Homeless in Glasgow: Heartbreak hotel

In part three of a 10-part series, John Paul Clark faces the truth about a broken relationship as he struggles in homeless accommodation

IT WAS late of a Friday afternoon when I was granted shelter in a bed-and-breakfast. They gave me a ripped piece of A4 with the address in the West End scribbled down on it and a bus token to get myself across the city. If I wasn’t there by 5pm the room would be given to someone else.

I boarded a bus at Easterhouse, got off in the city centre and dashed up through Sauchiehall Street and onto Woodlands Road with no idea exactly where I was headed. 

Like a wounded animal I darted aimlessly up the street with eyes desperate and needy but feral enough to be avoided as the locals kept their distance.

READ MORE – Homeless in Glasgow parts 1-2

I stopped at the petrol station on Woodlands to inspect the address on the crumpled piece of paper and when I looked up two radiant girls walked toward me that I recognised from the masters course I started almost a year before. In a tremendous juxtaposition they would have been coming to the end of their studies and here I was looking for homeless accommodation. 

Both were very personable girls but as our eyes met and smiles appeared on their faces, like the weirdo in the tent, I turned my back and began jogging in the opposite direction.

As 5pm approached I was frantic and couldn’t face another night outside under the stars. A wee woman was stood waiting on someone outside a shop and I asked her if she knew the address. She didn’t, but clearly took sympathy at my dishevelled state and started hailing passers by and asking them. I eventually got the correct directions and arrived just shy of the hour.

The room was less than sparse and smelled and was dirty but finally, after three weeks, I had somewhere to rest my head. It contained only a bed, kettle and small portable television, but I was grateful. 

A curfew at night stipulated that you had to be back by midnight or they would give the room to someone else, and there were no cooking facilities in the building, but that evening I felt a lot of the pressure and stress begin to subside and I fell asleep fairly early, with the past few weeks filtering through my mind.

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Before I left the council offices that Friday, they had me fill out housing benefit forms for the bed-and-breakfast. The cost of living there was about £250 a week and I was advised against working because all my wages would go to covering the rent. 

The next step in the process is for your application to be reviewed and a decision reached on whether or not the council will accept the homeless application. Again, by law, the council has 28 days to decide. I was only three weeks in, so was told I would receive a letter by post.

In the following days with work not on the horizon, I looked toward returning to university as something positive. Completing a masters application is no easy task, though, with lots of forms and references to be collated and written, and I was thankful to have something to occupy my thoughts. 

The cost of living there was about £250 a week and I was advised against working because all my wages would go to covering the rent. 

I began to set about my application, walking to the Mitchell library and spending as much of the day there as possible so as not to return to the homeless accommodation too early.

This was on good days, when I could afford to buy sandwiches or noodles to heat up with boiling water from the kettle. Other days were spent walking to visit family in search of a meal. With no bus fair or means of getting across the city I was walking more than I had ever. I am a walker but walking on the edge of motorways in a distressed mental state is not pleasant.

At night I had a bit of data on my phone and spent my time messaging her, my ex partner. It was me who had initially packed and left but now I had changed my mind and wanted her more than I had ever wanted anything. 

I was writing long texts, one after the other regardless of a response, pleading and listing why we were so good together. She wasn’t convinced and her reasoning was a bit skewed, but eventually she relented and we planned a weekend away to talk it over. 

This gave me an almighty lift and for the first time in a month I was smiling. It would have to wait until I got paid my benefit but having something to look forward to at least made my life sufferable.

I barely remember walking back to the accommodation, but I arrived back and sat on the bed. Sitting there, the figurative plaster finally popped off the gaping wound and an avalanche of emotion poured out.

Walking out the accommodation each morning was a trauma. The locals would cross the road as they approached and it was very obvious to anyone that people leaving were homeless. I felt constantly on edge, like the well-heeled natives of the West End could sense the homeless desperation, and walked around staring at the ground.

Still, I had our weekend to look forward to. All those sweaty nomadic walks and hours spent hungry would be worth it. After being in the bed-and-breakfast for two weeks and homeless for just over five weeks I had not yet received a letter from the council advising of a decision. 

I phoned them a few times but as normal they wouldn’t help, so I went to Shelter Scotland again and within days the decision was reached and I was now officially homeless. Shelter said the next step was to be assigned a caseworker and if the council hadn’t contacted me within two weeks then Shelter would step in.

However, as the weekend approached, she became distant and unresponsive. By the Friday we were due to leave I hadn’t heard from her in days and when she muted me on Whattsapp I gave up and retreated to my room with a carrier bag full of noodles and crisps to last the weekend. It was all getting too much and the mental fatigue was strong.

Come the Monday, I was refreshed a little and having run out of data on my phone I headed to the Mitchell to get online and try to contact her. As I sat waiting for the computer to fire up I pulled out my phone that was already rigged up to the library wi-fi and checked Whattsapp and discovered she had now blocked me altogether. 

She had been cheating on me all along and I hadn’t been paranoid or going crazy. It was all a lie, everything. But any vindication was quickly replaced by humiliation and inadequacy.

My heart sank a little and I went to Facebook. There, I discovered she went away for the weekend. I presumed she had gone away with another guy but regardless, the blocking was definitely sending out the message.

I barely remember walking back to the accommodation, but I arrived back and sat on the bed. Sitting there, the figurative plaster finally popped off the gaping wound and an avalanche of emotion poured out. I cried a lot when I was younger, but since the age of 17 I hadn’t shed one tear. Even with the passing of my father. 

I do this weird thing where I feel myself welling up but for some reason I just cannot go the next step and actually cry. I sat on the bed in this strange state, repeating her name over and over.

The woe over the next week was all consuming and I have never been lower. I had lost her and it was all my own fault, and the self-loathing was at an all time high as I moped around the room unable to see a future ahead.

This lasted for a week until a little birdie sent me a message and I found out where she had been the weekend before and who she was with. The heartache suddenly dissipated and was replaced by vindication and a burning anger. 

The truth had been too brutal to face and I chose to continue believing her lies to the bitter end rather than face what had been staring me in the face for months. 

She had been cheating on me all along and I hadn’t been paranoid or going crazy. It was all a lie, everything. But any vindication was quickly replaced by humiliation and inadequacy.

The truth had been too brutal to face and I chose to continue believing her lies to the bitter end rather than face what had been staring me in the face for months. 

I had lost my home and life for nothing.

Keep an eye out for John Paul’s blog every Wednesday on CommonSpace

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