"I can see now how vulnerable I was": Northampton's rough sleepers praise "life-changing" homelessness prevention team
“I have not had much stability in my life. I was worried it was always going to be like that for me, but the team has shown that it doesn’t have to be that way. "
Ten of the town's rough sleepers have given an insight into how Northampton Borough Council's homelessness prevention team have supported them throughout the pandemic.
The testimonials come after the council's Single Homelessness Team was named as a "Rose of Northamptonshire" for its efforts in getting rough sleepers into emergency accommodation as part of the government's Everyone In Scheme.
The Everyone In scheme aims to "protect rough sleepers from Covid–19 and, wherever possible, prevent them from returning to the street", according to NBC. The team has helped more than one hundred homeless people since the start of the pandemic back in March last year.
All of the following accounts have been provided by the borough council and are anonymous to protect people's identity.
“Thank you for helping me get on track with life. To most people this don’t seem a lot. But for people like me it’s a massive life changer and I am now off the drugs, eating more than I was, can now shower when I want. A big thank you for the time you take to help us on a day to day basis.” Female, aged 34.
“I feel so much safer, calmer and more relaxed now knowing that I am safe and I can get a good night’s sleep in a bed, instead of worrying about what might happen to me, sleeping in doorways. Sleeping outside meant I was never properly rested. My drug addiction was out of control and I used drugs to blot out my surroundings. I can see now how vulnerable I was.
"I am getting used to a normal routine and it’s nice to be warm and have access to showers, clean washing and food without worrying about the rain or when I would have my next meal or shower. I am much happier now and I hope that it will not be too long before I am able to return to work.” Female, aged 36.
“I was really depressed, every day just thinking about where I was going to sleep. I was drinking, sleeping in a tent and felt I had no light in my future. Having a place to shower, eat and sleep was amazing – this is the first time I have had my own space for a very long time. Since arriving at the hotel, the team have helped me to get some stability in my life. This has really helped with my depression and I now feel happy and optimistic about my future.” Male, aged 35.
“I have not had much stability in my life, even as a child, and I have seen my family end up on the streets. I was worried it was always going to be like that for me, but the team has shown that it doesn’t have to be that way. With everyone’s support and encouragement, I feel safe and secure now, and I am looking forward to having a different life which I now know is possible.
"I really enjoy the meals that are provided. Being here has made me realise how much I miss the simple things in life, like being able to cook for myself. So when I move on from here, it will be nice to cook for myself again. Having the team around all the time has been helpful in encouraging me to address things that I was ignoring, and I am now working with them to get some structure back into my life. I appreciate the support.” Male, aged 27.
“I love life now, knowing that I CAN say NO to drugs and know the signs of when I am falling. I can walk away from trouble and do not get involved. I was never able to do that before. It has given me the extra strength to push myself and I have calmed down. All of the staff support has got me to where I am today – finding me when I am having a bad day, phoning me to keep me on track and checking how I am feeling. I couldn’t have done this without you all.” Female, aged 38.
“After sleeping in tents and doorways for the best part of 18 months, I engaged with S2S and the council. I stayed in the hall of residence and then moved into my own self-contained flat in Oasis House. As a result, my drug use has more than halved, I am eating a lot better and I have regained the weight I had previously lost. I hope I will never look back.” Male, aged 30.
“I am so glad to be back in the warm as I am getting too old to stay on the streets. I hadn’t slept in a bed for years and had been alone, going from one doorway to another. I now feel so lucky. Things are going from strength to strength and my health is much better. I realise this could be my last chance and I’m going to make the most of it. There is always another way - thank you to everyone for giving me the time and help.” Male, aged 62.
“The support in the hotels has been great and it has really helped me to make some positive changes in my life. It’s been brilliant to have my own bed and a space where I can go and relax. I’ve also enjoyed not having to go out all day. This has meant that I am not under pressure to fill my day and I have a better chance of avoiding negative temptation. This has been a great opportunity and I don’t want to waste it!” Male, aged 32.
“I was sleeping rough in the back of my car for several weeks, drinking too much. At the time I was feeling really low and suicidal, I don’t even remember getting to the hotel. I have now managed to cut down my drinking with the support of the staff. I really do feel like it is the best support I have received over the years, it really is excellent. I am getting all the help I need from all the different agencies that come to the hotel. I have support 24 hours a day any time that I need it.” Male, aged 48.
“Moving into the hall of residence changed my life. I went from moving from tent to tent to having my own room, it was amazing. I took a lot of pride in it and always kept it tidy, and this was appreciated by staff. It’s the least I could do.
"I always felt safe, well supported and was so glad to be off the streets. The team was always around to help me if I had any issues, and they helped me contact S2S to get support with my drug addiction. As soon as I was on script, I was able to cut my drug intake right down and, when I was settled, I was ready to move on to more settled accommodation. I am now seeing more of my dad and I have a better relationship with my brother. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in and out of prison, and now is the steadiest I have been in a really long time.” Female, aged 45.