Richard and Paul

If I hadn’t met The Connection, I think I’d still be homeless now.

Richard, 27

Richard is 27 and originally from Birmingham. Richard was eager to talk about where he’s got to with The Connection’s support.

He came to London in his late teens. “I just jumped trains and Westminster was the first place I ended up.”

Richard slept rough in different places in central London. A member of the public suggested he get in touch with the Connection and since then, he’s been working with Paul from the Street Engagement Team to start to tackle some of the challenges he’s faced and to move forward.

Richard has had some short spells in prison, and last winter, he was back living on the streets. “It was cold and boring – all the shops are closed and there’s no one about,” he says. But since the summer Richard has been really focused on his recovery from sleeping on the streets. He has been living in a short-stay hostel which Paul helped him to move into– where staff have fed back how friendly, polite and engaging he is.

Richard turned up almost an hour early for his first appointment to chat with me, which according to his support worker, Paul is fairly typical of his punctuality and ability to stay on top of his appointments.

Richard likes to keep himself busy – he’s always been good with IT and plays a mean game of online chess. A few weeks ago, Richard spent time volunteering in a kitchen. Richard really enjoyed his first session and now is working with Marina from our Skills and Opportunities team to gain more confidence and skills in a similar environment.

Soon, he also hopes to take part in some client involvement activities. Paul says: “Richard’s a real people person and has good interpersonal skills. He’s got valuable experience to share with others who are in a similar situation.” With Paul’s support and encouragement Richard is now ready to take the next step into longer term accommodation. He’s moving into a shared house in a residential street, with three other people. Staff will be on hand to offer support while Richard gains confidence and skills in living independently, with the long term goal of getting his own place in two or three years. We will carry on working with him so he’s able to adapt to his new living situation.

“It’s the first time I will have had my own place and been settled, I’m really looking forward to moving in”, says Richard.

“If I hadn’t met the Connection, I think I’d still be homeless now,” Richard says.

Paul says: “Many people we work with are in a cycle where they bounce between prison and the streets. They might be in prison for a few weeks for a petty crime, and then on release are required to report weekly to probation. Often it’s hard for people who are rough sleeping to make these appointments – their phones might run out of charge, or they have other things to deal with. A breach of their probation can result in another short custodial sentence, and it so it begins again.”

Paul says: “As workers, we can have a plan which we’ve developed with an individual, but a lot of the work has to come from him. It won’t move forward without Richard being on board, keeping his appointments and continuing on his recovery. Richard’s doing really well, it’s amazing how resilient and focused he is on going forward.”

The support we provide for people like Richard, is time intensive – Paul spent almost a week with Richard when he moved into the hostel, taking him to his GP, making sure his benefits were in order and that he had the food he needed. “Without the funding we receive from people we wouldn’t be able to offer such a person centred service, and be flexible according to people’s needs, “ Paul says “There’s so much more to the people we work with than a passer by on the street can realise. You might see someone begging or curled up in a sleeping bag asleep, but behind this that individual may have experienced a lot of trauma and abuse, and face other challenges. They’re also a person with their own uniqute skills, and attributes.”

With cinemas opening up again, Richard is very keen to see the new James Bond film with Paul and a few other clients. He’s also hoping to see Aston Villa play.

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