Homeless in Glasgow: It’s logic you know, Tinder and homelessness don’t go

In part four of a 10-part series, a few dates leave John-Paul Clark feeling like there may be a future - until the chaos tears it away

WALKING along the promenade the sea air was biting so we took refuge in Nardinis and huddled together at a cosy wee wooden two-seated table. 

She asked if I had ever grown facial hair and I told her once but it made me look like a sex offender. From her belly-laugh I knew she liked me.

She was attractive, intelligent and had worked hard to get where she was so her attention helped combat the pervading self-loathing. Our first date had been an awkward affair as I struggled twinning homelessness and online dating, but the next one at the beach was altogether different. 

READ MORE – Homeless in Glasgow parts 1-3

I decided upon it to escape the city and shackles of my mental torture. It worked and momentarily I revelled in just being an ordinary guy with a pretty girl at the sea side. With the pressure valve released, anxiety and stress poured out me like steam and the day ended way too soon.

Previously, my only experience of homelessness in Glasgow was a conversation with an old flatmate who had lived in a hostel for five weeks and went straight into a council flat. Having had little contact with the council, I believed that this would be my experience, too, and imagined the immediate weeks and months ahead as starting university and settling into a flat, perhaps with a new girlfriend.

By that stage I was two months homeless but hoped the upcoming meeting with the vaunted caseworker would be the end game.

I had replaced girls to text with at night and it was wonderful to have someone who was equally interested. After the cheating-bomb dropped (see the last instalment), I plummeted into the sunken depths of despair trying to stop myself thinking of the particulars.

Fucking on our bed on the morning of my birthday was especially sore but just one of many betrayals. Even though I was absolutely reviled, I grieved at losing her. A month passed in a flash as I struggled to compute everything.

The latest news fermented heavily in my mind. Temporary housing most definitely wasn’t something I had prepared myself for or knew anything about.

However, with university interviews coming up I had to shake it off and looked to dating and exercise. Initially I advertised myself on Tinder as I was before I fell to pieces: interesting career path, hobbies and living alone in a wee flat. I quickly discovered the Tinder girls to be wise to it as each quickly sussed something amiss and chased me.

Then she arrived into my life and made me feel like I could be honest. When I told her my story she was sympathetic and that just made me like her more. We had similar hopes and dreams and I was enchanted at hearing tales of her growing up on an island. Our courting brought much needed distraction and helped me move forward and lift myself off the floor.

Before Tinder I had spent weeks doing nothing but wallow and phone the council once a day regarding the caseworker. After weeks of the usual unresponsiveness, Shelter took over and it was quickly arranged. I was summoned back to Easterhouse for a meeting at the start of August and informed I would soon be in temporary housing and on the waiting lists for permanent accommodation in areas of my choice.

I was meeting the island girl the next evening at the pictures but laid there that night in my dank room with a million thoughts cascading through my mind. Nights in the bed and breakfast were hardest. I found it to be an entirely safe place but in the wee small hours the disaffected are at their loudest and the harrowing shrieks were disturbing.

The latest news fermented heavily in my mind. Temporary housing most definitely wasn’t something I had prepared myself for or knew anything about. Apart from the tumult of another move, the biggest drawback I could see was that they put you anywhere in the city. And more immediately, I was desperate to get into some line of work and earning money. 

Visit our donate page to help us fund two new reporters

I had still hoped at that point that I would get out of the bed and breakfast and be able to get into work before university started.

Being penniless wasn’t something that was new in those days. I had been perilously close to the brink for a few months before landing homeless as I scratched, begged and borrowed to make the relationship with my ex-girlfriend work. 

I thought I was saving her but in reality I was enabling a certain lifestyle. Any savings and lines of credit were obliterated and I was tapped out with friends, too.

It cost me pals and not only for becoming a financial burden. I met my ex-girlfriend through friends and therefore when we split it caused ructions and ill feeling elsewhere. 

Some positivity arrived when I was accepted onto a masters course at university but that only ratcheted up my anxiety and need to get out of the bed and breakfast as soon as possible.

Two close friends, in particular, vehemently advised me against moving in with her. I don’t know if they knew more than they let on but people couldn’t have helped losing respect for me and I rarely see my old crew anymore.

I wasn't sleeping well but that night especially was full of trepidations about the temporary accommodation. I woke in the afternoon, dazed and groggy, with an hour to make myself look semi-presentable ahead of our date at the cinema.

However, like our first date, I showed up late and unkempt with the homeless vibe stamped to my forehead.

We went to see Ghostbusters at my behest and despite having talked it up I spent the movie in a trance, barely responding. And then the news of temporary accommodation and my situation stretching on into the winter visibly rocked her sensibilities. Watching her body language change back to the way she had been on our first date was sad.

When she ended it days after, I wasn’t surprised and should have done it first. It was selfish of me to be on Tinder with my inability to live a normal life at that juncture. That said, it had been a good distraction and confidence booster, and it let me realise I had a future. 

Although desperate to get out of it, I had become normalised to that whole world of homelessness by then and the long sleepless nights fell into one another and I rarely knew which day of the week it was. 

Some positivity arrived when I was accepted onto a masters course at university but that only ratcheted up my anxiety and need to get out of the bed and breakfast as soon as possible.

Although desperate to get out of it, I had become normalised to that whole world of homelessness by then and the long sleepless nights fell into one another and I rarely knew which day of the week it was. 

One morning, the phone went inside my room. I had to come upstairs and see someone from the council. I shot out my sleeping bag – the bedding they provided is washed communally and always smelled – flung on some clothes and ran to reception, blurry eyed, anticipating good news.

It turned out it was to fill out forms for the housing benefit to cover the cost of the room. Nothing was said about my housing or general welfare. Waiting for news was pretty much my existence at that point, with university organised and Tinder shelved. 

An email days later from my caseworker made my heart beat faster, but it only brought me down more. Apparently as I had rent arrears I would have to make a succession of payments from my £240 a month Universal Credit before the council would consider me for permanent accommodation.

Shelter couldn’t help and my life was in the hands of a caseworker. I couldn’t envisage what the future would hold after September if I couldn’t go to university.

Thankfully my caseworker informed me it would not hold up the temporary housing, but it would be Christmas at best before I had somewhere permanent. If anyone at the council had advised me to make these payments when I first became homeless, or at any point in the three months preceding, it wouldn’t have held up my application but they don’t tell you anything and you only learn by continually falling.

By late August there was no end in sight, and as the date for starting university got nearer I stopped counting weeks and instead went on days. I was frantic and on the verge of breaking down as getting temporary accommodation seemed no nearer. 

Shelter couldn’t help and my life was in the hands of a caseworker. I couldn’t envisage what the future would hold after September if I couldn’t go to university.

And then I arrived home one night just short of the curfew to find a note. I walked down to my room reading it but it was vague and barely legible. I went back to the receptionist and between us we managed to decipher it to be confirmation of temporary accommodation. 

The three-month spell in the bed and breakfast was over. I had to be at an address for 9am the following morning and would be picked up by a taxi and met there by someone from the council.

Picture: CommonSpace

Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.