The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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October 2019

The Homeless Man's Tale



"Seven years ago, I gave up my job as a security officer to care for my sick parents. But the caring role took its toll and by the time my parents died I had developed severe depression. Then I had a complete mental breakdown. I was now alone, couldn't cope, didn't pay the rent and became homeless.

My GP certified me as unfit to work and I received some benefits from Barnet Council. I started begging outside a tube station in Camden, where members of the public were generous. I slept in homeless hostels, but after being robbed and developing a chest infection, I preferred to sleep rough. After about 18 months Barnet Council found me a room to rent in Colindale and I was delighted. People at the tube station gave me sheets, blankets, towels and saucepans to help furnish my room. My depression lifted and I thought about applying for jobs.

Then one day as I was walking in Golders Green at about 6.30pm I saw a woman being attacked by men on scooters. Instinctively I went to help her and she got away, but the men came after me. I was stabbed in the chest and left bleeding and semi-conscious on the pavement. I was taken to St Mary's Hospital where I remained for 6 weeks. While I was in hospital I was evicted from my room and all my belongings were stolen. I was discharged with only the clothes I was wearing (supplied by hospital stall).

There followed 3 years of homelessness. I received some benefits and continued to beg outside the tube station. Sometimes I could afford to stay in a B & B but otherwise I slept rough. Last winter I applied for referral to the churches winter shelter but was refused as I was registered as homeless in Barnet.

One day the police contacted me. They had written to me to appear as a witness because the scooter robbers had been caught. As I had not replied to their summons (which I did not receive), they threatened to put me in prison on remand. Luckily the landlady of the B & B said she would ensure that I would appear as a witness, which I did. The “scooter men” were jailed.

Finally, I was offered the chance of a flat-share by another formerly homeless man. The problem then was how to pay a month's rent in advance as deposit. Fortunately, one of my friends from the tube station gave me the money and others have helped with furnishings, clothes, food and cash. I bought a mobile phone and a second-hand laptop. I have enrolled on a computer course. Now I had an address I was able to get a bank account. And this week I started a part-time job.

I feel as though my life is beginning again and this is largely due to the kindness of strangers."

(Note: Could we at Hampstead Parish Church do more to help the homeless in our community?)

Story told to Jean Harrison

(The man gave his consent for his story to be published)

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