There are many issues affecting homelessness from both the individuals’ point of view, and that of the workers involved in the sector. Although recognised publicly as a major issue, homelessness perhaps does not get the attention it deserves from a statutory viewpoint. Historically, in my opinion, Glasgow City Council has consistently failed to acknowledge that homelessness is a problem in the City, despite the amount of third sector services currently operating.
The closure of the large scale hostels within Glasgow aimed to provide smaller, more supported units – however, the supply of these units did not meet the demand. So much so, that just last year, the council stated that they planned to open two new hostel-type accommodations (at a cost of over £12 million) to meet the continual need for suitable homeless units.
Although in most cases, many would argue, the large scale hostels were not fit for purpose, these hostels provided a roof over one’s head. Now, I am not saying that these units were the answer – far from it. I stayed in one such hostel before the closure, and the memory of it is not a fond one. Drugs and drink were easily accessible, and the beginning of the homeless journey was made more difficult by the lack of individual support on offer. During my time in the larger hostel, I can honestly say I received no support in helping me address my issues at the time. I was basically given a room, with a bed, and that was it.
Now working in the homelessness sector, it appears nothing much has changed. Although many of the hostels closed, some still remain. However, I do believe that more support is on offer within these places, and I have experienced this too. Indeed, I had a positive experience in one such hostel which still operates just a stone’s throw from the City Centre.
I feel that a major issue facing individuals nowadays is not only the lack of accommodation available, but the types of accommodation being used. The Council now send people to bed & breakfast type places where the workers there have no experience of working in social care. Generally homelessness is only one of a multitude of issues that the individual experiences, and often their needs continue to go unmet. Mental health issues, relationship breakdowns, addiction issues all go hand in hand with homelessness, yet these individuals are shipped off to B&B’s on the outskirts of the city receiving little or no support. Removing the person from their communities can often have a negative effect on the individual – support networks, family, friends in the area are not given consideration. Having a support network can be a huge help to an individual, but moving someone out of the area they have spent most of their life, for example, can exacerbate an individual’s issues.
Every day people visit my workplace, homeless or otherwise, and during my time working within the voluntary sector, I have also become increasingly frustrated at the lack of support given by the council at times. In fact, many of the people with whom we work refuse to present to the council now. The reasons being that they have had a previous experience in which there was no positive outcome. On a daily basis, I encounter people who are told by the Hamish Allan Centre that there is ‘no accommodation available’. They are given bus tokens to visit one of the Casework Teams, spend all day there, before being told once again that there is still no accommodation available. They are then sent back to the Hamish Allan Centre after office hours, to continue the homeless presentation process. People sometimes go through this for days, sometimes weeks, before either being offered accommodation which fails to meet their needs, or indeed give up presenting as homeless due to constant negative decisions.
It’s a sad day when people would rather sleep rough, than visit the council for support. The council break the law by not providing accommodation, yet have been getting away with it for years.
Glasgow enjoys a reputation as a ‘caring city’. Although this may be true from the eyes of outsiders, in my opinion more should be done –much more – to address the issue of homelessness. Choosing to remain on the streets, rather than seek help from the council means our citizens are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis.
I hear shocking stories everyday about the way people are expected to behave. One of the bed and breakfast’s used by the council does not allow the residents to actually talk to one another. They are expected to isolate themselves from others, and be grateful that they have a roof over their heads. At least in the hostels of old, you were allowed to communicate. How many of the people reading this would stay in a bed and breakfast where you could not talk? Not me! Then why should we expect some of the most vulnerable people in the city to abide by these types of rules?
The homeless, literally, do not have a voice and as a result they are expected to take what they are given. Basic human rights are ignored, and the most marginalised and stigmatised people in society are constantly facing oppression.
Just what homeless people need…more issues to face.
The author wishes to remain anonymous
*Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views or opinion of ‘The Invisibles’ group.