Paul: ex-rough sleeper now has home, is working and back in touch with family

With rough sleeping having more than doubled since 2010, we ask Paul about his life on the streets. A former regular at our homeless drop-in, Paul now volunteers here helping others to survive, find a home and achieve abstinence.

“I used to sleep in a cupboard down by Waterloo station. There were needles everywhere and lots of people in there drinking and taking drugs, it was terrible. The weeks would turn into months.”

I stare up at Paul who towers over me, smiling. In his late 40s, it’s very easy to picture him in his army fatigues as he tells me that he has served in Bosnia, Croatia and Angola. He’s busy cooking a fry-up for one of our hungry and cold drop-in visitors. “It was so different at the SCT drop-in, the way I was treated by the team and Gary and Marzia. They chatted and gave me warm clothes – it was just decent.”

“It was so different at the SCT drop-in, the way I was treated by the team and Gary and Marzia. They chatted and gave me warm clothes – it was just decent.”

He remembers how he ended up on the streets. “When I left the army in the ‘90s, I realised I had problems. I’m not sure what triggered it, I had a nice flat and money but then I crashed. One day I just wanted to commit suicide. There was nothing or no-one to stop me. I didn’t think I could fix it and wanted to end it. I was always angry at people so I was put on prescription drugs.”

“I still have depression but my volunteering at SCT’s homeless drop-in really helps me. It’s so important to me. It stops me thinking and having spare time. Making and serving food and drinks here gives me something to do before my work starts ‘cos I work the nightshift.”

“I still have depression but my volunteering at SCT’s homeless drop-in really helps me. It’s so important to me. It stops me thinking and having spare time. Making and serving food and drinks here gives me something to do before my work starts ‘cos I work the nightshift.”

Paul now works as a trainee with a national rail company and in a bizarre coincidence, was asked to revisit a part of the rail network that was all too familiar.

“My manager showed me on a map a point to go to. I knew it at once. It’s where the cupboard was, that I’d been sleeping in for years! Every time I go to the cupboards I remember my time there. I was working back then when I used to sleep in that cupboard. Back then I had no way out. I had no friends or acquaintances. I was so depressed and down. It was weird to go back there and people recognise me from when I used to sell the Big Issue down there.”

Paul no longer has to strive to get off the streets, but is now working, has a home and is back in touch with his family. As the last of the drop-in visitors start to leave, Paul places a big steel pot in the drying rack and is smiling as gets ready for work.

“When I go to work now, I’m mentally much more positive after volunteering here.”

In recent years, our homeless drop-in has expanded its services to include a women’s group, a pre-abstinence class and creative writing and art workshops.

In recent years, our homeless drop-in has expanded its services to include a women’s group, a pre-abstinence class and creative writing and art workshops.

Can you help fund our homeless drop-in? Donate online now

We are extremely grateful to Roj Whitelock for taking Paul's photo above.

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