For the last eighteen months I have been homeless. I have never slept on the street, I don’t do drugs (except my prescription ones of course) and I don’t drink. These are stereotypes people jump to when they think of a homeless person. But did you know that ‘homeless’ means literally without a home? Not house– home. There is a big difference between the two: a home is a space that you have some kind of control over and it is somewhere permanently there for you for as long as you need it. There are thousands of homeless people in the UK that do not sleep on the streets. They sleep on sofas, hostels, B&Bs and maybe even hospitals.
For the last eighteen months now that has been me. Sleeping on friend’s sofas and hostels. Anywhere that would have me. I didn’t have any other option and it was one of the most unstable times of my life. It’s no great surprise that it lead to me being hospitalised.
For the past year of that time I have been in CAMHS psychiatric units. I came when I was seventeen and I am now eighteen and three months. I shouldn’t be here. I was formally discharged from the unit in march but I had nowhere to go. Duty of care means that the hospital cannot chuck me, blind and severely mentally ill, onto the street with only my guide dog for support. It would look really bad on their part. But with family members ruled out for many reasons by professionals what could be done? Children’s social services had refused point blank to help me. Insisting that despite professionals seeing safeguarding issues I could still return to family. They felt that I was making myself homeless. If only.
On my eighteenth birthday adult social services got involved. They tried to help me and at first it looked promising. But the longer I was in hospital and in the horrible predicament of having nowhere to live my mental health deteriorated. It was an urgent case and the social worker I had been assigned only managed to see me twice and made little or no progress in finding me accommodation. Eventually I was referred to a team in social services that deal with complex cases, often people with multiple disabilities like myself. I was very lucky to get a fantastic social worker this time and within a week he had found me some very promising looking accommodation options.
Yesterday I was given the news that I had been given funding to go to one of these places. After being in hospital for nearly a year I now have a way out. Things now look a lot more positive. I have been given a chance at having a safe and stable place to live. At long last. I haven’t written about my situation with homelessness before because I have been gagged by services. There were just too many ‘ifs’ ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ for me to write anything coherent. All anyone could see was red tape and no one could seem to be able to cut me free of it. Four psychiatrists, five social workers and many mental health professionals later we’ve got some sort of movement.
I cannot be the only person in the UK that this has happened to. No one should have nowhere to go, especially not children or vulnerable adults. One of the main problems I faced was that because I was in hospital, or staying with friends, or anywhere but on the street I was deemed as ‘safe’ by social care and not a priority for support. I was in hospital so could not claim benefits due to not having a permanent address and to live outside of tier four care I need everyday support. The problems seemed to just multiply like maggots.
There is something going seriously wrong with the system. However, I’m getting out of hospital on Monday! It is going to be terrifying but rewarding and I’m ready for the next chapter.