“I came to this work later in life. I was over 50 and had my own business for 15 years. I don’t have any legal or professional training. If I have anything I am good at, it is that people do seem to open up to me.
Initially, after the coalition government got in and announced the cuts, it was obvious there was going to be a big problem with homelessness and there was a perception that it was going to be families that were affected. Initially it was but it has morphed.
Now I deal a lot with rough sleepers. To most people, a rough sleeper is a grizzled, dirty alcoholic or drug user, sitting with a cardboard cup somewhere. But many are not like that. One man that comes to mind was university and public school educated whose business had failed, another couldn’t cope with modern life such as signing on or mobile phones and probably had low-level mental health problems, a third had been caring for his smother in Leicester but when she died he lost his home after falling out with this sister and caught the night bus to London because he couldn’t face staying in the city where he and his family were known.
I’m making this sound very elevated and altruistic but there’s a big side of it that’s deeply frustrating. We can deal with people that have mental health problems and personality disorders and there are people trying to game the system. I’ve been around the block a few times and that’s given me a depth of understanding and an ability to connect. You have to read people, build their trust and find out what’s going on.”