“Staff are approachable, more hands-on and more understanding of your needs. They will listen to you whether it takes one minute or an hour. There’s support from everyone.”
Billy found himself homeless on the streets of London in 2010. After serving in the armed forces over a nine year period, Billy worked as a docker. However after the breakdown of his 24 year marriage, Billy’s life took a downward turn.
Desperate to escape and make a new life, Billy left his hometown for London. But as he walked from Berkhamsted to Uxbridge along the canal over 12 hours in sub-zero conditions, he had a stroke.
Luckily, he was able to get help from a passer-by, and was admitted to hospital. When he had recovered 75% of his movement back, he was discharged back to the streets. Billy eventually chose the relative safety and quiet of Chelsea as a base. It was eight months until the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Social Inclusion Outreach team managed to persuade him to take up a place at a St Mungo’s hostel in South West London.
Within two months, he had a job as a kitchen assistant at another St Mungo’s hostel, Spring Gardens.
Now Billy is a project worker within the same hostel in Lewisham where many of our clients have multiple and complex needs relating to mental health and alcohol or drug use.
“The level of support need here is high. It’s chaotic. I knew that because of my experiences of homelessness, they – the clients – understood that I knew what they were going through. We’re all human. They’re just in a bad place at the moment.”