Jan grew up in Brighton and worked as an aircraft engineer. After a relationship breakdown he found himself sleeping rough. He came into contact with our Brighton Social Impact Bond (SIB) service which has given him stability as he has taken steps towards independent living. This is his story.
I broke up with my girlfriend in the summer of 2016 and moved out of our place in Burgess Hill to a flat in Brighton. At the time I was making aircraft wheels, but the job was only seasonal.
During the winter, I had to go back to labouring but it just didn’t pay enough to cover the rent. Then I was sofa surfing for a while, renting rooms where I could and going to hostels.
Eventually, it got to a point when I ran out of people’s sofas to sleep on. I didn’t want to burden people anymore either.
In the end, I ran out of money and ended up in a tent in the woods
I felt safer in the woods than in the city. I tried sleeping in doorways and ended up sitting up all night, doing drugs or drinking. You can’t sleep so you end up self-medicating. It’s hard work, because you have to look after your mental health too. Even now I’m struggling with it, but I know I don’t want to end up in that position again.
I lived in the woods on and off for around two years. It was cold in the winter, I remember waking up and trying to get my shoes and coat on but they were frozen.
I was still working so I would go in early to wash my face, brush my teeth and then have breakfast. I never told anyone at work about my situation. There’s just a stigma towards people who are sleeping rough.
I eventually moved in to a squat in Brighton
We used to go to First Base Day Centre for a shower, food and clothing. That’s where I first came into contact with Paulina from the St Mungo’s SIB team*, around two years ago.
Paulina explained that I was one of a hundred people to be offered support through the service. I took up the offer and a week later I was in a bed and breakfast. Six months after that I was placed in low support housing, which is where I’ve been since. Everything moved so quickly.
I love being in my place now
It’s the little things that makes it, like being able to cook proper meals. When I was in the tent I was cooking on a fire, which was tough. Now I can come home and chuck a pizza in the oven if I want to.
Having running water is another one. Before, I had a big 20 litre bottle of water that just fitted into my big rucksack. Every couple of days I used to cycle to a nearby graveyard where there was a water tap, fill it up and bring it back to the tent. I’d have 20 kilos of water on my back – I think that’s why I feel a bit battered now!
Other than Universal Credit messing around my money and being a bit short each month, things are going alright. I’m keeping on top of my bills. Paulina helped me process my taxes as I was being chased for money from when I was working while homeless. It turned out the tax office actually owed me money, so I got that back. It was epic.
I spoke at a political party conference
Earlier this year Paulina asked me if I wanted to speak at one of 2019 political party conferences as part of St Mungo’s event there. It was good to see that there are actually people in higher places who care and are working to try to sort things out. When you’re on the streets, you don’t see any of that.
At the event, I spoke about the mental health issues that come with homelessness and the difficulty I had accessing services – I didn’t realise when I was sleeping rough that I had depression. Since working with SIB, I have been to the doctors about it, which helped a lot, and I also went to a drug and alcohol service.
Depression for me means that I shut myself away, Paulina said that no one can help me if I’ve locked myself in my room, so I am a lot more open now. If I have a problem, I can text Paulina and it really helps.
There’s a lack of affordable housing so it’s tough.
I’m now concentrating on finding work and looking to find a place of my own. I’m on the waiting list for a council home too, but I’m on Band D as I am low need. It means I’ll probably be waiting until I’m 40 or 50 years old.
Paulina’s helping me find my own place in the private rented sector. The money side of it is a bit worrying, but I know how far I have come. If I hadn’t got involved with SIB, I would probably be out on the street still. I feel lucky.
Our 50 year history is filled with some extraordinary people. To mark our anniversary, we will be profiling 50 Lives throughout 2019 – a snapshot of those who have played their part in our story. You can read the stories on our website at www.mungos.org/50-lives.
Social Impact Bonds (SIB)*
Our social impact bonds help people who have been homeless for prolonged periods – they are often trapped in a cycle of rough sleeping, and have complex issues around alcohol, drug use, mental illness and/or physical health issues.
The SIB model allows us to work intensively and creatively with people so they can finally leave homelessness behind for good.
We have launched three new Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) in Brighton, Bristol and London through the MHCLG Rough Sleeping Prevention Programme. You can find more information on SIB here.