Tracey Emin describes her time as a homeless teenager

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The Independent Online

Artist Tracey Emin today described her experiences as a fearful homeless teenager.

Britart's bad girl - now a household name - said she had twice found herself in desperate need of a roof over her head in the years before she found fame and fortune.

Describing how she was left to fend for herself, she said: "When I was 17, I went home and there was no home."

She had no option but to move into temporary council accommodation in the seaside town of Margate, in Kent, for around nine months.

"I lived in a room that was about 10ft by 8ft, I had to wash in a bowl because the bathroom was so disgusting and dirty," she said.

"I lived in this room and I had to lock my door every night and I had to hide all my possessions and I was afraid and I was 17."

She said she found herself in a similar predicament six years later, at the age of 23.

Recalling her misery, she said: "I went every single day to Southwark Council and I sat in the council offices and I said 'please, I need somewhere to live, I need somewhere to live'.

"I sat there every day until they gave me a flat."

The London-based artist, now 46, was provided with accommodation in Waterloo.

"It was part of a community that really looked after me and it was amazing," she said.

Emin was addressing a crowd at the opening of Arlington House, a red-brick Victorian building in Camden, north London, which will provide supported housing and vocational opportunities for homeless people.

"The reason why I'm here isn't because I'm a great artist and isn't because I'm successful. The reason I'm here is because I've been homeless twice in my life," she said.

"It's not just about having a roof over your head - you need a community, you need to be looked after, you need a neighbour and security.

"I was taken care of," she added. "I will never forget that."

The artist was joined by London mayor Boris Johnson who stressed the importance of creating more affordable accommodation in the capital.

Setting out his ambition to end the problem of rough-sleeping by 2012, he added: "Frankly if this is London's answer to a doss house in 2010, then I think that is a great credit to London."

Praising the entrepreneurial spirit of the city, he added: "I was thrilled the other day to read a heart-warming tale in the paper of a single mother, of modest means, who was using the back room of a London restaurant for a start-up business which involved charging people half a million pounds for the privilege of talking to Prince Andrew. That is the dynamism, the 'can do' spirit of London, isn't it?"