My name is Ian, I am an ex rough sleeper. I have experienced homelessness more than once, this might horrify you but if you read the statistics people who have been homeless are more liable to experience it again. I am sure if you met me you would ask yourself why this person became a rough sleeper?
Let me share something I have said to volunteers for another organisation. How do you recognise an ex rough sleeper? Well I have a head, two arms, two legs, in fact I possess everything that the majority of people have!
At the end of 2006 I had a breakdown, I had a good job and got myself into debt. I walked out of my flat, left my job and found myself on the street. For a few months I just wandered around, I went to handouts, I used to wash in Covent Garden. I will admit I was lost. I found a doorstep to sleep on. This place became a sort of home the few times I found myself on the streets.
Then one night a street worker came up to me. He said I should go to The Connections at St Martin’s. I had never heard of day centres before, how they can be an oasis for people like myself.
The following day I went along and had an interview and even though a helping hand was offered I refused it. This, I will admit, is one of my weaknesses. I have always been the one people have turned to, yet I found it difficult to ask for help.
I did get a place, it was a studio but my troubles were not over. In the end I lost the place and was on the street again. Who did I turn to? Of course it was The Connection, a worker there called Brian. He was very sympathetic and after a short while I found myself in a hostel and as I have low support needs in a first stage studio, and finally my own home. I have had several bouts of homelessness but each time the staff at The Connection has come to my aid.
The Connection was a haven for me, you could get for a small amount a good warm meal, there were courses there, I took the Dreamweaver one, this is a programme which aids web design. As somebody with an IT qualification I found this was a valuable tool which I would then go onto help others learn later. I also made some good friends there.
You may ask what I do now. I have just reached my 63rd birthday and I suppose some of my age group would be looking towards retirement.
That could never apply to me. I cannot just sit around doing nothing. I must be doing something that I not only feel is worthwhile for my well -being but can also benefit people.
I have for the last 3 years been a Step Up volunteer at The Connection helping the clients in gaining a familiarity with computers and mobile phones. I have put my IT skills to good use and help others learn more which makes me feel good.
I am also a member’s rep coordinator for a theatre company who work with people who have experienced homelessness. Finally I am journalist for the Pavement, a magazine for the homeless.
I have never forgotten my times on the streets, or the people that helped me. It is now part of my make- up but even if you have not had the experience that I had, I feel we must remember that everyone needs a helping hand at some time in their life.