Hear from our service user as they describe their journey away from homelessness during a national lockdown to having their own home and prospects for the future through our training offer Project 5.
On March 17th, 2020, I came to Rochdale as a homeless Irish person with virtually nothing to my name. I spent a sober St Patrick’s night sleeping rough at the back of the Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre. I felt so ashamed, alone and utterly lost. As the night wore on, shame gave way to terror. Little did I know that worse was to come…
The following day I learnt a national lockdown had come into place.
At about 5:30am that morning, while cold, tired and dejected, I found my way to the bus station to use the toilets. I didn't have the 20 pence necessary. I swallowed what little remaining pride I had and asked a staff member if they could help me. He looked at me like I was a piece of dog waste, silently turned on his heel and walked away. I was dumbfounded.
Head down to hide tears of mortification, I turned to leave. But then another man, also clearly seeking refuge, approached me.
"Alright love? Here..." he said, holding out his hand. In it was a shiny 20p and a cigarette. I could have kissed him!
After I'd tidied myself up in the bathroom, I came out to find him still there, so we went outside and started chatting as we passed the cigarette back and forth.
When he told me about the lockdown restrictions, he could clearly see I was panic stricken.
"Don't worry love” he said. “Go see them at Petrus. They'll sort you somewhere."
That man has become a friend because, to cut a long story short, he was right... they did. Now, just over a year and a half later, I have a home, prospects for the future and, best of all, a network of friends who are like family to me.
I've returned to some semblance of a 'normal' life...whatever that is! I still have my issues and my bad days but I am no longer alone or ashamed or lost. A major contributing factor to my current optimism and restored faith is my engagement with The Project 5 team to whom I was referred by Petrus.
Project 5 is a new training and support approach to assisting those who, like myself, are trying to find their way back to a more stable existence. I would urge anyone with issues around homelessness, seeking real help, to engage with these services. Not only are they compassionate and non-judgemental, they also provide genuine help and practical assistance, relevant to your needs. The commitment and dedication of the staff and caregivers is nothing short of inspirational.
Through my involvement with Petrus and Project 5, I have been encouraged and supported in developing an idea that until now I had no realistic hope of bringing to life. However, with guidance and practical assistance I have come to see that what was once a wildly ambitious dream might, with patience and ongoing support, become something real and useful.
Clearly, I have had something of a chaotic and dysfunctional life. It will probably come as no surprise that I find myself drawn to the area of addressing and responding to the needs of those who have encountered abuse. By abuse, I mean all forms. I understand that it is necessary at times to segregate different types of abuse in the interests of justice and appropriate treatment. But for my own purposes, I feel it is a fragmented approach. In essence, my idea is to move beyond acknowledging and identifying the many forms abuse takes. I believe it is time now to formulate an answer to the question...how do we best help those affected and seek to prevent the ongoing cycles that have continued to wreak havoc on our families, our relationships and on our society? (Did I mention I was wildly ambitious?)
The Scaffold Project is the culmination of an idea that has been slowly forming for many years in the back of my mind. It has finally come together most recently as a direct result of two important events. Firstly, having a heart attack in May 2020. Secondly, coming into contact with Petrus Hub and Project 5. Whilst I would not recommend the former experience, the later has been, as I've said, amazingly beneficial. It is because of their help that I have found myself ready and able to challenge myself. My wish is also to be of help. Happily, Petrus and Project 5 are both giving me the opportunity to do so.
With their combined experience and know-how, I am beginning to flesh out and explore the question of how to provide care for the some of the most marginalised and complex members of our society. My own life experiences become something of an asset in recognising what these complexities are. My hope is that through accumulating and amalgamating information from as wide a variety of sources as possible, we can assimilate that information, and act accordingly.
If we have the information, we have the power... so the digital age teaches us!
Stories like this are why we exist and offer the vital services we do. During lockdown, homelessness didn't stop so neither did we! We adapted to help people like our service user above. To support us to continue to be here for more vulnerable people in need, donate to petruscommunity.enthuse.com
To find out more about our Project 5 training offer alongside The Learning Foundry, visit www.petrus.org.uk/project5