© St Mungo's
Written by Samantha Lade, DonateToday
Published: Thursday, 16th November 2017
‘My whole life had been taken away from me’: Forced onto the streets after he was made to leave his job and flat behind, Neil is now helping others in need
‘My whole life had been taken away from me’: He was given ten minutes to evict his property before being made homeless – but now, Neil is helping others sleeping rough on the streets
Redundancy and depression led to Neil being given ten minutes to vacate his flat before he was made homeless on the streets of London. Thankfully, St Mungo’s stepped in to put a roof over his head. Now, he’s giving back to the charity and community by helping others sleeping rough.
This past December, homelessness in the UK was declared a 'national crisis' by a group of MPs.
Someone who knows first-hand just how bad this crisis truly is, is Neil – who was made homeless two years ago. After working hard professionally for all of his adult life, Neil suffered a ‘toxic redundancy’ which left him embarrassed and at a loss.
‘I can’t tell you how scary it was,’ says Neil. ‘I’d been made redundant and fell into a deep depression. I wasn’t eating. I closed the blinds, stopped seeing friends and retreated from the world. That couldn’t continue – and one morning the bailiffs came.’
Neil recalls how bailiffs and police instructed him he had just ten minutes to strip his entire life from the property. Grabbing two suitcases, he filled them with whatever clothes he could grab, before leaving for good.
‘I just stood outside on the street and my whole life had been taken away from me.’
"I'd hidden away from the world and then I was thrust out into it, with nothing."
Nowhere to Turn
In that very moment, Neil had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help – once again, he was at a loss. This time, he was vulnerable and alone too.
‘Having blocked out all my friends, I didn’t want to call them, because I was embarrassed, and didn’t know what they’d say,’ he explains.
Following his eviction, Neil began sleeping rough. The garden area belonging to his old flat block, as well as the park opposite, were just two places he would go back and forth between.
After a visit to the local council, things continued to get even bleaker when Neil was told there was no help for him, as he’d made himself ‘intentionally homeless’. He recalls: ‘I tried to tell them I’d worked all my life – can you help? Could you point me in any direction?
'It was just closed doors getting shut in my face.’ But thankfully, help was around the corner.
St Mungo's have since helped Neil to find a roof over his head, and put a lock on his door, in supported housing
Getting Off the Streets
Neil returned to the Council Offices day after day, wheeling his two suitcases to and from an out-of-hours emergency room where he was sleeping, just in case a place was found for him.
Eventually, St Mungo’s were able to find a safe shelter for Neil in Vauxhall. Here, he went on to meet ‘the most phenomenal social worker’ Cath, who he believes got him ‘back on track’.
‘After five weeks [in Vauxhall], I moved into supported housing,’ says Neil. ‘Having a roof over my head was an amazing feeling. To be able to lock the door and relax is a huge thing when you’ve been sleeping rough!
'I haven’t slept this well in a long time. It’s just home.’
"4,751 people slept rough in England on a snapshot night in autumn 2017. This is up 617 (15%) from the autumn 2016 total of 4,134."
- Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Dealing out Hope
When returning to the Council Office day after day, determined to put a roof over his head, Neil recalls his thoughts clearly: ‘If I ever get out of this, I want to help people in the same situation.’
Incredibly, this is what Neil now spends his time doing. Following a placement in St Mungo’s Business Department, he now volunteers four days a week at their No Second Night Out project.
On top of this, since the beginning of the year, Neil has successfully started working as as Assessment Agency worker, too.
‘I thought I was never going to get a job ever again, that I’d have a track record… but St Mungo’s had that confidence in me,’ shares Neil.
‘When you rehouse someone it’s just the biggest reward ever. To have that empathy, and share your story, you see the client completely change. They’re like, "Wow, what you? You were homeless?" It gives clients a bit of hope.’
"Hopefully I shine a light on what's happening out there, because it can happen to anyone like it did to me. "
How You Can Help Those Like Neil
Sadly, Neil's story is not unique.
Yet, his journey is just one illustration of the fantastic, yet crucial work St Mungo's achieve year after year for people sleeping rough.
'For St Mungo's, it's about coming up with new projects, making them more accessible for homeless people, and actually accessing services,' says Neil.
As well as shelter, the charity provides skills and training to individuals like Neil to help rebuild lives. 'A lot of these projects wouldn't exist without people leaving money or fundraising. Thanks to St Mungo's, I've been able to make a positive change.'
'Leaving a gift in your will to St Mungo’s can help others like me' - Neil
St Mungo’s continue to fight for an end to homelessness in the UK, having worked with around 5,700 people sleeping rough during the past year alone. The charity is now asking people what home means to them, and to think about leaving a gift in their will to help end homelessness. To find out more information about leaving a legacy to St Mungo's, please click here.
Or, to make a difference to someone’s life today, please do make a donation below.
About this charity
What they do
St Mungo’s work every day with those who are sleeping rough, in hostels or at risk of homelessness. From supporting people away from rough sleeping, through to helping people rebuild their lives and fulfil their hopes and ambitions, the charity believe in a world where everyone has a place to call home.