PETE Davison finally has a roof over his head today – after 11 amazing years sleeping rough.
In the past the 48-year-old has found refuge under road bridges, in skips, disused toilets and even a pig sty.
For three years he lived at Shroggs Tip in Halifax and for several more his home was a hole in the hillside at Wainhouse Terrace, King Cross.
Shaggy-haired Pete is just one of an army of forgotten homeless people in Halifax whose plight has been highlighted by a new exhibition at Dean Clough.
Pete said he and many others like him were forced to find discreet places to sleep so they were not hassled.
He said: “I used to wake up when the first birds started singing and then walk all day until got dark again,” he said. Pete and his older brother Joe Sutcliffe were taken into care in their early teens but, having suffered a childhood plagued by neglect and abuse, found it difficult to settle with any family.
At 17, Pete found himself out on the streets, sleeping rough or squatting.
When he was 20, he moved in with a woman but the relationship did not last.
He left after four years and found a house off Pellon Lane but it had no water, gas or electricity.
He stayed there for 17 years until the house was knocked down and he was homeless once more.
Pete made a den for himself at Shroggs Tip and lived there for three years but said he had to leave when he was discovered.
“People would come and leave food for me but I felt like my privacy had been invaded,” he explained.
He found a pig sty in Hebden Bridge and lived there for another three years until the site was petrol-bombed and he was forced to flee.
His most recent home was in a small hole at historic monument Wainhouse Terrace, off Burnley Road, in King Cross.
“Some of my sleeping bags are still there,” he said.
Pete said he survived by living off food thrown away by supermarkets, begging and busking.
Sometimes he would walk 12 or 15 miles to a supermarket to scavenge for food only to be told to go away or the police would be called.
One time he walked for 30 miles, ending up in Leeds, his feet covered in blisters so bad he was admitted to hospital for several days.
He has endured some long, hard winters when even the zips on his sleeping bag froze up.
One winter, he was offered a teepee in Hebden Bridge to stay in and given food.
“I’ve found people in Hebden Bridge have helped me,” he said.
Others thought they were helping by offering him drinks, he said, but they were not and he now shuns alcohol.
“I’d get offered £10 to stay out with someone, just to keep them company,” he said. “They think they’re doing me a favour.”
A few weeks ago Pete ran into his brother at Halifax Central Library. He had grown dangerously thin and was looking for somewhere to keep warm.
Joe, who is now volunteering for Halifax Food and Support Drop In and The Basement project, managed to get him a place at a Christian community house where he is also staying.
The people living there help each other out, eat together, go walking, support each other and get into work, gardening and growing food.
Pete said he has had some difficulties living in a house again. “Bright lights hurt my eyes and the television gives me headaches,” he said.
“The heating makes my skin itch and I get too hot. At night I feel I can’t breathe.”
But he has been cooking meals for the rest of the people in the house and has been able to wash properly for the first time in years.
“I used to just dip my feet in the canal or occasionally have a strip wash,” he said.
“I had to keep the oil on the skin to keep warm and to make sure the insects couldn’t penetrate it.”
Pete and Joe are both featured in the Homeless in Halifax exhibition currently on at Dean Clough Gallery until May 6.
Photographer Claire Wood has captured several of Halifax’s rough sleepers, showing where they have spent their nights.
The exhibition was organised by Dave Fawcett, who also helped lead the Inn Churches project to provide beds for homeless people in Halifax.
Pete’s story mirrors that of Halifax’s famous “caveman” Graham Rhodes-Firth.
The much-loved vagabond won the hearts of Courier readers when he was featured in articles chronicling his life in a cave at Albert Promenade, Halifax.
He lived there for 18 months before moving to Copley Woods for a further five years.
After a spell in hospital, Pennine Housing found him a home at Stansfield Close, Halifax, where he died of a heart attack in 2009.