Love and loss
I came to Glasgow 12 years ago from Manchester for a two-week holiday. I never went back because I met my future wife and step children. We had a good a life together and a solid relationship for 10 years until the passing of my step daughter.
The strain of this bereavement resulted in the breakdown of our family. Without the network of family and friends that I had enjoyed in Manchester and, having nowhere else to go, I encountered my first experience of homelessness.
Homeless and struggling
I spent my first night homeless sleeping in the reception of a police station. I had presented as homeless at the Council and was advised that I didn’t have a local connection in Glasgow and was sent back to North Lanarkshire Council. They found me a temporary accommodation hostel in Motherwell. However as they were full, an office was converted and I was provided with a mattress to sleep on. I spent two nights there before a room – a shared living space – became available.
During this time my head was all over the place; I couldn’t concentrate on what was going on around me. I couldn’t think clearly about my finances or what would happen next.
It was at this time I was introduced to Geraldine, a support worker from the Simon Community. This was such a blessing – it was the first normal conversation that I had had with someone!
Getting through difficult times
A month later North Lanarkshire Council gave me a ‘Scatter Flat’. It was better than being on the streets, but it was damp and freezing. I suffered depression and felt isolated. It was the lowest point of my life. What got me through was the thought of seeing and spending time with my grandchildren.
I also got a new key worker, David. We built a good rapport and he went above and beyond to help me. One day David and I had a conversation about what I had done in my life and things that I had achieved. He suggested that I look into doing “peer support where people who have experienced homelessness become volunteers and work with others who find themselves homeless.
The Simon Community’s Hub (on London Road) offer advice and information to people who are homeless. They were just about to recruit peer volunteers. When the day came to attend the peer volunteer interview I felt apprehensive and anxious. I really didn’t want to be there but, because of the encouragement I had been given from my support worker, I felt I needed to give it a go. I have never looked back!
I have been involved in the daily running of the Hub and various training days. Through all this I have built up good connections with the other peers and staff. The Simon Community have helped my personal development and I have taken part in different activities and projects, including speaking at the AGM and conducting interviews with service users as part of the Self Directed Support Pilot for the Scottish Government. During these interviews, I used my lived experience to make people feel at ease. All this has built my confidence and encouraged me to get involved in other projects.
I now have a better understanding of homelessness and all the issues that come with it and that no two people are the same.
Making a difference
The experience has truly made me feel like part of something and valued. It also made me realise that I want a career in Social Care. I am currently seeking employment within this field. I could not have got here without the hard work I have put in and the achievements that I have made whilst working with the Simon Community.
Personally, life has got better and better. I recently moved into my own flat and I feel settled. Volunteering has built up my self-esteem and confidence. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I may not have all the answers but I can certainly try! I enjoy learning new things and I am starting to feel like I make a difference.