3 of 8 Stripped of control

“I’m being told that I have to go to a hostel, I really don’t want to go. I know I will relapse. Everyone there takes drugs. I’m trying to stay sober, but they’re trying to force me to go.”

The People the team spoke to both on the streets and in hostel or hotel accommodation expressed that the little control they had over their lives had been taken away during COVID. They were told where to go and what to do and often felt unheard. There were many examples of there being a response to the crisis, rather than the individual, and in most cases, this resulted in people leaving or refusing a space in a hotel or hostel.

“Yeah, they offered me a room in Battersea but I’ve got no money to get there. My doctors are here, my script is here – I don’t have a choice but to stay here. I told them, but I suppose they did what they had to do and it’s my problem now. I was scared, everyone was scared.”

“The window was broken in my room. Security didn’t believe me. Like I’d make something like that up.”

Adjusting from rough sleeping to staying in a hotel or hostel was a huge challenge for many of the people who spoke to the team. People often felt a greater sense of isolation than they had experienced on the streets. In many cases people were moved to an entirely new area which created additional barriers, such as, people having to travel to their registered doctors, networks and being cut off from resources that they had previously used to survive.

“They gave me a room in a hotel. It was miles away. I was lonely, everyone I know is here. I didn’t know what was going on, how long I was going to be there, so I came back here. It’s quieter, less noise than before. I think lockdown was for other people.”

In other cases, people seemed to fall between the gaps, and left no other option but to take control of their situation. Seeking out places to self-isolate, which were often unsuitable and inhumane.

“When I called the night shelter to say I was coming back and that I had been ill they told me I shouldn’t come back and that my space had been given away.  They threw my stuff away. I am so angry.”

“I knew of a place so I found a broken window at a swimming baths and isolated in there.  My friend who is also homeless would bring me food, sometimes from The Passage.  One night I was really bad, I couldn’t breathe properly, I managed to get my friend to call an ambulance.”