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“The staff at HARP make you feel like you’re part of society again."

Jay, a civil engineer from Rochford, found himself homeless at the end of last year. After accessing the support and stability that he needed through HARP, Jay has managed to get himself back on his feet.

Jay reflected on how he was feeling when he first came to HARP: “I was the lowest of the low. I had just split up with my partner, after 16 years. My landlord had decided to sell the property, so I lost my home. I lost my job as well; with all that going on, I just couldn’t concentrate.”

Despite everything that was happening, Jay did line up a potential new home, but not all was as it seemed.

Jay told us: “I arranged a viewing for a new flat. The guy turned up with a BMW, suit, folder - all of that. He looked like an estate agent. After handing over the deposit and a month’s rent in advance, he gave me the keys to the property. I put the key in the door, it didn’t work. I tried to phone him, but got nothing - it didn’t even ring.”

Jay had fallen victim to rental fraud, just like nearly 250,000 other people thought to have experienced similar scams in the UK within the last five years. It wiped out his bank account and left him without a home.

“I was homeless. You would probably class it as street homeless. I was fortunate enough to be referred by HARP to the Church Winter Night Shelters straight away. If I had been rough sleeping, I don’t think I’d be here now to tell the story. Getting a bed at the church shelters was the biggest weight lifted off my mind."

Jay stayed at the churches, which are run through a partnership with HARP and Southend Borough Council in the coldest months, for three nights before getting a call from one of our team members.

“It was New Year’s Eve. That lovely lady there gave me the phone call” smiled Jay, pointing at his keyworker, Lauren. She had offered him a place at our Bradbury Night Shelter. Jay told us how he burst into tears of joy when he heard the news.

Jay quickly progressed on to more independent HARP accommodation and sought to tackle some of the challenges he was facing, including issues with his mental health.

“HARP referred me to the doctor’s, where I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. It was important to get the diagnosis. Before, I didn’t know why sometimes I could be watching the telly and all of a sudden I’d break into tears. By the time I’d reached HARP, my depression had got hold of me and put me right down in the gutter.”

“Whilst I was with HARP, things soon started to pick up. It took me a little while, but I thought come on Jay, pull yourself together.”

He did just that. He has now moved into a place of his own and is looking to get back into work. He has been attending interviews and has some civil engineering work lined up, a job and career that he loves.

Jay told us: "They don’t treat you like you’re a homeless guy, they treat you as an individual. I was an emotional wreck when I first came here, but now I’ve got that smile back on my face.”

Inspired by the staff that helped him, Jay volunteered at the Church Winter Night Shelters until they closed and continues to volunteer at 57 West, a local community café.

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