2017 has been a really significant year for SPEAR and for me. It’s 30 years since Penny Wade formed SPEAR as two homeless people she knew died, through simply not having somewhere to live.
This year I was proud to be on the panel at the 30th Anniversary event, which celebrated three decades of transforming lives. I was sitting alongside the Chief Exec, SPEAR’s Patron, a professional filmmaker and SPEAR clients who had turned their lives around. Prior to this, I had been a volunteer Ambassador for SPEAR, presenting to local groups and schools.
I have loved giving back to the charity and supporters that helped me get back on my feet again. For me, this 30th Anniversary year, couldn’t get any better. But, things were very different a year or so ago.
Like many people who end up on the streets, it wasn’t just one thing, but a run of bad luck that just snowballed. I crashed my car and wrote it off. Following the accident, I was unable to work. With no income, I soon lost my flat.
I bedded down on a mate’s sofa at first, but this kind of hospitality can only last so long. It was his home, not mine. I didn’t know who to turn to and the cold weather was really kicking in. So I bought a small tent that helped keep off the worst of the elements. I pitched up all over the Borough, not wanting to stay too long in one place.
“Living on the streets, you never feel safe. You feel people staring at you, wanting you “Out the way” or looking away, not knowing what to say. It is an isolating experience and my self-esteem was rock bottom. I felt it was my fault, I should get myself out of this mess.”
Then a friend told me about SPEAR. I pushed him back. How could they offer me anything? I couldn’t face the hope of things changing and then falling through. Eventually, when I couldn’t think of another good reason why not, I remember sitting with him and logging onto the SPEAR website and telling my story.
Lewis was the Outreach Worker I met in the early hours of the morning, which is when they go out to find us rough sleepers. I was in my tent with everything I owned around me. I was told to go to the Twickenham Drop In the next day, and not having any transport, Lewis gave me an Oyster Card to get there – an absolute lifeline. They asked me lots of questions, trying to find out what I needed and how they could help.
It was such a relief when I finally got some keys for my new home, which I shared with 3 other men. This much-needed stability gave me the foundation to make real changes in my life.
Steve, in the Skills Development Team, put me on a programme that helped build my self-belief and confidence, things that I really lacked. This was the stepping stone to getting a new job, working with disabled and young people with special needs. With a job, I was finally able to afford a place of my own and now have my own place to live in again.
But my journey from Homelessness to Independence became complete a couple of months ago when a job became available at SPEAR. I applied for it, and much to my surprise I am now part of SPEAR’s new Fresh Start Intervention Programme helping people keep their homes and never experience life on the streets. There can’t be a better reason to go to work.
At my talks, people often ask me what their donations will buy. It could be a thermal sleeping bag, travel costs to an interview, the electricity bill for a hostel. But, those are just things.
Donations are buying hope to those who don’t believe they deserve it and an opportunity to have a second chance.
Thank you for supporting SPEAR over the last 30 years and allowing this second chance. I am proud to be part of that story and I won’t let SPEAR down.Sincere thanks, Daniel Steward