William's story. Trapped between a rock and a hard place.
“I was a labourer in Glasgow but it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I barely had enough money to pay for food at the end of each week but I knew some people who worked in the fishing industry and they were making really good money. They offered me a job for three years with a fishing company that even came with accommodation when I was onshore. They sent me the signed contracts and everything. I thought it was an opportunity to make a better life for myself so I moved out of my council house and went to Peterhead when I was due to start. But when I got there they told me it was only for three months. The lady in the office said there’d been a mistake on the contract. It was just a typo. She apologised a lot but I couldn’t believe it.
I’d given up everything for that job and three months wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what I would do afterwards, so I turned it down and tried to get my old flat back, but when I called the council in Glasgow they said I’d made myself intentionally homeless and I’d never get a house again there for years. I regret not taking the job now of course. Even three months would have been better than this. But by then it was too late. Once I’d turned it down they wouldn’t take me back either.
I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck in Peterhead but that is not a nice place to be homeless, so I came to Inverness and stayed in a hostel with the last of my money, but that ran out after a couple of weeks and I’ve been sleeping rough ever since. Nearly six months now. Even if I wanted to go back to Glasgow the money I have in my pocket isn’t enough for the train ticket, and I’ve got nowhere to live there either. I was raised by my grandmother but she past way when I was eighteen. I didn’t know my real mum or dad and I’ve got no other family. I got taken into care when I was three and my gran fought for two years to get custody of me. Then she brought me up until she died. When I was taken into care I had twenty-six cigarette burns on my arms. I was neglected, I was underweight, I was molested and abused. I’m not embarrassed to admit it now because what can a kid do.
I’ve been to the council here four or five times but because I’ve got no friends or family in the area they always said I’m not entitled to any help from them. The people who’ve been the nicest to me have actually been the local police. In the end two police officers came to the council with me and said it was against my human rights what they were doing to me. That’s what it took to make them change their mind. After that they said they should be able to give me somewhere next week. It’s taken six months but I can’t wait.
I’d never been homeless before. I had no idea what it was like. I’ve actually got a job in the Highland Hotel waiting for me as soon as I move in. It’s only a dishwasher but it’s still a job. I got it while I was homeless but until I get that address I’m not allowed to start work. Even when I went to the food bank they said they could only give me certain things like cereal and biscuits because I wouldn’t be able to cook anything. There’s one church that serves hot food on a Thursday but apart from that there’s nothing.
Another thing I’ve learnt is that most of the hostels don’t let homeless people stay there even if you have the money. That has to change. I even had one guy take me to one and offer to pay my bill for two weeks but they wouldn’t accept it. There’s one hostel that took pity on me, but if I do have some money I have to go there after hours so no one will recognise me from sitting on the street or else they could get in trouble. Every other hostel refused to let me in. Sometimes people will help me enough to get a few days but other times you go four or five days and make nothing. These last two weeks have been beyond a joke for me. I’ve hardly had enough money for food. Then I usually sleep by the train station because it’s got hot air vents.
I met a couple before who gave me some money and they seemed really nice but they weren’t like that at all. They were evil. They said they had a spare room that I could stay in but when I got there they completely changed. Within two hours of being in the house he started getting violent and shouting at me and she started acting really strangely. They wouldn’t let me move from where I was sitting. It was really scary. I had to sneak out the bathroom window. I don’t know if they were planning to abuse me or what but now the only people I really trust on the street are the police. They’ve been good to me because they know I don’t cause any trouble. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know if the council would have helped me at all.
The other day I was sitting here and I saw that a guy had left his money in the cash machine so I ran after him and gave it back. It was about £200 and the first thing he said to me was – You didn’t touch it did you? He spoke to me like that just because I was homeless. Anyone else would have bloody took it. That really got to me. I just hope that when I get an address next week I’ll be able to start work and be a normal person that people can’t look down at and judge straight away. I don’t think I’ll ever walk past anyone again.”
By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.