Waiting…..Thoughts this Christmas from Gary Bishop, CEO of Justlife

Advent, they say is a time of waiting, counting down the days, opening tiny doors and burning candles in expectation of what is to come. I’m not very good at waiting; find a short cut, find a short queue, find a quick win – that’s me. Waiting is so painful, time moves slowly, all you can do is think and reflect, breathe, watch the world going by and wonder about the thing or things you are waiting for.

Dave was waiting. As a teenager, leaving care, he landed in a Bed & Breakfast on the edge of town. This was the best society could offer him; a tiny room in a dark, damp, house surrounded by drug users, dealers and petty criminals. The landlord was a bully who’d make threats to harm him and it wasn’t long before Dave saw those threats carried through on men and women who failed to cough up their inflated service charge for the breakfast which never came and the heating which never worked and the help that never helped. ‘It’s temporary accommodation’ they said, ‘wait until you get something more permanent’, ‘at least it’s a roof over your head’. A month went by, and a year, and another year. The revolving door of people coming and going, the lost, the addicted, the abuser, the bully and the bullied, the sex worker, the occasional businessman down on his luck. Dave saw them all, come and go and still he waited.

He was waiting for a home, a front door with a key that worked, a TV and an armchair, the dignity of a private bathroom, the bliss of a hot bath at the end of a cold day and the peace of restful sleep without the constant banging of doors and fighting and carrying on.

This year, after 36 years of waiting and just a few weeks before he died Dave’s waiting was over, his dreams came true and the dignity of a final few days in his own home was his tiny reward.

Everyday at Justlife we meet people who are waiting, waiting for change. They’re not hard to find – over 50,000 people in England live in Unsupported Temporary Accommodation and we’re trying to help all of them by influencing a system which leaves people trapped and suffering. In 2018 we are going to work with lots of partners, residents, landlords, councils up and down the country to bring about system change to the way we as a society respond to people like Dave and do everything in our power to make their wait in unsupported temporary accommodation as short, safe and healthy as possible.

Real change is coming, this year the Justlife team have supported 100s of people to find better accommodation, engage effectively with health services, find a voice and re-imagine their future. This Christmas, the need is great and you can help by writing to your MP calling on them to tackle this issue or donating to our work. Thank you.