“It’s a shithole Chris, I ain’t living there.”
“Oh, its not that bad”, I breezed (in my mind I pictured the new restaurants, pubs, student buzz, theatre…yeah, I just kept this bit to myself).
“Naa it’s a f@#king shithole, I’m living with wrong’uns and smack rats.”
Same city but two completely different views. Joss (23) has been coming to LandWorks for about four months. He lives in a hostel.
No, not a youth hostel, nor an alpine-type walking hostel; his hostel is the one you live in after prison and before a sleeping bag in a doorway. And his fixed-term stay is up.
Part of his tale, as Joss would say, is “Bro you is set up to fail.” When you look at it from his point of view, it certainly takes some strength of character to live in a hostel, manage to hang on and avoid a recall to HMP.
Yesterday a man who had applied in prison to join LandWorks was recalled, two days out, living in a hostel. Unfortunately we hadn’t even seen him, let alone interviewed him.
Prison life is extreme but if you have no suitable address to return to you will be given a hostel place, if available. The anomaly is that you may have managed to avoid trouble inside, get clean from drugs or just sorted yourself out. The prison door shuts and as you peer around the opening hostel door you are greeted by some of the prison population you steered clear of, including sex offenders you had been kept separated from… “‘Cos there’s nowhere else to go to”.
Joss was now merrily explaining to all of us that in his view the entire city was a “shithole”. Helpfully a visiting art student joined in: “Yeah it is a bit crap!”
Joss and I declared a state of emergency, with 10 days to sort it.
For the last two months we have been trying to get him a job and accommodation – the two vital ingredients for successful resettlement. Job is now a yes, housing still no; deposit and rent upfront difficult without money.
Probation have been incredibly helpful, as have Mego – a local recruitment firm, but between us all we have struggled. One council pushes us to another; to another agency… you are left shouting ‘why does nothing join up!?’
Towards the end of the day, Joss, having talked to us all about his problem, suddenly declared that he could live and work in this city (making finding accommodation at least a possible).
In a moment of clear conscious thinking he declared, “It don’t matter, everywhere is a shithole…” momentary pause “…especially Bournemouth”.
Which to my surprise was received with much nodding and muttered agreement.
Think I need to get out and about a bit more.