“My whole life had been taken away from me’
After working hard professionally for all of his adult life, Neil suffered a ‘toxic redundancy’ which left him embarrassed and at a loss. Redundancy and depression led to Neil being evicted from his flat and made homeless on the streets of London. Thankfully, St Mungo’s stepped in to put a roof over his head.
“I can’t tell you how scary it was,’ says Neil. ‘I’d been made redundant and fell into a deep depression. I wasn’t eating. I closed the blinds, stopped seeing friends and retreated from the world. That couldn’t continue – and one morning the bailiffs came.”
Neil recalls how bailiffs and police instructed him to strip his entire life from the property. Grabbing two suitcases, he filled them with whatever clothes he could grab, before leaving for good.
“I just stood outside on the street and my whole life had been taken away from me.”
“I’d hidden away from the world and then I was thrust out into it, with nothing.”
In that very moment, Neil had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help – once again, he was at a loss. This time, he was vulnerable and alone too.
“Having blocked out all my friends, I didn’t want to call them, because I was embarrassed, and didn’t know what they’d say,”
Following his eviction, Neil began sleeping rough. The garden areas belonging to his old flat block, as well as the park opposite, were just two places he would go back and forth between.
After a visit to the local council, things continued to get even bleaker when Neil was told there was no help for him, as he’d made himself ‘intentionally homeless’. He recalls: “I tried to tell them I’d worked all my life – can you help? Could you point me in any direction?”
“It was just closed doors getting shut in my face.’ But thankfully, help was around the corner”
Getting Off the Streets
Neil returned to the Council Offices day after day, wheeling his two suitcases to and from an out-of-hours emergency room where he was sleeping, just in case a place was found for him.
Eventually, St Mungo’s were able to find a safe shelter for Neil in Vauxhall. There, he met ‘the most phenomenal Keyworker’ Cath, who he believes got him ‘back on track’.
“After five weeks [in Vauxhall], I moved into my own apartment,’ says Neil.”
“Having a roof over my head was an amazing feeling. To be able to lock the door and relax is a huge thing when you’ve been sleeping rough!
“I haven’t slept this well in a long time. It’s just home.”
Dealing out Hope
When returning to the Council Office day after day, determined to put a roof over his head, Neil recalls his thoughts clearly: “If I ever get out of this, I want to help people in the same situation.”
Incredibly, this is what Neil now spends his time doing. Following a placement in St Mungo’s Business Department, he now volunteers his time at St Mungo’s No Second Night Out project and has started a new role as an Assessment Agency Worker.
“I thought I was never going to get a job ever again, that I’d have a track record… but St Mungo’s had that confidence in me,” shares Neil.
“When you re-house someone it’s just the biggest reward ever. To have that empathy, and share your story, you see the client completely change. They’re like, ‘Wow, what you? You were homeless?’ “It gives clients a bit of hope.”
St Mungo’s continues to fight for an end to homelessness in the UK, having worked with around 5,700 people sleeping rough during the past year alone. We’re now asking people what home means to them, and to think about leaving a gift in their will to help end homelessness. You can find out more information about leaving a legacy on the St Mungo’s website.