William. My first day homeless.

“There’s a lot of people in the shelter that didn’t look like they were homeless. I’m 26 and I probably wasn’t the youngest either. I went to the council two days ago when I realised I had nowhere to sleep that night. They said they couldn’t help me until the following morning but they gave me the address of a church. At first I thought I wouldn’t go. It sounded too depressing. I thought I would just stay on the street but it was too cold.

There were a lot of drunk people. Just shouting and bawling all night. Forty or fifty people on foam mattresses. I only got about 20 mins sleep. I stayed for two nights then said to the volunteers that I wouldn’t be back. Five years ago I was going through a really hard time and I tried to kill myself. I’ve never felt that bad again until I got in there. One of them told me that night shelter has been going for fifteen years. I didn’t understand that but I didn’t see many of those people at the housing office either. I think lots of folk in there have just given up on the system.

I lost my dad when I was thirteen years old. He used to beat my mum and they split up when I was a baby. I only spoke with him twice. The last time I saw him was at my granny’s funeral. He was in a wheelchair because he’d had a stroke and all my family said I should go and say hello but I didn’t want to. He was still functioning and I thought he should come and say hello to me. To his own son. Two weeks later he died. I regret that big time.

I don’t think you can grieve when you’re that young. I just got on with my life like nothing had happened. I never used to think about it. I always felt that no one cared. I thought they were laughing at me. I loved my mum but he was still my dad. There’s was never anyone to talk to about it. It wasn’t until I was sixteen/seventeen that it started hitting me. And that’s when I started gambling.

Where I lived there was a small betting shop and the man who owned it would let anyone in really. It started off just one-pound bets here and there but then as I got more money the bets got bigger. After getting paid on a Friday it just became a habit to go straight to the bookies. I’d try and tell myself I’d only have one bet but before you knew it your next thought is how you’re going to tell your girlfriend that all your wages are gone. Sometimes I’d just lie and tell her I’d not been paid. I was probably spending about £350 a week. Horses, dogs, football, roulette, anything you could bet on, I’d bet on it. There were lots of times you’d win but that would never make up for the times you lost.

Everyone was telling me to go to Gambling Anonymous. My mum, my sister, my girlfriend. I went a few times but it never worked. In the end it took my girlfriend kicking me out and not being able to see my son everyday to make me accept I really had a problem. This is a dangerous time right now but luckily I don’t have money so I can’t be tempted but I don’t think I’ll ever properly give up. After my girlfriend left I stayed with my mum for a while but we started arguing all the time and eventually she kicked me out too. She just asked me to get my stuff and leave. That’s when I went to the council.

I was in the housing office at 8am this morning. I was lucky and a temporary place in a B&B came available as I was sitting there. The housing office warned me that it wasn’t pleasant. I was never expecting perfect but it was the only thing available. All I know is that whoever was in it before apparently wrecked the room, it’s all other men and there’s a curfew at 11pm. I don’t know how long I’ll be there. I’m planning to just go there to eat and sleep until I can make enough money to get my own place. Some of the people in the shelter told me that the temporary B&B accommodation could be worse than being on the street, and that you can be stuck there for two years. I hope it’s not that bad."

William, Edinburgh. 

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