Housing

'I want to open a homeless hotel. Not a hostel'

Jason Petch recently wrote about what life is like in a hostel. Then his life started to turn some unexpected corners...

Jason Petch became homeless late last year and found shelter in a hostel in Hull. In recent articles he described the flaws in the hostel system – such as the high costs and substandard service. Residents were also discouraged from finding employment that could jeopardise the housing benefit the hostel receives. When Jason found a job and would not be around at meal times, he asked for the amount he pays for food to be cut from his bill – incredibly the hostel refused. He then did the very British thing of writing a letter of complaint. This is what happened next…

After the complaints were forwarded via email to the local MP, I received a message at the hostel in my mailbox. It had a time, date and the person I had to speak with written on it. The meeting would take place with a gentleman called Tony. I went around asking the staff who Tony actually was, and why he was coming to see me? I later found out that he was in fact the Area Manager for SAHA (Salvation Army Housing Association).

The next morning Tony was introduced to me and he greeted me wonderfully. We then proceeded with the meeting in the Assessment Lounge.

He explained his role in the organisation and how the complaint had made its way on to his desk. He also explained that it would be approached with the upmost attention. I explained my position as described in the previous pieces of writing. I told him about the way people who wanted to work were coerced into not adhering to the Jobcentre practices. He listened and honestly I felt that he became full of compassion. He explained that these issues would be swiftly and thoroughly investigated and a conclusion found.

This was his word and indeed turned out to be his truth. They upheld my complaints with incredible respect and came back with a list of actions to be taken.

They upheld my complaints with incredible respect and came back with a list of actions to be taken

The breakfast changed to two croissants, jam and butter, yoghurt, a breakfast cereal bar, a piece of fruit and a plastic bottle of fresh orange juice – all packed with a plastic knife, a spoon and a napkin so I could take it to eat at work. It was also explained that the kitchen staff would be supplied with a plastic laminated sheet with the contents of pack-ups, breakfast and evening meals, to end all confusion. I had a resident come up to me and explain how lovely the breakfast pack-up now was. I thanked Tony, the MP, and I attended a meeting with the kitchen manager where the kitchen staff were praised and thanked for their swift and decisive action.

Regarding the ‘under no circumstances look for work whilst residing here’ scenario, I can report that this in fact was also upheld and all staff received formal notification never to use this line of speech with new or existing residents. I have approached a few residents who informed me that this in fact has not been followed through, however I am unable to comment since I left the hostel shortly afterwards and I have no way to substantiate the claims from current residents.

I moved into a halfway house – a shared house where the lounge, kitchen, bathroom, toilet and hallway are communal and you have your own locked bedroom. You are allotted your own food cupboard and fridge. I became Residents’ Chairman. We only had one meeting prior to my moving into my flat. However, it was incredibly constructive and it assisted the staff in key areas including matters of security.

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There were issues in the halfway house too. The microwave provided was almost rusted through with holes. A new one was ordered shortly after my complaint. The vacuum wouldn’t pick up, there was extreme damp in my bedroom wardrobe, the shower had been missing a part for almost six months. I was told by the other residents that these issues had been repeatedly reported time after time for a period of six months but they were rectified in the eight weeks I lived in the halfway house.

Anything I asked for would appear. I quickly found myself offered a one-bedroomed flat, three weeks, if I remember right, from application to offer – after spending every day for the previous five months trying. I also found myself quickly offered a sofa, wardrobe, chest of drawers and bedside table. These came following a meeting which the council attended and it was decided that these should be given to me to help me out.

I have to ask if this can be done to assist one resident, why is this not widely available to all? I know the gentleman who works in the training centre was shocked and dismayed and expressed the same concern – one person should not be placed over another because of a complaint.

Most residents in the hostels are institutionalised. This, of course, is the professional way of saying they are in a never-ending cycle and will be back. This is what has got to be broken to move forward. Until this changes, the system will continue.

Anything I asked for would appear. I quickly found myself offered a one-bedroomed flat

The way forward is people treating people with compassion for the reality they have lived. I would rather have someone support me who has an interest in who I am, where I came from and why I ended up here, rather than someone who has read and studied books. This is the whole reason I will open my own centre very soon. I will work 23 hours a day to make this work if I have to. Not for profit, for people. I want it to be a homeless hotel, not a hostel.

I am now working as a self-employed life coach and a positive business coach. My intention over the next six months is to raise the capital to begin to build a centre based on holistic therapies to treat drug and alcohol addiction, to prevent reoccurrences and to aid in full and proper independent living. This way we don’t get bogged down in the ‘what people are doing’ and move forward to ‘what people deserve’, leading the way not with our wallets but with our hearts.

Look after yourself today, so you can look after others tomorrow.

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