Milestones Trust

Getting back my sense of belonging

Gustav's story

For all those years I was out of society but now I feel I’m part of it again.

Silhouette of a rooftop with chimney

I’ve been homeless before but I haven’t slept rough for long periods. The longest I was on the streets for was a week at a time.

I’d often stay in homeless hostels but would be asked to leave because of my drinking. I’d come back drunk or meet people in there who were drinking. I’d drown my feelings of loneliness, anger and despair with alcohol, which would just cause more problems. A merry-go-round, that was my experience and I couldn’t get off.

I was on the streets and in hostels in Canada and the UK. Swindon, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Bristol, I went to them all. You try these geographical cures when you move but it’s the same problems that follow you.

When I was homeless I stayed in night shelters as well as short and long term hostels. You’d often have dormitories in the short term hostels and in the long term ones you could get your own bedroom so felt a bit safer. In the dormitories guys slept in their clothes and shoes in case things were stolen.

I didn’t like the dormitories but the long term hostels were a lot better than the streets. Staying there made me feel more human. When you sleep rough it harms your mental health, your self-worth. You don’t feel good, obviously, and you feel like people are looking at you. It’s a very lonely and vulnerable experience. Under the influence you don’t really care but when you sober up it hits you.

One time I remember wanting to find somewhere to sleep when I’d been drinking so I smashed a window on purpose so I could get arrested and sleep in jail. I’ve heard of other people doing that too. That’s how desperate you become.

Now that’s all in the past. I’ve given up drinking, am taking antidepressants and live in a supported living home. For all those years I was out of society but now I feel I’m part of it again.

(name has been changed)