Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Hope springs

December 01 2021
Accumulate member © Mitchel Ceney Accumulate member © Mitchel Ceney

After studying, struggling to find work, and then experiencing homelessness, it’s important to stay upbeat, and welcome the next opportunity.

Opportunities? Very important and always come and go. In my case, homelessness both took away and offered me new opportunities.

I lost my home soon after I graduated with a first-class degree in Undergraduate Psychology. The undergraduate degree is on its own not a prerequisite for any job, but getting a first gave me opportunity. A first or minimum 2:1 is necessary for getting into a psychology doctorate. That is where the real job of a psychologist comes from.

I was encouraged by my lecturers to apply as they believed I had a chance. It is very competitive and only a very few get in. The student fees are paid by the NHS and there is even a bursary. The course is very oversubscribed.

Unfortunately you need not only the academic success, but also some relevant experience. It can be done. You do unpaid internship experience and participate as an assistant researcher at university. You do not get paid for it. You have to be absolutely available to take on anything that you can get into. It is all highly competitive and oversubscribed, too. You will not get paid anything for your internships.  

Often you’ll even have to invest as well. Travel, accommodation away from home, and paid supervision are just a few expenses. You can do it. That is if you live at home and have a partner or ideally parents who will support you. You have to be dedicated and work hard while you do not really earn a living.

Except there was impending homelessness in my case. And a partner who went from being a well earning person to an unemployed person who needed to be cared for. And our pet cats. Very dear and important. But not easy to take care of if you are homeless.

We ended up in a night shelter and the cats were (luckily) fostered. There was no time or opportunity for internships, important interviews, and unpaid research jobs. The doctorate so far did not happen and I am not sure if it ever will as I am getting slowly too old to get the finance.

Something positive came out of the homelessness and caring duties, however. I was introduced to a host of homelessness organisations and got to understand the health and social system.

I got volunteering opportunities that I could never have accessed when I looked for them before my homelessness. The prerequisite to those opportunities was having the experience of homelessness. Not something I had ever wished for, but something that gave me knowledge, contacts and opportunity.

The experience of being homeless gave me a completely different outlook and understanding than I had when I studied about, and participated in, homelessness projects in my clinical and community psychology orientated degree.

Thanks to my homelessness experience I got the opportunity to volunteer as a Crisis Christmas ambassador in the shelter I had stayed in before when I was homeless. I could also participate in peer research including design and implementation, meeting the participant and assisting them with filling in questionnaires. I also got to write about my experiences through citizen reporting. At the very start of the pandemic I also started training in order to support homeless people to go to their medical appointments.

However, just as I thought I could start volunteering face to face with clients soon, it became obvious that the pandemic would last much longer and be more persistent than expected. After all this time and as I live with a vulnerable person I am still not confident in mixing with people much. So Covid-19 took some opportunities too. And I am sure that it was not only from me, but from others too.

But I guess this is another chapter. Perhaps it is the time to seek other opportunities in this as well, like in my homelessness. I am still looking. I will find them.