Why do people sleep on the streets? What needs to happen to get someone off the streets? These are two of the most common questions we get asked. Zander’s story gives us some of the answers.
“I went into care at age eleven, not long after my mum died,” says Zander, a man who not long ago occupied an empty shop front on Glasgow’s Argyle Street. “My dad was fighting for me in the courts but he couldn’t cope. It happens doesn’t it?” he shrugs.
“I left school with no qualifications. My sister got murdered ten years ago. I’ve been homeless on and off for years since leaving care, jumping around between hostels, emergency accommodation, on the street, back to hostels, back to the streets.”
During the winter months, Zander sometimes used the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter, but admits he felt more at home on the streets.
“It’s hard to move off the streets – you’re leaving all your pals behind,” he says. Elaine, his City Ambition Network (CAN) Keyworker explains, “It’s very much a community; when you’re there, that is your life.”
“That’s your family,” adds Zander. “Your normal family isn’t there, so you need to build your family. You don’t choose to be on the street; it’s something that just happens. I survived because I knew a lot of people. I was running away from the support available then. I went right off the rails for a while.”
Asked what the turning point for change was, Zander says, “The amount of drugs I was using – I just couldn’t do it anymore. Two sides of my groin burst and that’s what scared me so I had to come in for a serious operation. I had two choices: keep doing what I was doing and I’d probably have killed myself, or change my life. And so I changed my life. It’s a hard thing to turn your life around the way I’ve turned it around but you need to have the workers like I’ve got and you need to stick at it, work slowly at it, and get yourself back into a normal life.”
Zander repeatedly expresses how important it is to have the right support in place and how thankful he is for the support he has and the different organisations working together with him.
A home of your own
Thanks to faithful supporters of Glasgow City Mission who left gifts in their wills, we’ve embarked on a new accommodation project. We are securing ten Housing First flats across the city for people like Zander who have multiple and complex needs and for whom existing systems to access housing hasn’t worked. We’ve partnered with Homes for Good, a unique housing organisation who develop property for people who need homes. Zander is the first to benefit from the programme and has now moved in to his new home.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was,” says Zander. “It’s got a big kitchen, it’s all been decorated. New furniture, new blinds. It feels good. You’re in your own home. You can lock your door, you feel safe. It’s a nice wee close I’m in. You don’t get told where to live, you get to decide. The council could just stick you anywhere.
“I’m back in touch with my family again. I’ve now got a lot of support. I need help keeping the house going, keeping myself clean [from drugs] and stopping myself going backwards. I want to move forwards into courses like joinery or building. I’ve never had a proper job before.”
Zander’s CAN Keyworker will stick by him no matter what, meanwhile Homes for Good will be on hand for practical support concerning the house such as repairs. “That’s the difference,” says Grant Campbell, our Chief Executive. “Where so many others have let people down and not been there for them, we’ll not give up on people. We’ve built a system under CAN that is shaped around people’s complex needs – that’s what will end a return to street homelessness.”
CAN is a partnership with Glasgow City Mission, Simon Community Scotland, Marie Trust, Turning Point Scotland and Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership. Find out more about CAN and our Housing First accommodation project.