Homeless man blocks hospital-bed for five weeks

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A man left homeless after the death of his long-time partner has spent weeks in a Lochgilphead hospital bed because he has nowhere to go.

Grieving Oban man Barry Wisner, 54, was so distraught by the added stress of having no roof over his head that he tried to take his own life.

He alleges that the breaking point came when Argyll and Bute Council told him he had ‘no hope’ of being housed in the town where he has lived for the past nine years and had been an unpaid carer for his partner with whom he shared privately-rented accommodation under her name.

Barry claims getting no housing help to stay in Oban was the catalyst for the attempt on his own life.

The thought of having to be housed and rebuild his life alone as far away as Helensburgh or Dunoon made him desperate.

Argyll and Bute Council denies telling Barry there was no hope of staying in Oban.

In response to his claim, a spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘Our Housing Services team makes every effort to offer housing advice and prevent homelessness.

‘We work in partnership with local housing associations, Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership and third sector partners to provide suitable accommodation.

‘There are some situations when this is not possible, where applicants refuse temporary accommodation.’

Barry said that after the attempt on his own life, he was admitted to Lorn and Islands Hospital and stayed in a general ward for three weeks while searching for a suitable new home.

‘Hospital staff in Oban tried their best to help and talked to the council to help find me somewhere to go, but I’m still homeless now, taking up a hospital bed, although I’m physically fit enough to be in a place of my own. Oban hospital declared me physically well enough to go home, but I had nowhere to go,’ said Barry.

Argyll and Bute Council had agreed to find him temporary accommodation in a hostel in Oban, but it was neither safe or suitable, said Barry, who had no other choice than to go to the nearest mental health facility in Lochgilphead where he continues to stay.

Barry’s friend Caroline Hutchison, who is the daughter of his late partner, said: ‘Barry has had to give up his job at a chip shop in town because he is so far away from Oban and unfortunately now faces stigma along with health and social inequalities due to this course of action. His universal credit has also been stopped.

‘My question is this: If someone who has been identified as high risk and vulnerable, who is also homeless is not a top priority for housing then who is?

‘The local authority is blaming the situation on a lack of available properties and a bureaucratic system that is excessively complicated. But there are a large number of new homes built in Dunbeg and ready to move into within the area that would suit his needs.

‘Having him dragged through the system like this is costing the NHS unnecessary funds, negatively affecting his mental health and denying him employment and family support back in Oban.’

She added: ‘I hope us telling this story helps highlight the increasing systemic problems in rural areas, resulting in failings and creating more harm than good to those who are vulnerable and their families.’

Barry hopes to be allocated more points on the HomeArgyll housing need list with help from his advocacy support, social worker and mental health staff at Lochgilphead.

‘I won’t be the first or last person this happens to. All I want is to get back to Oban so I can be near my step-daughter and granddaughter. It’s not easy for them either.

‘Moving someone vulnerable like me away from where they have no emotional support at all is just the worst thing to do; who knows what could happen,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute HSCP said: ‘Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership works closely with a wide range of professionals and agencies to fully support the physical health and mental health needs of people faced with homelessness across Argyll and Bute.

‘We would encourage people facing homeless difficulties to contact Argyll and Bute Homeless Service staff in person, by phone or text.

‘They can arrange a face-to-face appointment to discuss available options and give people appropriate advice and assistance.

LOCAL CONTACT NUMBERS & WEBSITE PAGE

Argyll and Bute Council website page www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/housing/housing-useful-contacts

Municipal Buildings, Albany Street, Oban PA34 4AW; 01631 567926 or Out of hours emergency number 0345 056 5457.

Argyll and Bute Women’s Aid: 01369 706636 or The Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 027 1234.

Emergency Social Work Department: 01631 566491 (main number Mon-Fri 9-5pm) or in an emergency out of hours 01631 569712.