Ex-construction worker tells of journey from luxury flats to sleeping rough

A former construction worker who helped build luxury flats but ended up on the streets said he is disappointed a political pledge to end rough sleeping was on course to fail.

Paul McLoughlin, from Salford, said he spent more than two years sleeping rough and sofa-surfing at a friend’s when he could – describing the experience as “soul-destroying”.

The 53-year-old, who is now in supported accommodation in Manchester and acts as a voluntary mentor to others, said things spiralled after he was laid off from his job working on concrete when the project he was part of finished.

He said he ended up losing his home when he fell into arrears and struggled without a support network which led to him sleeping on the streets.

The father-of-two said he took drugs while sleeping rough as an “escape from reality” and became suicidal.

He said: “When you’re sleeping rough most people look at you like something on the bottom of your shoe or as if you’re not really there which is soul-destroying.

“When I lost my home, I fell in with the wrong crowd and took drugs and I just spiralled further and further down.

“When you’re homeless drugs are an escape from reality. When you’re on the streets, you don’t care.

“You’re wet, cold, and people treat you like dirt and judge you and I just wanted to end it all.”

Paul McLoughlin is now in supported housing having slept rough after losing his job (Riverside/PA)
Paul McLoughlin is now in supported housing having slept rough after losing his job (Riverside/PA)

Mr McLoughlin said getting help into supported housing “changed my life”.

He described his accommodation in the city, run by Riverside Housing Association, as “a lifesaver”.

He added: “There should be more places to help people who are homeless, not less of them.

“Some of the flats I was working on were beautiful, they really were, yet they’re all available for sale or rent at £1,000 a month or something like that. Where is the social housing for people like me to rent?”

Expressing his exasperation at the situation, he said: “We’re one of the richest countries in the world and yet you’ve got people going to food banks, you’ve got people living on the streets. It doesn’t figure, it’s baffling.”

Mr McLoughlin described efforts on rough sleeping to date as “very disappointing”, adding that he feels the Conservatives “just don’t care at the end of the day”.

He said he was also “sceptical” regarding what Labour might do on homelessness and social housing if it gets into power.

John Glenton, executive director of care and support at Riverside, said: “It’s so heartening to see Paul’s recovery and hear how he is rebuilding his life now he’s got the support that he needs.

“It is very frustrating that successive administrations haven’t met the pledge to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.”

He urged the next government to provide “ring-fenced funding for council homelessness services to prevent cash-strapped local authorities from ending funding for homelessness and rough sleeping services at a time when they are needed the most”.

He added: “Ultimately, we can only prevent people from sleeping rough and reduce the number of homeless households and children living in temporary accommodation if we build more social housing.

“We are calling on all major political parties to make a commitment in their General Election manifestos to invest more money to build the social and affordable homes that the people of this country need.”