A HOMELESS man was left with ‘suicidal thoughts’ after being hit with an energy bill of almost £3000 for his temporary accommodation in the East End of Glasgow. 

Dad-of-two Jerome Lacey received the invoice last week, after moving into the one-bedroom property on Shettleston Road at the end of December. 

It later emerged he was being charged a business rate, leading to the eyewatering figure of £2722.47 for four months’ worth of gas and electricity.

Although energy provider Opus Energy has now promised to match the rates of a domestic supplier, the blow caused by the initial bill left Mr Lacey feeling unable to cope.

Last week, he was forced to call the Samaritans helpline as his mental health deteriorated.

Now, he wants to tell his experience to warn anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation.

Glasgow Times: Mr Lacey, who lives in temporary accommodation in the East End of Glasgow, received energy bills for almost £3,000.Mr Lacey, who lives in temporary accommodation in the East End of Glasgow, received energy bills for almost £3,000.

He said: “I suffer from depression and these past months I was doing really well, trying to keep my head up and in good spirits.

“But when I saw the letter on Saturday morning I just broke and started having suicidal thoughts again.

“I am relieved that the issue is being dealt with but it’s not right that I had to go through this.”

Mr Lacey, who has a troubled background, was made homeless last December.

While his rent is covered by Glasgow City Council in the form of housing benefits, he is still responsible for utilities. 

Yet, after more than several months living at the property and numerous attempts from the tenant to establish who supplied the address, he was unable to access his energy account.

Mr Lacey referred the issue to homeless and social support charity Right There, who had helped allocating the temporary accommodation and has supported him throughout the ordeal.

It was then that it became clear that a change of tenancy had not been processed and Mr Lacey was being charged business rates. 

Upon contacting the existing supplier, he was referred back to his landlord to resolve the issue. 

After three weeks of back and forth, he was finally able to set up an account but that’s when he found out he owed the large sum.

“I just begged them [Opus Energy] to help me,” he said.

“I know it’s just debt, but it’s a lot of money for me.”

Mr Lacey relies on his Universal Credit payment of £7000 per year.

While he is also in receipt of a Personal Independence Payment, he said this is due to be reviewed soon, with the risk he might lose the payment.

“I’d be left with only £7000 per year as an income and there is debt on top of that,” he added. 

“It would have been horrendous to pay it back because £7000 is nothing.”

Opus Energy said it is a non-domestic supplier only and Mr Lacey had been mistakenly charged business rates.

A spokesperson said: “We’re sorry for the inconvenience and stress caused to Mr Lacey. 

“As a non-domestic supplier we are not bound by the consumer price cap, and so encourage any domestic customers that are on supply with us as a result of taking over a commercial property to move to a domestic supplier. 

“As a gesture of [goodwill] we will match Mr Lacey’s current domestic tariff and backdate it to the point at which he took over the premises.”

If someone you know is struggling, here are some signs to look out for that show they might need help:

Feeling restless and agitated, angry and aggressive, tearful or being tired or lacking in energy

Not wanting to talk to or be with people or do things they usually enjoy, or finding it tough to cope with everyday things

Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings, or talking about feeling hopeless, worthless or helpless, or feeling trapped

Not replying to messages or being distant.

It can be tricky to start a conversation but there are ways to get talking:

The Samaritans say it’s okay to ask someone directly if they’re suicidal as research shows this helps. If they are uncomfortable and don’t want to open up, that’s okay too - you’ve let them know you’re there for them.

If they do want to talk then really listen. 

Good listening involves giving the person your full attention, being patient and repeating things back to them so they know you’re paying attention.

Where to get help:

You can suggest the person goes to their GP for advice and support

SAMH gives mental health information and can direct you to local services. Call 0141 530 1000 or email enquire@samh.org.uk

If you need to talk, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or see www.breathingspace.scot

Families who need support after being bereaved by suicide can contact PETAL on 01698 324 502 or email info@petalsupport.com

Call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email the charity at jo@samaritans.org.