Laurence's Story

Laurence talks about his lived experience of homelessness and how now he's looking forward to living a normal life once again

Laurence* has just moved out of The Gables into his own flat.

He’s also completed an eight-week track maintenance course with National Rail, passing every module to graduate top of his class. He’s keen to go wherever there’s work to be done on the railway network and can’t wait to be on the job now social distancing is reducing to one metre.  

Looking back over how far he’s come, he muses: “It’s like I’ve got a normal life back now. I was living in ‘No Man’s Land’, my life was stuck on hold. I was just going through the motions, living on instinct.”

In his own words he’s: “Made up!”

“I’m just enjoying my flat … having my own place. I’ve not met my neighbours yet and I’ve got to build up my own stuff, but it’s nice and quiet and I’m just enjoying it. I’m looking forward earning my own money, to doing it up, decorating it, making it into my home. Just sitting there with my tea, taking it all in, I feel content.”

Talking about his time at The Gables he adds: “It’s just a good place! It’s how approachable the staff are and the fact they always do their best for you. I received so much encouragement over the eleven months I was there, once I had my plan the staff helped me to stick to it, to put it all into place. I was always encouraged to want change, to be able to ask questions and to be in control.”

October 2019

I was living in a shop doorway in the town and the council said they could help me if I went round to the council offices … I went round, I had an interview and I moved in that day. It was really quick.

I was just so thankful to have a roof over my head to be honest.

A lot of the problem is the council having places to put you and the list game… Their hands are tied, they can only do so much … well at the end of the day I’m a single male and my shoulders are big enough to take whatever comes. I understand the reasons why, but it just doesn’t help you. I’m sure the list is massive …

I’ve been in other hostels, I were three year on the street. You get as you don’t feel the cold, I’m oblivious to it. When you wake up in a tent, you’d just have to use a fag lighter so you can open the zip. You get used to it …

I’ve lived in a caravan, I’ve lived in a car and I ended up living in the town in the doorways.

My wife gave her flat up.

She told me on the Sunday and we’d got to be out on the Friday. It didn’t give me that much time. She went on her own and we split up.

She was told the council would help me, but when I went round, I was a single male, I was way down the list, so I was just rendered homeless like. It’s no fun to be living on the streets.

I was a tarmacer for most of my life, working on the roads, yeah? Then I was my wife’s carer for a bit and then I ended up living on a traveller site. I used to look after their horses. The travellers I used to work for, they would let me use their car to come home in. I was sleeping in that, but then they found out and said give me a couple of hours and went out and bought me a caravan, and said you can live here now. I did that for about nine months or something like that, but it’s like they own you when you live there, there was always something to do and if they’d got to go somewhere at half one in the morning they’d be banging on your trailer door and you could hear them, cos you’re living on their site you’ve got to go haven’t you? I just had enough. I just packed it in.

That was when I ended up on the streets.

I knew quite a lot of the homeless lads anyway, I just used to sleep with a young lad, Mark. He used to sleep in one doorway at WH Smiths and I used to sleep in the other one and then because all the divvies would come out of McDonalds and you’re right there, we moved down the town into Poundland’s doorway. You’d get the odd idiot down there, but where else do you go? He used to sleep one side I used to sleep the other. We used to watch one another’s backs.

It’s not so bad in summer and at least in a doorway with a canopy on you’ve got some form of shelter if it does rain!

P3 Outreach would come round every Friday morning, about half past five in the morning and they’d make sure you were alright. You’d see them in the town walking about, always asking if you was alright, but what can you say …

P3 did everything they could, but at the end of the day if they can’t find anywhere for you to live, there is nowhere for you to go away from the street, is there?

I was drinking a lot before I came here.

It just stops you thinking, ‘cos I was doing my own head in, so I’d just drink to oblivion and then go to sleep.

When you live on the streets you’ve got to do something to get your head down, you’ve got to do something because just sitting in that town all day, it ain’t no good. Most of them that sit in the town are drinkers anyway, so it’s a vicious circle.

When I was living on the streets I didn’t think anyone cared to tell you the truth, but I spoke to Liz and then the council come round in the town. I thought well I haven’t got nothing to lose, so I just went in the town hall and got the ball rolling. Within two or three hours I got a room here. I had an interview and then Liz brought me up in the car and said welcome to The Gables! I went from sleeping in a shop doorway, having nothing, to having a roof over my head and a bed. If it hadn’t been for meeting Liz I don’t think I would have believed they would’ve done anything for me. I’ve got a problem asking for stuff me …

Now, I have a drink every day, but not as much as I was. I’m trying to cut down, I’m doing pretty well at the moment. I prefer to do it on my own terms, I know what I’ve got to do, it’s just a matter of doing it.

If you want to come off it, you’re going to come off it! I really have cut down a lot. I’ve proper toned it down.

As long as I’ve got the basics like I’ll be alright.

Now I get up, watch the telly, have a walk down the town and I usually have a drink in the day, but as I say I am cutting down.

I’d like to get me own place, but I mean I ain’t got anything. Just these clothes here and these ones I’ve got on. So, it’s starting all over again … I haven’t got no furniture, no nothing. So, if I get a council place it’ll just be empty and that’s pretty daunting, you know what I mean? Staring all over again at 53. I’d have to build it all up myself, but Rome wasn’t built in one day was it?

It wouldn’t matter if I could return to work, a van driving job or something like that, but I got banned from driving. I could get my licence back—well I could of done, March this year—but I haven’t had the money. It’d work out about 72 quid. I only get £180 a month. So, I’ve got no ID, no passport, no driving licence, no nothing … That's next to do!

Nothing in life is easy is it …  but I’m a lot more positive than when I was living on the streets, I’ve changed loads! P3—they’re all diamonds, they can’t do enough for you. They’re doing everything right! It’s just a matter of battling on isn’t it! If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen.

*Name changed for anonymity.

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