Rising above the gutter

When I heard my mate Andy had died I knew I had to get off the
streets. I’d lived rough for 10 years and the bouts of pneumonia
and bronchitis had taken their toll. I downed two cans of Special
Brew and went to the housing advice centre again.

The guy told me I could have a bed that night in a hostel if I got
rid of my dog. There was no way was I giving up my best mate in
exchange for a bed. The guy told me about an organisation that
might help. I didn’t expect anything from this encounter so was
amazed when I got a letter at the day centre a week later telling
me to arrange for someone to assess my housing needs. I rang and
was told a woman called Seonaidh would see me in a few days.

I was looking at my 11th year on the streets. I was 37, a hardened
alcoholic and Idistrusted people. The step to ask for help was
massive for me. I’d have to choose between two contrasting worlds.
The world I now found myself needing to enter again was where my
nightmare had begun and I wondered whether the demons were still

I was 27 when my seven-year-old son Luke died. He was the bravest
child I ever knew. He was born with a rare skin disorder that meant
his skin blistered and came off. I was told Luke would live for six
weeks. He survived but I wasn’t allowed to touch him and fed him by
pipette. In the end the disorder didn’t get a chance to kill him.
In 1990 he was electrocuted on a railway line the day after Boxing
Day. I have three other children whom my ex-husband took when I was
heading for a breakdown. I haven’t seen them since as he told them
I was dead.

On the morning of the meeting with Seonaidh I sat with my
dysfunctional street family but said nothing about my plans. I felt
like a traitor. But what if she wanted to help me? I’d be sneaking
off with the enemy. I left my dog with them and lied about where I
was going

Instantly I liked Seonaidh, with her Scottish accent and Dr Martens
boots. I explained the circumstances that led me to becoming a
dosser and she didn’t tut or judge me. I knew she’d listened when
she said she could help me get somewhere to live with my dog after
Christmas. I knew the other world stopped for Christmas but
nightmare land would be open all hours as usual, and my drinking
buddies would be out and about. I felt sick when I thought about
“going back” to the other world. I’d never been to prison but I
knew plenty who had and I felt like a convict awaiting sentence,
the difference being that I would decide my own destiny.

I crawled out of the gutter with my dog still by my side in January
2000. If I hadn’t have been referred to Leeds housing support team
I know I would have joined my friend Andy by now.

Jayne Scadden used to be homeless and now lives in
supported housing.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.