A young man successfully battling a legal high addiction has told the Sentinel he started cutting himself on Friday after being placed on the homeless list and told his only immediate alternative to the streets was a hostel in Belfast.
“Friday afternoon, I just thought, there’s nothing left now, because basically they’ve left me on the streets like,” said the 19-year-old, who asked that the paper keep his identity secret.
The teenager, who lost his mother two years ago and suffers from anxiety and depression, said he recently returned to his hometown after an abortive attempt to settle in Scotland.
Since coming home he’s been sofa-surfing and relying on friends but told the paper: “When they told me there was nowhere on Friday I just thought that was it, there were no options, I just kind of gave up.”
The young man, who is originally from the Fountain area, has been in touch with his GP and Cruse Bereavement Care.
Whilst he finds himself on an ever growing homeless list - homelessness leapt by 15 per cent in the Londonderry and Strabane Council area over the past year and is now stood at 2,107 - the last thing he wants is to go into a hostel.
“I ran out of places to go. I am also three months clean from battling a legal high addiction so hostels were just a no go for me or I’d be back to square one.
“Friday afternoon I ended up cutting myself as I had no more options,” he told the paper.
He described it as a disgrace that there’s such a dearth of social housing in what’s ostensibly one of the richest countries in the world.
Referring to the Housing Executive (NIHE) he said: “They say I’m on a list but it’s a long list.
“I was in my friend’s [home] for two nights there because, you know, I was on the streets on Friday, so his Ma let me stay there.”
Again, in reference to the housing officer he dealt with, he said: “The best he could give me was a list of private rental numbers.
“It just think it’s a disgrace the way they are treating me, like.”
A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “We can confirm that the person concerned did present as homeless to our office on September 4 at which stage he was staying with a friend.
“Emergency temporary accommodation was arranged for him on September 10. Alternative weekend accommodation was then identified at a more accessible location. He did not avail of this accommodation.
“An appointment was also made for the following day at a city hostel but unfortunately he did not attend. A further appointment was made for September 15th but staff there have had no contact with him.
“On Friday last, he presented to the Housing Executive again seeking temporary accommodation. He was advised that the only emergency accommodation at that stage was in Belfast but he said he was not prepared to accept this.
“We have today had contact from another provider offering a vacancy but we have been unable to get in contact with the individual. We would ask that he again get in touch with the office so that we can get updated contact details from him.”
If you or someone you know are in crisis or despair, Lifeline counsellors are available 24/7 via the helpline to provide you with instant support. Contact Lifeline on 0808 808 800.