Blog July 2019

Hard Edges Scotland: a first-hand account of lived experience

As part of our #HardEdgesScotland blog series, this guest blog has been written by someone with lived experience of severe and multiple disadvantage.

“It just takes one person to believe in you, and everyone deserves that.”

This blog has been written by a person with lived experience of severe and multiple disadvantage.
“At the time I was participating in Hard Edges Scotland I was homeless, and the issue was really raw for me. I wanted to be involved because I had been through the system and knew from first-hand experience how hard it is. The services weren’t interested in me as a person, I was just a number and it made me feel worthless. I was sent out onto the streets in the middle of winter just before Christmas because the services were closing for the festive period. It felt as though the services really resented me being there, like it was a real hassle for them to deal with me. I found out later that legally I should have been accommodated, but instead I had to stay at the night shelter. 
Having to explain my background and relive my story with each and every service I had to meet with was depressing and exhausting, and drove me back to the same struggles I was trying to recover from. I experienced alcoholism and homelessness, I suffered from anxiety and depression, and the lack of support was really demoralising, it just drove me back to drinking to keep me numb; to keep me from feeling anything. I was desperately trying to get away from being that person in a mess and I had to keep reliving it, feeling judged each time. 
The “bed and breakfast” I was put up in temporarily was atrocious. Drugs were rife and the room was completely filthy. The quilt was covered in blood stains, rat poison all over the bathroom floor, sticky, filthy carpeting and constant leaks in the bathroom. The place hadn’t been cleaned in a long, long time and there were no cooking facilities at all. It was a horrible environment for someone trying to turn their life around. The cost of this was £400 per week to the government, more than one month’s rent for a housing association flat for a single person. I didn’t know who to call, or what to do, and no-one helped me. 
I had endless trouble trying to get the help I was entitled to and was frequently sent to the wrong places. The only reason I secured the accommodation I now have is because I went to 17 housing associations, and one of them eventually offered me a place. Both myself and the housing association had to call the community casework team relentlessly to get my application through the services. All that was needed was a signature on one piece of paper that I myself had signed ages ago. Something that should have taken a few days ended up taking 6 months.
If it hadn’t been for my psychiatric nurse, I would have been forgotten about. She referred me to the Glasgow Council for Alcohol and I eventually got the right help, but it took far longer than it should have. 
I was grateful to receive my first flat, but it was empty (no cooker, fridge, carpets, curtains, nothing) and I had no support furnishing it. It was hard to know where to begin and I had to figure it out solely on the benefits I was on. I slept on the bare floorboards for a while until I managed to get a bed from a charity store.
It just takes one person to believe in you, and everyone deserves that. There are reasons for people getting themselves in to these situations, but services don’t look beyond the chaos. I think there is a need for a more  people, who are empathetic and who can see you as a person. The services are now being encouraged to integrate, and this is a huge step forward. 
Initiatives such as Glasgow Homelessness Network should be championed more widely, because they care about dignity and empowerment for people like me. I don’t feel like I am being judged by them and they do so much good in the fight against homelessness. They are extremely well informed, experienced, get to the heart of the issues and have a proven ability to make changes for the better across the board. 
For the first time, Hard Edges Scotland is an opportunity for people who have experienced homelessness like me, to have a voice and be heard. I don’t know if this has happened before – it doesn’t feel like it. It can be both empowering for people experiencing extreme disadvantage, but also for family and friends.”