In part five of 10-part series, a bombshell is dropped on John-Paul Clark as he makes the move from bed and breakfast to temporary accommodation
I WALKED down the dirty-carpeted corridor with wallpaper decades old, safe in the knowledge that it would be the last night in that room.
The falling leaves of autumn heralded the end of summer and I was glad to see it over. Heartache and desolation had arrived at every corner and there certainly had been no holidays or another rendezvous with Marti Pellow.
It had been a few summers before that we met the bold Marti. Spending the holidays with friends down in Surrey that year, I felt bullet-proof and could only see a positive future ahead. I was still relativdely young and fearless and had solid career opportunities waiting once I completed my final year at university.
READ MORE – Homeless in Glasgow parts 1-4
The night we met him I was lingering around a petrol station and stopped and stared at some ready-made meals on a shelf in a fridge. Joseph suddenly appeared and sidled up next to me, wild eyed and excitable. He stood there with a massive grin and jabbed an elbow into my side, rolled his eyes left and mouthed "Marti fucking Pellow".
My head shot to the left and sure as the day there stood Scotland’s sweet prince, Marti fucking Pellow. He was oblivious to the Glaswegian upstarts by his side and picked up something from the fridge and made his way to the counter.
Like two excited schoolgirls we followed the housewives’ favourite. He stood there resplendent in white baseball boots twinned with denim shorts and not looking a day over 60 years.
"It’s wet, wet, wet out there tonight, Marti," Joseph said in gruff Glaswegian. He ignored it and didn’t look back but his face turned ashen. He quickly paid at the counter and scampered outside not looking anywhere near us.
We dumped our own shopping and dashed out into the pouring rain gesticulating for a lift but he blanked us and sped off into the dark in his expensive sports car back to the sanctuary of the sprawling estates.
We walked back to the university halls, giggling long into the night at the absurdity, certain that we were the first true Glaswegians Marti had encountered in a couple of decades. Or since he got off the smack anyway.
A lot had passed since then and I have gone from one mishap to another. Trying to self-fund my way through a masters the year before was a bad decision.
Deciding to give up my flat and move in with my ex-partner was borderline idiocy. I had spent the three months prior to that night doing nothing but ruminate, and I realised if I were to have a better future I simply had to make better choices.
It took minutes to pack my stuff and I left it all by the door. Two holdalls with my clothes and a few bags of books were all my worldly possessions.
It took minutes to pack my stuff and I left it all by the door. Two holdalls with my clothes and a few bags of books were all my worldly possessions. The furniture from my flat was at her house. When I moved in, most of my furniture was in better condition so we threw out her bed, sofa and the like and used mine.
The taxi was due at nine so I tried to sleep, but it was useless and I was soon back up and pacing the room waiting on breakfast. You can only collect it between 7-9am at reception or you lose out.
It comes in a brown paper bag and contains a small box of cereal, quarter pint of milk, two tea bags, two sugar sachets and a few biscuits. Exactly as you might get in prison. That’s not to say it wasn’t welcome and sometimes made up a day’s nourishment.
Their tea was gank but that morning it tasted pleasantly sweet as I contemplated the immediate future. After sweating on it for weeks I was actually going to make university and there was some hope ahead. I had no data on my phone and had no idea where the temporary accommodation actually would be, but anything was preferable to the bed and breakfast.
As time appraoched I left my stuff at the front door and sat down unable to wait in that room a second longer. The receptionists have a hard job and double up as social workers to the isolated occupants desperately seeking information from anywhere.
I brought up university again and they dropped the bombshell. The rent the council charges in temporary accommodation is roughly £700-per-month and if I went to university I would be liable for it all.
I quickly understood they knew little and left them be, but that morning we engaged in a little small talk until he beckoned that the taxi was outside. I hastily made my way out and didn’t look back.
I gave the driver the scrap of paper with the address but he already knew where he was headed. It must have been a company account and he seemed used to the protocol. It was a drab morning and I sat in the back of the taxi, tired and nervous, as we beat a path through Glasgow to my new abode.
We got to an area of Glasgow I didn’t know, but when he turned a corner and a big ugly bastard high flat came into view I knew that had to be me. I got out into the cold rain and was enveloped by the gusting winds that such tall buildings seem to attract.
Unabated by the grim surroundings, I dragged my bags inside the foyer and waited excitedly for the two council employees. I couldn’t be fussy and was grateful for anything.
Two women arrived, one after the other, and were very polite. When I told them about university they looked at one and other and changed the subject. There were rules to the temporary accommodation. Unlike the bed and breakfast, you were allowed visitors but they were not permitted to stay the night, and the council has the right to access the property at any time.
Yet again this vital information had been denied to me and I was allowed to build up false hope.
It was also a bedsit and contained only a single-bed, two single chairs, a chest of drawers and, in the kitchen, a washing machine, cooker and fridge.
I brought up university again and they dropped the bombshell. The rent the council charges in temporary accommodation is roughly £700-per-month and if I went to university I would be liable for it all. Masters courses are not state funded, but unlike the previous year I had managed to arrange some funding for tuition fees and only had to find a part-time job to cover the rest.
Unfortunately, no part-time job could cover £700 a month in rent and also money for food and power. Therefore, I couldn’t afford to go to university.
Yet again this vital information had been denied to me and I was allowed to build up false hope. It’s easy to see why the council want to keep such practice quiet, though. They don’t own the property and instead rent from a housing association at a cost of £380 a month. They charge the homeless occupant £700 a month, pay £380 in rent and are left with a £320 monthly profit.
When you have the council profiting from the homeless it is hard to call it anything other than corrupt. The bed and breakfasts are privately owned and unscrupulous landlords profit massively, charging £30-70 a night for a room.
You wouldn’t expect Glasgow City Council to be running a similar operation with its own temporary accommodation.
The system is not designed for people who just want to get back into work or education.
The system is not designed for people who just want to get back into work or education. My advice to anyone falling into a similar mess and who wants a quick ending would be to use the council initially to get into a bed and breakfast or hostel, and then make your own exit plans.
Seek work somewhere where there is accommodation provided and save for your own flat. Or failing that, find the money for a private let. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) provides loans and some landlords may even wave the deposit.
The two women from the council could see I was rocked by this news and soon made pleasantries and left me to figure it all out. The immediate future was completely annihilated so I tried not to think too far ahead and went out to get some groceries.
Back in the flat, rustling up some lunch, it began to dawn on me that I had been institutionalised.
Little things like having a fridge, cooker and front door keys felt novel and, of course, for the first time in months I didn’t have to plan the day ahead with the curfew in mind. I relaxed a little as the hours passed and eventually climbed into bed sometime late afternoon.
What I was going to do in the immediate months and days I had no idea. In that moment the permanent flat in October was the only positivity I could think of as I nodded off.
Picture courtesy of John-Paul Clark
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