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Elvis from the Street: A Life Story of Music, Homelessness, and Impersonal Bureaucracy

Janne “Elvis” Berlin

Born in Uppsala,

Currently residing in Stockholm.

Has three siblings and four children.

My father is a Roma from Poland, and my mother is a Swedish travelling tinker. My mother lived in a treatment home in Almunge, and my father lived nearby; that’s where they met.

During the 1920s and 1930s, many Finnish Roma came to Sweden, and their lifestyle attracted many Swedes. These Swedes began living like Roma, and a community was formed where Swedish tinkers and Roma speak the same language. When Swedes and Roma had children together, these children were called tinker, another word for traveller.

I have worked with music and radio, but I have been homeless for 44 years. A month ago, I had heart problems and pneumonia, as well as water in the lungs, which felt like I was drowning.

What do I do during the day? I try to take it easy. I seek what I need, like food, from the distributions that exist, for example from homeless.se.

When I was young, just 13 years old, I got into a conflict with my mother. Our fight was a result of the sexual harassment I suffered at seven years old. When I turned 13, I tried to take my life. I was about to throw my mother out of the window from a sixth floor, but something stopped me. I told her she should never talk to me again, I went out on the street that same day, and that’s where my homeless journey began.

Janne “Elvis” Berlin

I love music and taught myself to play on the street. I am an artist who both sings and plays. Among others, my favorite is Elvis Presley, that’s why people call me Elvis.

Despite having had a very tough life, I have managed to survive and feel that, despite everything, I’m doing well. Homelessness has caused me many diseases, overdoses, and injuries. I have slept on the street during the coldest nights and due to exhaustion, I have twice fallen into the water. The last time, it was a passing man who saved me. Three times I have fallen on the tracks, and once I got three fractures in the spine. After falling on the tracks, I got no help; I had to crawl from the stairs that go from Råsunda to Hägersten. I did not receive adequate care after the incident. I still suffer from back pain, it hurts a lot.

A month ago, when I had heart problems and was admitted to the hospital for eight days, they dared not wake me because of the heart failure. But on the ninth day, when I left the hospital, I walked more than 10 kilometers to find temporary accommodation where I could rest. After a month of sleeplessness, during which I roamed the streets, the heart problems arose.

I no longer have any desire to get my own apartment. I’ve seen how those who get trial apartments in the hope of a permanent home after one or two years, but when it comes to the rent and after it has been paid several times new requirements arise that no one can meet. We are simply thrown out, and that is the harsh reality behind why the homeless always remain homeless, even if they temporarily get a little help.

When you go to the social office, they claim to assign apartments to the homeless. They are quick to give addicts a home, as they count on them failing. This results in homeless people getting a negative marking in the system, and next time it takes even longer before they get a new chance.

I am not at all afraid of death. I wish to welcome it, for when it comes, it’s all over. I don’t want to suffer anymore….

Researching Janne’s life story can help us understand the complex interactions between individual, culture, and social structures. His narrative challenges us to look deeper into the various dimensions of homelessness. Janne has survived 44 years on the streets through a combination of cunning, devotion to music, and an unwavering faith in his own ability. His story highlights the ruthless bureaucracy and the stigmatizing structures that contribute to the homeless often remaining homeless, even if they have access to temporary housing solutions at best.

We are going to write and research a little more about Janne’s life and his homelessness. We want Janne’s life story to be a light in the darkness that can save other homeless people.

-Kavian Ferdowsi

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