It’s easy to imagine it could never happen to you, but if the rug was pulled out from under you, would you be able to find the support you need?
When Dave was made redundant from his factory job at the age of 50, his life changed suddenly. The redundancy payment didn’t last long, and when he was offered a chance to work, it seemed like a step in the right direction.
“A guy came up to me in the street in Bath and offered me work for £20 a day plus room and board, and I was desperate enough to take it. It was mainly tarmacing and concreting, and that was ok if you had the work, but other days we’d have to go round door knocking in all kinds of weather.”
He was treated well by the family he was with, but not everyone was so friendly.
“The younger lads treated us worse than dogs sometimes, throwing down litter in the street and expecting us to pick it up. They weren’t violent as such, but they did things like throwing fireworks through my window. They threatened that if I ever left they would find me and beat me.”
Dave went to Bath police station to report the threats, but after 13 months living with his employer he had nowhere to stay. The police put him in contact with Julian House.
He had to stay in Bath for 6 months before he could get fully into the system, but the Julian house staff made sure he wasn’t on the streets. At first they gave him a bed in the Manvers street night shelter, and then, once he had been assessed, they moved him into one of their local properties.
“They could see I was low risk so they moved me through the system quite quickly. I was given a key worker who I’ve still got now, and I go back to the night shelter once a week to volunteer in the kitchen.
Dave feels that his contact with the charity has had a positive impact on his life, and certainly he has been empowered to do things he would never have otherwise tried. He’s been involved with lots of different projects, and the skills he has gained have opened up a wide range of employment opportunities.
“I belong to 50 Strong, a project that runs meaningful activities. Through them I’ve done lots of courses – food hygiene, IT, resilience, and they put me through my DBS check which means I can work with disabled people. I also work front of house at one of their social enterprises, Julian House Bike Workshop, so I’ve got experience of dealing with customers. I’d only ever done factory work before.”
In the future, Dave hopes he will be able to work with marginalised or vulnerable people himself. He would like to put something back into the system that gave him so much support.
“I’m a caring person and I try to help people who have got issues. I’d like to work for the charity, but it would be hard as I’m still in the system. Maybe I’ll do a similar job somewhere else one day though. I’m hoping it will all fall into place.”
Even though he went through some difficult times, Dave says that he wouldn’t change what happened.
“It’s also made me realise how close everyone is to being homeless, so I’ve learned not to judge people just because I see them on the street. Everyone’s got their own strengths and everyone goes through their own stuff. We’ve all got issues.”
“I’m starting life afresh really, that sums it up. It’s given me a new outlook and a new start.”