every day over the festive period for more #VendorLetters.

INSP members can download the #VendorLetters feature on the INSP News Service.