Last year, a man called Matthew Bloomer passed away on the streets of Glasgow City Centre. It had a profound affect on all members of our team as many had walked passed him that morning. Only 28 years old and a loving dad who was trying to get his life back on track, everyone struggled to come to terms with how this could happen in 2017. It’s not just Matthew. Due to the cold, the equivalent of one homeless person a week will die in Glasgow.
Knowing this, we had to do something to give back, so Impact the Homeless was born. We wanted to be involved and be hands on. We arranged an in-house donation bank and fundraising activities & will be doing on street Charity work in January. This brought to light the story of one of our own staff, Rab.
Rab found himself homeless of the streets and stresses that more support is needed for our homeless, and not just in the forms of food and sleeping bags. We asked him a few questions to help share his story and perspective from the streets.
What was your life like before you were homeless?
I left Scotland when I was 16 and moved to Northampton. I had to leave Glasgow as I left school and had no work. I travelled with £20 in my pocket got a job within days and quickly progressed to supervisor in a production factory.
I was lucky enough to be able to purchase my first house at 18 but unfortunately became redundant when I was around 22 and my partner at the time was pregnant. I began drinking more than I should due to this and was taking drugs at the weekends. This is when everything began to spiral out of control. My son was born, I was starting to get back on my feet but the drink was still there, but I had it under control, or at least that’s what I thought.
By the time I was 28, my life was on the up. I got married and I began working in London. I was earning crazy money, house, car, family, I had everything. Alcohol became more and more present. I would drink if I was happy, sad, making dinner, every night. I felt I deserved it and justified it, I didn’t see it as an issue until I started hiding it. I would tell myself there was no issue and make excuses to go and drink.
How did you become homeless?
My now ex wife had enough and we divorced. That’s when I ended up on the streets, she kicked me out. I believed I could win her back, it was temporary, I told myself she knew I drank, she would take me back. I lost my job, I lost everything. I had to stay there as my family were there, my kids. Looking back I was selfish, my kids shouldn’t have had a dad that was on the streets. I thought I could win them back. I was drinking 12 litres of cider a day. The things I saw was horrific, people being being robbed, beaten up. The streets I was on we were a community, we supported each other, we would all help each other to get food, drink and cigarettes and share our money.
What you see in Glasgow today with people sitting on the streets begging was not me. I didn’t sit on the streets I was in the background. The homeless situation is not only what you see. If I was given a house it wouldn’t have helped me at the time, if anything I wouldn’t be here I probably would have killed myself quicker, getting to the route cause of my issues is what helped me.
After a while wanting to get my family back turned to self-pity. I tried to take my own life and overdosed. I started to attend The Bridge which is a substance misuse network where I spoke about my personal life. My sister passed when she was 10, I was 13. This made me realize that this was a factor of me drinking. This was a big influence for me to get help. I lived on the streets for over a year and was homeless until 2016.
What changed your situation? Were there any big influencing factors?
I started to attend meetings, the more I spoke it was very easy for me to then accept what happened to my sister and how that impacted me. My marriage was over and I had to make the decision to get my life back on track. Coming off the drink caused health implications like cirrhosis of the liver. I went into rehab for a while and came out of Rehab around may 2016. In rehab I was with drug addicts, I was the only person who was homeless, only difference was they had a house to go back to, a safer environment.
What’s your life like now and what are your future plans?
When I returned to Glasgow in July 2016 I moved in with my dad and started working. I met up with my now partner Leanne who we have known since we were younger. She got me an interview in a contact centre and since then I feel I am now on a steady course. I have a fantastic relationship with my children, I am in a happy relationship and we have a baby on the way. I have a great job here at Impact and I am progressing. I have never felt empowered in all my life. Every time I get paid I always give a hot drink and food to people on the streets and when I visit my kids I go back and see the people I was on the streets with. I feel awful but there is a path to get off the streets if you choose to.
Glasgow needs a better out reach team, more educated people who can interact and relate to people on the streets. My aspiration now is to become a fully pledged addiction councilor to help people who are in the situation that I have come from.
I had everything before I became homeless and I would never step on the people on the way up as you need them more on the way back down.