Frank (name changed to protect identity) was a successful self-employed builder. He had a nice home, car and work van, and lived with his wife and children. Unfortunately Frank was a victim of domestic violence, under complex circumstances he was not allowed to enter his home. With no access to his tools and home Frank could not continue to work and so became homeless. He stayed in the area for a few weeks but began to suffer from mental health issues. Frank feared for his safety and felt compelled to leave his hometown.
At first, Frank stayed with his sister and crashed on her couch for a little while but his mental health was deteriorating. He left his sister’s place, sofa surfed with some friends and slept rough. Frank eventually ended up in Richmond and attended a church next to Penny Wade House where they were holding weekly sessions with advice on local services. It was there that Frank first heard about how SPEAR could provide support and its good reputation in the community.
Frank contacted SPEAR and was assigned a case worker who helped him look for accommodation. They initially found a room in Battersea but Frank didn’t want to move around again especially to an unknown area, he had built up a good network of friends in Richmond, so he declined the offer. While continuing to look for other places, Frank became more and more involved with activities at SPEAR’s Hub in Twickenham. He was amazed by the staff’s kindness and consideration.
From the moment I walked in I could just feel sense of warmth and how willing they were to help me, a stranger.
Frank’s mental health worsened as he went through five months of divorce proceedings. He found relief by going to a mindfulness course in Twickenham and attended regularly, but didn’t turn up for one session – Frank had a rope and medicine and was ready to give up. The course instructor caught on that Frank didn’t seem his normal self at the last session and wanted to check in about his non-attendance. On the day Frank was going to end his life his phone kept ringing, it was the course instructor. They talked for a while and Frank finally agreed to go to the psychiatric ward in hospital. During his stay Frank he had a strong urge to not let down the people who were helping him, this led him to find purpose in living.
After being discharged from hospital, Frank found another hostel through a housing association. The environment there was very toxic and unsettling and Frank realised that this wasn’t helping him move on with his life so he packed his bags and decided to go back on the streets.
Frank kept in constant contact with SPEAR as he tried to improve his mental state. He still attended weekly sessions, such as the peer mentoring group on Tuesday afternoons. Frank was keen to contribute and “put something back in”; he volunteered to help set up fetes, moved boxes around, assisted the Thursday clothes drop-in service where he “felt like belonging to something for a few hours”, and even dressed up as Santa at SPEAR’s client Christmas parties! Karen, SPEAR’s Peer Mentor Worker, saw Frank’s potential and put him forward for 10-week peer mentoring course at RHAAC, paid for by SPEAR. Frank passed the course just before the coronavirus lockdown and will receive his certificate when the college opens again. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
During the lockdown, Frank has been volunteering as a NHS community responder where he collects shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating. So far he has contributed over 180 hours. Frank is also volunteering 10 hours a week at the SPEAR Hub helping to sort out all the weekly food crates that arrive from the supermarkets, this ensures the Hub is kept tidy so that staff can carry out their duties. In addition, Frank found a call for volunteers to help Richmond Rugby in a local newsletter and will help them with food donations and distribution.
SPEAR has persevered to settle Frank in a good and stable environment. An opening came up in one of our multiple occupancy residences and Frank has been happily living there for seven months together with two other clients. He still maintains the spirit of giving back – Frank approached a local paint company and acquired a donation of some tubs of paint which he used to redecorate two of the rooms. The next step is to find longer-term independent accommodation.
Now awaiting his Peer Mentor certification, Frank would like to pursue a career in this field of supporting those who are suffering from homelessness. He enjoys helping people in the way he has been helped, gets along with rough sleepers as he can relate to their issues from his own experience, and sees first-hand how the services have turned around clients’ lives.
If it wasn’t for SPEAR I wouldn’t be here today. I feel SPEAR is like my family.