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“It feels like I’ve been given a ticket to my own life” - Ray's Story

Ray had been moving between the homes of different friends and family for 20 years, having lost his home when the death of his mother in 1999 had a profound effect on him. When his options eventually ran out, Ray spent a few days sleeping in his car before he found out about HARP. He’s now living in our supported accommodation and is looking forward to moving into a place of his own. Ray told us more about his story:

“I still can’t believe it,” said Ray. “To come from nowhere and have someone open their arms, let you in and put a roof over your head. I didn’t think it was possible.”

Ray had been staying with his daughter since 2015, when his father, who he had been caring for, passed away. When her circumstances changed in early 2020 and he had to leave, Ray had nowhere else to go.

“When I was sleeping in my car I actually prayed for a solution,” said Ray. “Sleeping in your car is horrible. You don’t have any privacy and you don’t know where you can clean up or go to the toilet.”

Ray was told about HARP by his son.

“I don’t normally listen to people and accept help. I normally just try to do things by myself. When my son told me about HARP I didn’t really believe him. I’d never been in this situation before and didn’t think anyone would help me but I’m glad I listened.”

Ray came to our Bradbury Day Centre and was able to get a space with the Churches Winter Night Shelters project, a partnership between a group of amazing local churches, HARP, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and Love Southend. After a couple of weeks we were able to give Ray a room in our emergency accommodation and then a room in our supported accommodation.

“The churches were great. I had some good laughs with the other people there and they gave me dinner, some breakfast and a cup of tea. Then I went to the Bradbury Centre, found out they served hot breakfasts and I was gobsmacked. When they said they had a room for me longer term, I was chuffed to bits. I had my very own key to my very own room!”

Since being at HARP, Ray has started attending a local church and getting more involved, utilising his skills by helping with the sound system during services.

Before lockdown Ray was also taking part in HARP’s allotment project, which is run in conjunction with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Parks Team.

Ray said he is finding himself: “I feel like I’ve just been floating around for 20 years and I’ve finally landed. It feels like I’ve been given a ticket to my own life. This has put me in a position where I can do things for myself and my own life. I helped other people all the time and now I’ve been helped by complete strangers.”

Ray got his room at HARP just before the coronavirus lockdown began.

HARP was able to help Ray to get a keyboard and headphones through a special in-house emergency grant set up to help people who use our services to get through the lockdown.

“As soon as I moved in this Covid thing started, so had my room but couldn’t really do anything. Luckily it was the ideal opportunity for me to actually spend time with myself doing what I enjoy. I’ve now got a hobby and I feel like I’m actually learning something. I’ve downloaded some free apps and I am learning my chords. I’ve even written a song.”

Ray hopes to get more involved with the church he’s been attending and once he’s moved into his own place he’d like to come back and volunteer for HARP.

Ray said: “I’m 56 and have never really been encouraged to think about what direction I want to go in my life. I thought I had to work it out myself and not rely on other people but with help I’m now starting to create my own life. This is my life, not anyone else’s.

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