Don’t ever accept you are homeless

Finger pointing

​Sharon Jonesy believes the only way homeless people can move into secure permanent accommodation is by constantly challenging local authorities 

6th April 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Shortly after being divorced I found myself homeless. I had two young children and it was the start of a five year cycle of temporary accommodation across North Ayrshire which saw me live in over 12 different places.

I’ve lived in homeless units, private flats, with housing associations and even hostels. The longest I’ve been anywhere is six months. That was a period of relative stability. But the private landlord then sold the house and I was given notice to quit. I ended up in a two bedroom temporary flat for homeless people in Kilmarnock for the next three months, a place where it was impossible to sleep because of the noise and the fighting.

I’ve never accepted what I was given. Many decisions made by local authorities are arbitrary and they should be challenged. When you are allocated accommodation the first question I ask is: is this the best you can do? Then I ask what the criteria is for allocation. They have policies, rules and regulations but often they are not adhered to. And it is in your best interest to query them.

Sharon Jonesy

Sharon Jonesy

I’ve never accepted what I was given. Many decisions made by local authorities are arbitrary and they should be challenged

My first concern has always been for my children. Living in temporary accommodation means keeping children in the same school becomes difficult. The upheaval can affect their schooling immensely. But it also affects their mental health: moving home so often means they aren’t rooted. They have to make friends and lose friends. For a young person that can be really traumatic.

My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to first get the best advice available. Go to law centres, to Shelter, to Citizens Advice, to your local authority. Know what you are talking about.

I advise Govan Law and Support Centre in Glasgow three days a week, helping other families who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation. Local authorities now have an obligation to home every no intentional homeless person in Scotland but that doesn’t mean you’ll be given top notch accommodation. More likely you’ll be given temporary housing, some of which won’t be up to standard. I advise people how to fight these allocations and how best to equip themselves to do so.   

The homelessness problem in Scotland is something that I believe can be solved through political will. But despite the Scottish Government being highly praised for many of its policies, its record on housing is poor. There isn’t the political will to address the issue. It’s not a vote winner. The reality is few people care enough for the homeless. So we need to shout louder than most and campaign harder.  

It took five years of fighting to eventually get myself into secure, permanent accommodation. I now live in Ayr in a housing association-run home. It’s a new build with back and front garden and my children proudly call it home. You don’t know how much that means to me.  Yet this should be a basic human right to which everyone in this country is entitled.