When Daf was working as an Outreach Worker for Borderline, he came across Ronnie*, an entrenched rough sleeper in London. This is Daf’s account of Ronnie’s successful journey to his own flat in Glasgow.
“Ronnie had been sleeping rough on and off for many years. Every year the Mayor’s Office in London produces a list of the most entrenched rough sleepers – Ronnie had been added to this list a few years ago. He had since left the streets for short periods but had never settled and ended up returning to his old sleeping sites.
After returning to the streets once more, Ronnie decided he was too old, that he had had enough of this way of life. He decided to return home to Scotland to sort things out for good. He approached his local outreach team in London who bought him a coach ticket to Glasgow, but when the time came for him to go he “froze” for reasons he couldn’t explain to them, and found he couldn’t get on the coach.
The outreach team contacted me and I met with Ronnie to discuss what he wanted. He told me that he didn’t get on the coach because of anxiety caused by not knowing what would be waiting for him when he got to Glasgow. Ronnie said that he found it difficult to deal with official people, and had often decided not to bother pursuing accommodation or benefits he was entitled to because of the stress this caused him.
I offered to represent him in his dealings with officialdom. Ronnie agreed. After some encouragement we began by applying for a pension, which he started to receive within a few days. He stayed in emergency accommodation in London for a week while we arranged for the two of us to spend a day in Glasgow trying to find housing for him.
We met in London at a stupidly early time to make sure we had enough time to travel there. Ronnie later told us that as we entered the Glasgow housing office he started to feel panicky and was tempted to leave there and then. Fortunately, at that exact moment I walked face first into a glass door I hadn’t noticed was closed, which led to Ronnie and me laughing so much that any tension disappeared.
We were met by a friendly case worker who agreed that Ronnie was entitled to housing and told us that something would be organised before the end of the day, although it was hard to say at this stage what would be available. Ronnie said that he knew it was unlikely, but ideally he’d like his own flat in in the south of the city.
In no time we were on our way to a flat in the exact area Ronnie had asked for. He had been given it temporarily while longer-term housing was arranged for him. His case worker told him that this never usually happened so quickly, and advised him to buy a lottery ticket if he was on this run of luck. We were met there by a housing officer and a support worker tasked with representing Ronnie in his dealings with official people. Ronnie signed all the necessary forms, was handed his own set of keys and was delighted that on the same day he left London he had moved into his own place.
After the others had left we had a good look around the flat. I realised that Ronnie had been without his own accommodation for such a long time that he had difficulty in using his key in the front door. He practised for a few minutes before he was confident he could do it without me being there.
I promised I would keep in touch with him to make sure he was settling in, but he sounded very sure of himself when he said he was very happy to stay where he was, and that he had no plans to return to the streets this time.”
*Not his real name.