“I was just surviving; keeping a job going, keeping money coming in, trying to help my friend - running myself into the ground. Surviving; falling from one disaster into another, but getting out the other side. I just kept going. But I got to the point where I collapsed.”
Ten years ago, John lost his home. He was working as a courier. Despite working up to 14 hours each day, John was unable to afford his rent, so began sleeping in the back of the van. The next ten years were spent between the van, friends’ sofas and, if the money was good for a short period, he might rent a temporary room.
John told us, “I hung on to the job, because it gave me a roof - only it had four wheels.”
“After nine years of it, I was getting tired. I was making mistakes, I was rushing around, I was pushing myself, I was doing all the hours I could and I was still building up financial problems. I was totally stressed out. So, I went to Citizen’s Advice (CAB) to talk about my finances.”
Whilst discussing John’s financial situation, it became clear that his main issue wasn’t money. “They said forget about your finances, that can be sorted. Your problem is you’re homeless. So they sent me to HARP”.
It was something he’d never considered before because he was too busy focussing on surviving. But now, speaking to the advisor, John could see he had been homeless for nine years. The CAB referred him to HARP, and he came down to our Bradbury Day Centre, where he met his key worker Vicky.
Vicky said: “John was at breakdown point. He was in crisis and would need hours of support a day. He was very stressed and he was exhausted.”
When John arrived at HARP he was struggling to cope with his mental health, but HARP offered him security and a platform to confront the challenges he was facing.
“HARP gave me the opportunity to address these issues and we are currently trying to speak to a psychiatrist. HARP have helped me because when I’ve needed pushing, they’ve done it. You wouldn’t have heard me talking like this back then.”
John is now getting support for his mental health difficulties. Vicky said that “the bad days are few and far between now. When John pops over, he has a laugh and a conversation; he’s no longer at crisis point”
John has really enjoyed HARP’s meaningful activities and has started writing poetry; a new found love and talent.
“It’s a talent I’ve found that I didn’t really know I had and I’ll be 60 next year. It’s something new, it’s exciting.”
“I don’t think anyone wants to be on the streets, but like a prisoner in prison you get used to the walls.
The thing is, once you’re homeless you might only see three ways out and that’s the three Ds: drink, drugs and death.”
“And they’re the only ways out, because you can’t find any other by yourself and that’s why we need HARP. And that’s why we need the people that support HARP. To help us find a way out.”
“Without HARP’s supporters I’d be on the street right now and I don’t think I’m capable of being on the street! I got lucky, they sent me here. I have a proper room, heating and people to help me with my problems. I hope my poems and talking to you can help HARP to help other people too.”
You can read John's poem "Other Side of the Street" below: