Yesterday I had a visit from NewArt, a company putting together a DVD for my Housing Association. Basically, they wanted me to talk about how I became homeless, and what led me to apply for the Partick Association. Of course, I wanted to talk about it, because recently, I’ve discovered I actually want to spread the word. Being in the position of having to declare yourself homeless isn’t shameful, and it can lead to the most wonderful things, made all the more wonderful because you can’t quite believe your luck will turn when life has beaten you down so low.
J.R.R. Tolkien called it the eucatastrophe. The sudden change of what seems utterly hopeless to joy, and hope. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…. they don’t.
I suppose most of you know the circumstances of my homelessness. In short, eviction, hostel, private let, stayed with a friend, stayed with another friend, stayed with Gof, hostel again, then finally, blessedly, to a flat with my name on the lease. Some friendships were burned so bad, all that’s left is ashes and regret. Some were made, and sealed with love and hope. Mostly though, looking back, it was a real discovery for who I am, and what I can do. I found reserves of strength, eventually, that I didn’t believe I had in me. I accepted help, from anyone willing to offer, from family, friends, organisations – and knew it wasn’t an admission of defeat. I took time, proper time, and found an iron will. I found that even though I sometimes succumbed to despair, I knew, deep inside, that I will not let this beat me.
And it hasn’t. I’ve still a way to go, no doubt for that – but I’m more hopeful than ever. I’m paying my bills, looking for a job, writing, creating a home, and looking after myself again. Of course, we all know by know, I’m even doing one thing I never thought I would – by marrying the man who stuck by me through all this. I’m still scared, sure, but it’s a good fear, the fear that the future I wish for is within my grasp, but I need to work at it to reach it. Not just for me, but for Gof too. For my family. My friends. Everyone who has had a part in the twists and turns so far, and those yet to join me. The fear is knowing I am able to succeed. I would let myself down if I settled for second best.
That’s my story. So far. I’ll continue to tell it, but right now, my thoughts are on homelessness in general. How much, do we, as the general public (how I hate that phrase!), surmise about homeless people, and how much do we stereotype? It’s the runaways, the junkies, alkies, whores of the world who are homeless.
Maybe the majority are. But where did those people, (and they ARE people) come from? What did they run from? Why are they swallowing, injecting, snorting the memories away? One wrong choice and that might have been you. One moment in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s all it takes. The stories I heard when I was living in these hostels… I related to these women. I seen how it happened. For everyone I spoke to, they all said the same thing – “Don’t end up like me. Don’t give up on yourself”. These women settled for last place, living in a hostel for good, since it was the only security they’d had in years. I’m sitting here typing this with tears streaming. These people should be commended for simply surviving over the odds, not condemned for something most of them had very little say over. This was something that was done to them, for which they lacked the skills to cope.
Even so, more and more people are becoming homeless as a direct result of this so-called credit crunch. Families who bought their home suddenly finding themselves on the street because the bank foreclosed on their mortgage. People who lost their jobs because the company they worked for went tits up. Armed with very little information, there is a scant amount of support for those who have no real understanding of a system that can be scary to navigate alone.
There’s very little actual statistics on homelessness in Glasgow. I know, I’ve looked. Between homeless charities like Shelter and Crisis publishing fairly general reports like this one and Government trying to “spin” the situation, apparently homelessness has went down according to some reports like this one that states;
“Homelessness presentations by single applicants down by 38% over the years 2002/03 to 2007/08”Strategic evaluation of the Glasgow Homelessness Partnership by Blake Stevenson.
But then, we have graphs like this one from the Scottish Government website completely contradicting that!
What to believe? I know I’m not the only casualty of the credit crunch who has ended up homeless. I know I’m not the only person the DWP has let down. So where are the real stories? Where are the success stories? The hopeless cases? Why is no-one asking these questions?