A House Is A Home
A House Is A Home
A tumultuous cocktail of emotions spread through my veins like wildfire as I sat in the housing office, staring obsessively at the entirety of belongings at my feet. A rucksack full of clothes, a couple of books, my chef knives. It was all I had left. I no longer had a home.
Before I was homeless, I was spoiled. I had the ability to take a long, hot bath. I could escape to the comfort of my own double bed with my own quirky bed-sheets. When I was homeless, these simple things were no longer simple. In the homeless unit, there were no baths or double beds. These seemingly mundane things somehow became luxuries that I craved – I wanted more than anything to soak up in a bath or to retreat to a bed I could call my own. I wanted more than anything to go a day without being checked up on. I became so grateful for the things I did have when the things I didn’t have anymore were lost. I was lucky enough to have a bed, to have a roof over my head. The desire for the things that I’d lost lingered in my mind, but I had everything I needed.
The difference between having your own home and being homeless is that when you have your own place, you can afford to take these seemingly mundane things for granted. A bath isn’t a big deal, you can do that whenever you want. Your own bed is a given, and your privacy is yours whenever you want it. When you’re homeless, these things are stripped away from you. You start to realise how much you’ve taken for granted because you could afford to. When you’re homeless, everything is a luxury you’re appreciative of, because anything is better than sleeping rough.
I don’t think many people will truly understand what it’s like to be homeless unless it has happened to them. I mean, if you try hard enough, you can probably imagine how stressful it can be, how anxious it makes you not knowing whether you’ll be eligible for temporary housing. What you probably won’t be able to understand is the sheer loss and grief over things that you get to indulge in everyday feels or the overwhelming mind-body-soul consumption of complete failure.
I remember scoffing at a social media campaign claiming ‘homelessness could happen to anyone’. I scrolled past the post, blissfully ignorant, thinking to myself that people only end up homeless as a result of their own actions. Of course, this can be true and is probably true in my circumstance, but it genuinely can happen to anyone regardless of fault. Homeless doesn’t automatically mean ‘hobo’. It also doesn’t automatically mean uneducated, drug/alcohol dependent or begging on the side of the street. It can happen to people who slave away to keep their business afloat, to people who come home to find their house destroyed by fire or flood, or those who have been thrown out due to family or relationship breakdown.
We all know homelessness is a huge problem in the UK, but the statistics are just that – statistics. We never really consider the fact that numbers are real people. In that way, it’s easy to separate ourselves from the problem. We never really truly come face to face with those figures, so we will never understand the gravity of them either.
There were 17,797 applications for homelessness in Scotland assistance between April and September 2017.
There were 6,581 young people in temporary accommodation on 30 September 2017, an increase of 594 (+10%) compared to 30 September 2016.
Every 19 minutes a household becomes homeless in Scotland
In one year there has been a 10% increase in rough sleeping
Homelessness isn’t a problem that will go away anytime soon and is far from fixed. Local councils provide an array of support systems, but still it is not enough. There are thousands sleeping rough, and thousands of people in temporary accommodation, waiting to have a house to call their home. Sign up to Shelter Scotland’s latest campaign for updates and advice on how you can help tackle this issue.
It might be easy to say the solution to homelessness is employment, but in reality, it’s not as easy as you think. The cost of temporary housing is absolutely astronomical – for a bedsit in a youth project, mines was £257 per week. If I was working, I would not have been able to sustain the cost of rent, and if I was able to, there would be no money left over to save for a deposit for a private let. You lose all of your benefits as soon as you start working, and when you’re homeless, you need all the support you can get. You need housing benefit to cover the costs of your accommodation while you find your feet. You need income support to allow you to pay for your council tax, your food and your electricity. All of these things still need paying for whether you’re living in your own home or a temporary one.
When I was homeless, I thought it was the end. I felt so lost, so alone and completely angry at the world around me. I had been so depressed prior to losing my home that I lost control of my finances, I lost my job and I became a social recluse. I didn’t leave my house for 2 months. I often ask myself why I let myself spiral so out of control but realistically, I’m glad I became homeless in a weird roundabout way. It’s made me appreciate things I never appreciated before. It’s made me value what really matters in life. I am so extremely grateful for the beautiful house I live in with my partner. Becoming homeless has made me expect the unexpected – never in a million years did I think I’d end up in that situation. But I did, and I am grateful for the lessons it taught me and the person it has made me.