When Ross became homeless he kept presenting himself at his local council until it helped him find a flat he could rent.
Last autumn I was working for a charity and I lost my job. The charity was publicly funded and it ran out of funding.
About a month later, just before Christmas, I broke up with my partner and I had to move out of our home. I didn’t have any savings so I didn’t have enough money for a deposit on a new place. I stayed on couches for a couple of weeks, but you kind of outstay your welcome especially after Christmas. So I had nowhere to go.
I approached the Compass Centre, which is a housing and homelessness centre in Bristol. They told me I had to be referred to them by the council, or spend a night actually homeless on the streets, before they would be able to help me.
So I was like, “Oh Christ what do I do”, so I made some phone calls, tried every option that I could think of, nothing paid off, so my only option was to head towards the night shelter.
I got there about 7 o clock. I was the 17th person in the queue and there were only 18 beds, so I got there just in time.
I stayed in the night shelter for the next two or three weeks. But it’s only open 5 days a week, so on the two nights it was shut I managed to get into a cheap hostel above a bowling alley in the centre of Bristol which was only £10 a night.
Because it was the middle of winter I then got a place in a Salvation Army hostel, but I had to sleep in the games room, which was open until 2 o’clock in the morning. I basically slept under a snooker table for two weeks.
My first night in that hostel was pretty terrifying to be honest. I’m not a drug user, but I saw people smoking crack pipes, a fight broke out, people are very loud and you come across people who have been sleeping there for months and months, years sometimes. And the etiquette around sharing a sleeping area together isn’t necessarily that great.
Eventually The Compass Centre referred me to the council’s private renting team. They have a list of landlords who accept council deposit bonds and housing benefit, and this was my best chance of finding somewhere to live. It took about two weeks for them to get in contact with me, and another week before I had my interview with them. During my interview they told me that it took an average of 13 weeks before being accepted onto their scheme.
But then, just after I’d left, I got a phone call from the lady I’d just been speaking to saying some place has come up , which was the flat I’m living in now. It was just right time right place, I was just there in her brain, otherwise if that phone call saying that this place was available had been a day later I wouldn’t have got it.
The landlord was a Housing Association who I then met with for a suitability assessment. Although they are a housing association I privately rent my flat from them. What made the difference to me was that I didn’t need to come up with a deposit, and they accepted housing benefit – which so many landlords don’t.
You have to be very proactive, you can’t let them come to you, you have to go to them, they’re really busy.
It’s quite easy to get demoralised and demotivated but you can’t let that happen. You just have to go for it, you just have to turn up every day, go to every appointment that they tell you to go to, and show that you’re willing.
My council gave me a list of places that might help me. It was a bit out of date but on it there were addresses of the Compass Centre, the night shelter, as well places where you can get food – all charities, nothing run by the council. Which was helpful but obviously not enough.
I’d also spend a lot of my time in the library using the internet, so you can always google places as well.
The way I eventually got back on my feet was that I just nagged and nagged and nagged. I was at the homeless centre every day, ringing on the doorbell, explaining no I haven’t got an appointment but can I speak to someone just to see if there is any news or if anything’s come up?
It’s just tenacity. You have to kind of do what they tell you when they tell you but also you have to make sure they keep their end of the bargain up as well.
And also, try and be nice, it’s really difficult to maintain your composure when you’re faced with a wall of bad news, but you just have to kind of suck it up and go ok, I’ll come back tomorrow, and then go back tomorrow.
I’m not a poster boy for saving money or anything like that, I’m quite bad with money which is why I didn’t have any savings in the first place. I’ve learnt that the best way is just to try and communicate with people.
You’ve just got to be honest, if you are struggling. It’s easier to get help when you can see that the trouble is coming than to get help when the trouble has occurred.
Because you don’t want to be having a conversation about trying to get rent when you’re homeless – it’s better to do it when you’re in somewhere.