Before coming to HARP Ron had spent 30 years sleeping rough or finding a bed for the night in hostels and night shelters. He says: ‘I was in care by the time I was six months old, then came out of the care system at eighteen, straight to sleeping on the streets’.
Ron liked to find quiet places along the estuary to sleep, and recalls the sounds of birds and the sense of waking up with nature. For someone who spent years in the confines of institutions during childhood, such a simple pleasure isn’t hard to understand.
Of his accommodation with HARP, he says ‘Everyone’s lovely here, but sharing space with other people isn’t always easy after thirty years of being on your own’.
‘HARP is my safe place, but there’s a big contrast between the quiet places I used to know and here, where I need to learn every new noise. The slamming of the front door or someone rattling pots and pans reminds me I’m not alone’.
It’s clear that Ron didn’t feel being alone was the worst part of living on the streets. Although many homeless people report feelings of isolation and loneliness, one person’s ‘lonely’ can easily be another’s ‘solitary’, and unrelated to alienation. It’s a reminder that simply labelling a group of people as ‘homeless’ doesn’t enable us to recognise individual personalities.
There’s a widespread view that any homeless person offered accommodation would need a good excuse for turning it down. However, the expectation to adapt can quickly result in feelings of pressure and responsibility.
Ron is aware of the triggers that set off such responses. ‘I’m learning when I need to stop and think, and when to speak up and explain how I’m feeling. It’s a learning curve’.
Asked how it feels not to be homeless, his reply touchingly illustrates the balancing act of being part of society, while also remaining an individual. ‘I don’t want to be homeless’, but there are bits of homelessness that I miss sometimes’.
Of HARP, he says: ‘They’re nice people, and I don’t feel the pressure I did in other situations I’ve been in. I want things to work out this time’.
Ultimately, Ron’s story highlights the importance of giving people time to adjust to the end of long-term homelessness.
HARP Chief Executive, Gill Garwood says: "Homelessness affects everyone differently, and it can take a long time to help someone turn their life around and get out of the cycle of homelessness, especially where addictions and mental health issues also come into play. At HARP, we won't give up any anyone who comes to us for help, no matter how long it takes".