The top 10 myths of UTA: the sixth myth

Myth 6 – ‘Everyone in there is a druggie’

I hear this kind of comment from time to time, its understandable. Our media is very good at making us believe that when a person is in a crisis in their life they are somehow less than human, undeserving of help and charity. We are fed the lie that people bring these things on themselves by drinking too much and using drugs – ‘no wonder they can’t afford somewhere to live’ we might say ‘why should we, the tax payer, pay for their habit?’

Now I’m not suggesting for a minute that there are no drug or alcohol dependent people living in unsupported temporary accommodation. Our research suggests that 84% of people said they were affected by drugs and/or alcohol while living in UTA. 14 out of 45 individuals we interviewed said the accommodation had led them to drink more alcohol and use more drugs in order to cope. When you consider the environment in which people inhabit I am frankly surprised that it is not more.

This week I sat with a lady at the Justlife coffee morning. She’s middle-aged with a teenage daughter, another grown-up daughter and a grandchild, a very articulate a smart looking woman who has a job but some months ago was living in a UTA room. She was sharing a bed with her daughter, a bed which turned out to have bed bugs, in a block surrounded by strangers many of whom had complex needs. She talked to me about how her daughter’s school had struggled to understand the enormous pressure that living in one room, sharing a bed with your mum puts on a teenager and how the school took issue with the fact that her school uniform wasn’t up to scratch, rather than recognising this as a cry for help. They eventually excluded her.

Thankfully, now housed, this little family is beginning to re-settle, to arrive back at the life in which nothing much has really changed apart from their accommodation status; same job, same schools, same dogs, same family issues. No mention of drugs or alcohol though.

Supporting Justlife will help us to make real and lasting system change as well as providing frontline service to hundreds of people in need everyday.