As part of our recent theme – sharing housing stories –  Ryan, our Military Matters manager, talks about his previous experiences and challenges in his own housing.


Housing was always something I took for granted when growing up. The first home I remember was a house in Fullerton Park, in the East End of Glasgow. It was a new build estate, so the houses were filled with families all keen to get to know each other, which made for a fantastic early childhood shared with friends and making lifelong memories.


Our family circumstances changed when I was around 10 years old, and we moved to a large tenement in Dennistoun. Again, it was in Glasgow’s East End. It took me a while to get used to living in a “close” for the first time. I remember feeling like I was sharing a home with 5 other families, but I came to love it. I loved the community spirit and how everyone looked out for each other. If I got home from school and found my mum was still at work, I could chap on a neighbour who would sit me in front of the TV and make me my dinner. There was a bit of a gang culture in the area at the time, but my brother and I were very sporty, which helped us to get a free pass from any trouble.


I lived in Dennistoun with my mum and young brother until I was 20. At that point, my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I had moved to America where I was working for the YMCA as a sports coordinator, living my best life. I assumed (as did my parents) that I would live in America for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, after getting bitten by a tick and being diagnosed with Lymes disease, my mobility deteriorated, which eventually resulted in me becoming a wheelchair user. It was a very difficult time, and after around 3 years in America, I just needed to be back home surrounded by my friends and family.


When my wife and I had first moved to America, my mum sold our flat in Dennistoun and downsized to a 2-bedroom house in Baillieston where she lived with my brother. My dad lived in a one-bed flat in Paisley and my wife’s parents lived in a 2-bed flat with her little brother and sister. It meant that, although we were desperate to come home, we had nowhere to return home to.


When we got back to Glasgow, we spent the first couple of months sofa-surfing between our family’s homes. We were experiencing what we now know as “hidden homelessness”, but we had no idea what that was at the time. We would sleep in a fold down bed in my dad’s flat in paisley one night, then on the couch at my mums the following night. My brother would try to stay out at friends as much as possible so we could have his room, but he had his work to think about, so it was far from ideal. It really was a terrible experience, which took its toll on my self-confidence and personal identity, which was already suffering from coming to terms with being a disabled person for the first time.


Things all changed the day I met a wonderful lady named Irene Brown, a Glasgow housing officer. I had been out walking in my crutches as part of my physiotherapy and bumped into Irene in a car park. We got talking about the reasons behind my crutches and the struggles of moving back to Glasgow with nowhere to live. They say that everything happens for a reason, and Irene turned up at the exact point that we needed her. She explained that they had an accessible, one bed flat available within walking distance of my mum’s house! It was in a terrible state of repair, with no skirting boards, no internal doors, no kitchen units and a garden that had been used as a dumping ground for years. So everyone who was offered the flat had rejected it………until now!


We viewed the flat that afternoon with our parents and we jumped at the chance. It quickly became our wider-family project. Our aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and everyone else we knew chipped in to make the flat the perfect base to start our new life. I was able to focus on my physiotherapy and rehabilitation. My wife went back to university to complete her studies, and we were able to start a family.


A short time later, I had to accept that I was no longer going to have a career in sports due to my disability, but I knew I wanted to do something that made a difference. I thought about the impact that Irene Brown had made on my life when we hit a bump in the road. As a result, I made the decision to follow in her footsteps to allow me to do that for other people. I started my studies in Housing and I’ve been working in this amazing sector ever since! I’ll always be grateful to Irene Brown for turning up when she did, and I’m so grateful to be working with Housing Options Scotland and getting the chance to do the same for others on a daily basis.