Helping the Homless in Harlow


Testimonials from a few of those that
Streets2Homes has helped

Hi there. I’m TB and this is my story

I looked after my wife when she had cancer and when it came to her final days it hit me like a hammer. Me and my stepson could not get on with each other any more, so I went back to Harlow to see, and be closer to, my family, but they had moved to another town. I started to sleep rough and had to lie on the grass as there was nowhere else to go. Then some people found me and took me to the centre called Streets2Homes where they took care of me. At the centre someone set up a tent for me so that I could keep dry instead of sleeping on the ground. Within a few months I was asked if I would like to have a room. I was over the moon with excitement and very happy that there was a light out there to help me. That was in July so I have been safe and secure since then. I offered to do some volunteering at the centre, which is good as it gives me my dignity back and helps me to give something back to them for all the help I’ve received. Thank you for taking the time to read it. TB.

AJs Story

An anonymous contribution, it's encouraging and has a 'good news' ending:

I managed to get hold of a pc and thought grab the moment. I would rather remain anonymous as my schizoid personality disorder rather makes me a bit of a very private hermit. Also apologies for my spelling and grammar, it's not the best. Anyway....onward

My life is probably no different from most who have found themselves in this position, bumbling along with job, family, home and car just about managing to pay bills then my marriage fell apart, on the rebound I became involved with a violent schizophrenic lady who did so much damage that by the time I got into mental health support the damage was done. There then followed abuse by a mental health team worker towards myself whilst under the care of the mental health support, making it very difficult for me to trust anyone anymore.

The inevitable followed, drink, drugs, phsyc units, suicide attempts, police cells, halfway houses and living on the streets. I had tried to restart what most called normal life at various times but trusting someone and convincing yourself they are genuinely caring people was almost impossible so I sought protection by being an unseen person whilst in plain sight by sleeping rough.

Then last year, early 2013 I returned to my home town after one of the most bitter of winters sleeping rough. I'll be honest I didn't trust CMHT and the normal shelters had always been difficult for me. I had heard from a few street sleepers of Streets2Homes. I lost count how many times I walked to the gates but then carried on walking, purely by my own fear but then also with a fear that I was again destined for either the unit or a slab I took the step and went into Streets2Homes.

I am not going to beat around the bush, I was shit scared and panicky. Within seconds Kieran who happened to be near the desk said hi. It's often underestimated by those who sleep in a bed...just how much a smile and a welcome can mean to a street sleeper. Within a short time I had been offered a cup of tea, had Streets2Homes explained how they could help but also in a way I genuinely felt they cared. Over the next few days Streets2Homes supported, pushed and arranged a meeting with NACRO, mental health and housing....something I would never had done without their support. I was also made very welcome on occasional visits back to Streets2Homes.

14 months later I am now in my own council flat and organised in a way that is bearable. Every day is still a struggle, NACRO and the Derwent centre have been my rocks during this time but I never forget that without Streets2Homes making me feel like a human again, I would probably be dead or still sleeping rough. This may sound dramatic but that first step and support cannot be underestimated. Without them being caring, compassionate and showing understanding I simply would not be here.

Thank you, thank you everyone.

This is BM's story in his own words.

I became homeless in the summer of 2010, I had everything going for me a nice room, my dog and an ok life. I had a drink and drug problem but I thought I had it under control, how wrong could I be. My landlord kicked me out and I was homeless, all I had was two bags of clothes I had lost everything that meant anything to me, my parents, my family and my dignity and pride. I tried to get out of Harlow, went and sofa surfed with a mate in Walthamstow. I tried to sort my life out up there but it didn't go according to plan, I needed to hit rock bottom and felt safe hitting it in Harlow.

I'm a Harlow boy born and bred so I felt half safe being homeless in Harlow so I came back. Went to council, hit a brick wall, they didn't want to help. I didn't fit any of their criteria, in their eyes it was my own fault I was in this situation. I'm a grown man, got low, very low, had enough money to get in the Oasis hotel for a few days to think about my next step. I Googled "HOMELESS IN HARLOW" on my laptop and Streets2Homes came up the only hit, so I rang them - best move I had made in my life.

I made an appointment to see a member of staff at S2H. I couldn't believe there was someone that cared, I had given up. I walked up to the front door scared but as I got into the building I could sense they were there to help, big smiles and niceness. I was offered a cup of tea and a chat with a member of staff, couldn't believe this place was here for people in my situation. How glad was I. They gave me a tent, two bags of food and some clean clothes, how generous.

I started to visit the centre regularly, felt at home, got a lovely hot meal for 50p, what a bargain, always treated as a human, a safe place to be for a few hours. S2H got me sorted with a solicitor, still council wouldn't help, so it was down to me to get sorted, and I did with the help of S2H. I was lucky the summer of 2010 was a lovely summer, I spent seven nights sleeping on the streets, I'm not going to lie, I was scared, it was horrible. I bumped into a man who let me pitch my tent up in his garden, lucky again! I spent my days at the centre or the town park then crashed in my friends garden. Then one day my luck changed for the better S2H said they had a room all I had to do was pay into a deposit scheme and they would cover my deposit and I would pay them back, for people that didn't know me from Adam I felt blessed, I wasn't going to ruin this chance I had been given. So I got my room, it's a starting block, still looking for a job, but lost so much self-confidence I felt I had no chance so I disappeared, stopped using the centre and felt sorry for myself but I got a visit from the new staff at S2H and they helped me so much. I started to love life again, started going to the centre and by February 2011 I had made so many positive steps thanks to S2H. I spoke to the manager Kerrie Eastman and started to volunteer working on the front desk and cooking meals in the kitchen. Within a couple of weeks Kerrie had put me forward for a NVQ in Kitchen Services. Wow, me re-learning. The centre had employed a new Training Coordinator and she started a job club and a computer club every Tuesday and Thursday respectively. I started attending every week eventually I got a job and learnt how to use a computer.

I started getting into a routine, would be at the centre every day socialising, I felt at home again and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I have made amends with my family and actually want to get up and live a normal life, I felt so much better within myself and it was all thanks to S2H. I am now a volunteer most days and happy in my life, I'm giving a little bit back to the only people that were there for me in my time of need. The organisation is brilliant and should be praised for all the work and support they do for the homeless people in Harlow, which there are many. It is a brilliant centre and has caring professional staff that are there for everyone, we are all treated the same. the centre brings happiness and smiles to the faces of the Harlow homeless. Without them we would have nothing and nobody and I wouldn't be where I am today.

I am truly grateful for their continued support and help.

Abused by her ex-partner 

After suffering abuse from my ex-partner, I had a breakdown and ended up in the Derwent Centre at Harlow Hospital.

When I came out of hospital I had nowhere to go and ended up sleeping on my mum’s settee. My experience had left me feeling alone I couldn’t eat and couldn’t stop shaking. I sought help from other agencies, one of which suggested I contact Streets2Homes. With my heart in my hands I walked through the gates to the centre. A volunteer and the centre manager, sat me down and talked to me. I could not believe that total strangers could be so understanding.

Streets2Homes put me in touch with the Women’s Refuge where I was housed. I can never thank the staff enough for all the on-going help and support they have given me. The daily help with my eating difficulties, my lack of confidence, my trust and my well being has been a lifeline. They have supported me every step of the way, enabling me to become the person I once was, but thought I could never be again.

I now try to help at the centre as a volunteer, knowing how others feel who need love and compassion as well as practical help.

Never judge a book by the cover. Outwardly we all look fine, but inside we all crave and need family, friends and someone to talk to. You cannot put a price on that.

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