Tim, a hard-working family man who found himself sleeping on a park bench, is living proof that homelessness can happen to anybody.
He was among the first residents to move into Lincoln’s new Pathways Centre when it opened in November. Here, six months on, he explains how he got there, how he is getting on and his hopes for the future.
“I was born in 1968 and by the age of ten my understanding of “dropping out” was that it was a term that applied to a golfing rule taught to me by my golfing mad grandfather and was as follows:
“When a golfer takes a bad shot and either lands in a water hazard or loses his ball he must drop the ball behind the point here his original ball crossed the margin of the hazard and take a one shot penalty.”
However, in the late 1960s ‘dropping out’ was used to mean withdrawing from established society, especially because of disillusionment with conventional values. It was traditionally associated with hippies and communes.
With two amazing children, a loving partner, a home, two incomes, two cars and a social life, it never occurred to me that I would end up dropping out of society. Over the period of time leading up to my inevitable move to a park bench I became seriously disillusioned, whenever someone close to me tried to open my eyes or burst my bubble, my great friend (cheap) vodka used to help me out. We went on regular binges. I became deluded and I was losing everything.
My friends and family had to turn their backs on me. My self esteem, confidence and pride was shot, I had burnt every single bridge. I felt worthless. I dropped out. Cheap vodka saw to that. For three months in the summer I bounced from night shelter to park bench, to squats and back. It was a terrifying and awful experience.
On one particular day I decided to straighten out and go to the council and ask for a flat, only to be told that a single 43-year-old male was wasting his time and would be looking possibly at an eight year wait…I remember thinking that my last chance had probably gone.
A long story short is that all this lead me to my most valuable experience – the start of my relationship with Framework, a charity whose main function is to help the most vulnerable in society and help restore them to the community.
Framework and its partners invested £2.5million in The Pathways Centre, a state of the art building consisting of 19 self contained, fully furnished and flitted apartments. Added to this we have laundry facilities a small medical centre and an internet room. Daily between 8.30am and 10.30am the rough sleepers are welcomed for breakfast, laundry and showers. It also gives them an opportunity to seek help from the outreach team.
The Pathways Centre opened in November 2011 and myself and 18 others were the first to move in (my timing could not have been better.)
What they have done for me and the others that wanted help is incredible.
Staffed 24 hours a day the team and facilities are unrivalled. For the last five months they have accommodated me without condition. (Obviously there are basic house rules.)
I have been supported, encouraged, congratulated and never criticised (on occasions I have received that disappointed look, the type you get from your grandma as a child. It works!)
There have been introductions to other support networks such as ad action and the YMCA. I have half sessions with each organisation weekly and acupuncture twice a week (my sister pays £75 an hour!) along with group meetings, If I feel like it there is a gym, swimming, photography, cooking courses , football etc.
Since the New Year I have been volunteering as an outreach worker whereby at night and early in the morning we try to find and help rough sleepers. I now have further volunteering and training opportunities with Framework and their partners across the region. It could lead to paid work.
Through the support I have received from Framework and the other networks I have become optimistic and confident in my new start in life. They understand us, are outstanding in the way they help us and importantly experts in “the system”. So much so that I am weeks away from securing my very own property and rejoining the community. I am far from the finished article but say that if you want it: “it works if you work it.”
As importantly with Framework and the support networks they make you believe and feellike you’re worth it too.”