Our reporter, who choses to remain anonymous, lets people know that the issues with homelessness go beyond the provision of 4 walls and a roof on top. Often, feelings of loneliness creep in and people miss the shared experiences of being homeless. Mat Amp [Point of contact at Groundswell for community reporters]
Sleeping in night shelters, which meant sleeping on the floor of a church, every night a different church, was a very humbling and stressful experience. There was also hardly any privacy. However, there was camaraderie between the people depending on the night shelters. We were all desperate and all in it together. The free dinners we received on arrival felt like a social occasion, there was time for a chat and for sharing our latest progress in finding somewhere more stable to live. It felt like we were friends despite coming from all different walks of life.
Then the big day came. I and my boyfriend were sent to a kind of hostel, which was really 9 self-contained rooms all crammed into one 3 floor residential house in a residential street. It was a big relieve to have a roof over one’s head every day in the same place and with a key to close the door. Nevertheless I felt very lonely at first, missing all the hustle and bustle of the night shelter. However, I very soon made friends there. Whenever I met somebody on the stairs we said hello and we chat about how we were. We would sometimes sit on the stairs on the entry to the house and chat about our experiences and how things went with our hunt fora permanent home. The only trouble was that people often just disappeared as they had to move very fast when it was their turn.
Then later on we were also sent away into another temporary accommodation where the people were very friendly too. However, after 3 years in hostels, night shelters and other types temporary accommodation our dream came true. We finally made a successful bid on social housing. The process was very stressful, but the idea of finally putting roots somewhere was a really nice thought. I was hoping to make new more stable friends. Yet, despite our direct neighbours being friendly I do not see them very often. They keep themselves to themselves.
Even worse. There are lots of people living on this estate. I keep seeing the same people repeatedly. I say hello to everyone I meet, even if I see somebody for the first time. To my surprise those people mostly blank me. They do not reply, do not look at me, they just ignore me and keep walking. They just simply ignore me! This makes me sad. I do not miss the stress of unstable housing, but what I do miss is the camaraderie and friendship in those night shelters and hostels. I am more relaxed and happier now, still it feels like a part of me is missing somehow.