Hostel living was a part of my reality for ten months in 2012/13. Sharing a small bedroom with my then two year old daughter, sharing a kitchen, a bathroom with six other families, having a night time curfew and really just trying to get some normality back into my life after leaving my difficult relationship and becoming a single parent. Life wasn’t easy, but it was getting better. Six years on my life is vastly different and so much happier. It’s hard to think that I used to live in a crisis centre but we pass it often when out and about as a reminder of how far I’ve come. It’s hard to know what to expect when you’re living in a hostel but also hard to imagine how much better life can get in the future. I’ll apologise now for the photo quality, I didn’t really have the luxury of a decent camera when I was homeless!
Hostel Living in Hampshire
I remember turning up at the council offices with my daughter and a couple of bags to declare myself homeless after leaving a toxic relationship and returning to my home town in Hampshire. I didn’t know there was a chance of me not being allocated a safe place to live close to friends and family and I certainly didn’t know what the next year of my life would be like. It was a complete and utter rollercoaster.
I started my hostel living journey on 2nd August and was brought into a crisis centre for women and children. I was given a small room with two beds and a cot, a wardrobe and bedside cabinet. There was a small tv on a three piece chest of draws. I then bundled my entire life into that room. My two year old daughter and pushchair, my bag of clothes and a few homely possessions I was able to bring with me. I was then showed where the bathroom and shower room were, given one cupboard in the kitchen, a shelf in the fridge and a drawer in the freezer. That was our allocation. I was then given a food box because at that point the only money I was receiving was £82 child benefit every four weeks.
Claiming Benefits is a big part of Hostel Living
The hostel staff helped me call through to tax credits, income support and make a housing benefit claim although the benefit I would receive wasn’t actually enough to pay for my room in the crisis centre. I then had to pay an extra £32 a week in rent from the minimal amount of benefits I was receiving to support my daughter. If I had gone to work I would have had to pay the entire rent and somehow afford childcare costs of well over £700 a month. There was no chance I was going to get a job paying at least £1400 a month with my lack of experience from being a stay at home parent for two years and emotionally I really wasn’t ready to return to the work place after so much difficulties I had been experiencing.
My daughter turned two a month after we moved in and I remember only just being able to afford to get her birthday presents and a card from Poundland. I made her a small cake. I didn’t actually get to see her until after 3pm that day because she was with her dad and at that point we were having a lot of difficulties establishing a good childcare plan for her. My ex wanted to have her in his care from alternative Friday evenings until Tuesdays and often wouldn’t bring her home until passed 9pm. I would then have to walk back with her late at night as they were often late. It was really taking a toll on me but the absolute worst time was when, after six weeks, they took her to Spain for a week. I didn’t see her for 12 days because they didn’t bring her back until the following Tuesday despite being back in the country for four days. It was the longest 12 days of my life and hostel living was becoming very, very bleak. It was during those 12 days I actually sought legal aid, refusing mediation and going straight for a residency order with a proper childcare access plan that would be consistent through school.
Six years on neither of us have deviated from that plan except maybe an extra day or early drop of here and there. She still goes alternative weekends from Friday to Sunday, half of half term, 6 nights in the Christmas and Easter break and then two weeks with her dad and grandparents in August. This year, for the first time, it’s been split so she is spending the first week there and the last week until the day before her birthday. I miss her so much for those longer stretches but she has always come back happy so I have no reason to change the plan. I do feel as she gets older that time with her dad might be shorter but for now I’m glad she gets to spend time with all of her family throughout the year. For the first time in a long time this year she won’t be with me on Christmas Day either because I want to do something special for my 30th which is just before New Years even and she usually goes away from Boxing Day. It will be nice to celebrate my birthday with her but strange to be without her on Christmas.
Ten Months of Hostel Living Taught Me A Lot
Ten months of hostel living was not easy, especially at the start when childcare access was very rocky and my ex was still being aggressive towards me. Hostel living was hard, having to share a household with six other families on my floor. There were actually 21 families living in the hostel at the time. It was hard adjusting to life as a single parent and being on benefits, feeling like I hadn’t failed my daughter. Hostel living was hard because I had to live by so many rules and my mum still lived in the next village over.
However ten months of hostel living taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I am stronger than I thought I was. It taught me that I could still be a great mum as a single parent and that’s actually I was better for it. It brought me new friendships that I will always be so greatful to as they made life a little easier during our time in the crisis centre. When I was living in the hostel I also met Adam and now we’re living together and expecting a baby. Our relationship is really positive and really made me feel human again after so much stress in my life. I can’t quite believe it’s been six years since I started my hostel living journey and in that time I’ve worked part time, full time, been made redundant, got Evie into a good school and ditched employed work for running a self employed freelance and blog business. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and I hope to anyone who might be living in a hostel right now or in a vulnerable place that this gives you a confidence boost and helps you to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.