What is life like in a homeless hostel?

After becoming homeless, Jason Petch moved into a hostel. But he says the system is blighted by wasted money and wasted lives

Recently, while remaining in the hostel in Hull where I now reside, flaws in the system are starting to become very apparent and clear. I will not name the said hostel for fear of receiving my 14-day notice. As right now I have another option, and it is called sleeping rough.

I constantly reassure myself that what I experience in the hostel is normal. I see the colourful characters that live in the same building and it fills me with joy that they are no longer living on the streets.

However, I have to challenge something that I can make no sense of. The rent here is extortionate – £991 a month. We are provided with hot water, shared bathrooms and toilets, electric, heating, and two meals a day (breakfast and an evening meal).

We have a subsidised launderette where it costs £2 for a wash and dry, which is really good value. Oh, and once a week we have clean sheets provided by the hostel. We also have access to a support worker who has approximately 40 pages to fill in with each new arrival.

Proper counselling and rehabilitation could give these human beings a real shot to change their lives

I have lived on benefits since losing my job in November last year. The local council pay £863.20 in housing benefit and the tenant is then responsible for the remaining balance out of their benefits.

A one or two-bedroom flat in our city can be privately rented for around £350-£400 per month. There are many private landlords looking for tenants, so why can’t the local council and the charities concerned have their heads screwed on tight and begin to rent local private landlords’ homes and help homeless customers with their deposit in real time?

The council could then save itself £55,000 per month for all 117 residents. Proper counselling and rehabilitation could give these human beings a real shot to change their lives.


The Big Issue is a multi award-winning magazine, edited by the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) current Editor of the Year.

Homelessness is treated as nothing short of a disease. The individuals here in the hostel are classed as citizens that aren’t worth the title human being. Including myself. I am not saying that they do no good work but they do not give respect to the human beings living here.

I know that some homeless people are dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution and anything else that can be done to survive. The reason is: they have become a statistic. They have become immune to a life worth living and just inhabit a space of self-existence.

The worst aspect of the place is where our room is situated. There is a flat roof directly outside, littered with foil, hypodermic needles and other drugs paraphernalia. I have never been a drug user and I have never abused alcohol but I understand the difficulties involved and the complex choices behind addiction. What I have not seen here is a proper support system, a system where they really get the masses of support to enable a life free from addiction.

Again the reason is cost. The local newspaper published an article in September 2015, which stated that the city council spends £9.6m per year on their substance misuse programme, which treats 2,705 people, with 1,676 being given methadone and buprenorphine. So that works out as £3,548.98 each, on average. This times, say, 100 people out of 117 and you have a very hefty bill.

These youngsters should be living life to the absolute fullest. They need to know they are valued and not just a menace to society

I hear the voices of approximately 50 per cent of these tortured souls asking for help, please help us. Do they mean it? Absolutely. This complaining, as the staff see it, falls on deaf ears. Why aren’t we truly helping these individuals to return to a life worth living? Why are we constantly ignoring these issues?

What really breaks my heart is kids between the ages of 16 and 25. These youngsters should be living life to the absolute fullest. They need to know they are valued and not just a menace to society. I know they shouldn’t steal and do the atrocious things they do to get money for their addiction. I am not condoning this behaviour in any way, shape or form. However, I can understand why they do. They aren’t saints, they are real characters.

I truly enjoy so many of these incredible people’s stories. I see the injustice and am right there living it alongside them.

I hear you say that they can only be helped if they want to be helped. Well, maybe it’s incredibly scary to stand up and say this isn’t a life I want to live any more. I hear many people say it but they are passed over as being unable to accept help. It is time to break the class culture and to also give respect to those who struggle in life, rather than create a wall of ignorance around them.

Maybe the truth is the right way to proceed, so I will continue in that way. Please look after yourselves today. Take care.

The photo is a stock image