In Poland, Arkadiusz had worked as a policeman, but came to the UK in 2007, in his words ‘trying to find a better life’.
Within a month, Arkadiusz was working in a warehouse at Heathrow. Things were good until his marriage broke up in 2015. In the aftermath, Arkadiusz assaulted his wife’s new partner, and served a nine month prison sentence.
“During that time in prison I lost everything. Not only family, friends.. When I was discharged from prison… I had nothing, I had to start from scratch.”
Released three days before Christmas last year, Arkadiusz found himself homeless. He would sleep in parks, or on buses when it grew cold, avoiding the streets where he would be vulnerable to physical attacks. He would sometimes find work, but with money the temptation to drink was strong:
“Alcohol is the only way I thought that it would be better. Because I could forget.. It’s relaxing. But life is not only to relax, you have to be in control.”
Through a chance conversation, Arkadiusz found out about The Connection near Trafalgar Square, a day and night centre supporting people away from homelessness. Staff there helped him find work in a kitchen, but the long shifts aggravated problems he had with his legs. He spent a month in the hospital, but returned to The Connection to get himself back on track.
“At this point in my life, when I want to change my life, The Connection was the most important place and with the most important people… Because I had everything there that I needed at that moment. I had the night shelter, I had keyworkers, I had someone I could talk to about my problems”
Arkadiusz was supported on all sides – by the night shelter, through visits to the day centre to shower and do laundry, join meetings and apply for work. There were nurses who could treat his legs too.
Arkadiusz is now working as a chef and saving money so he can move into private accommodation. Taking everything he has learnt from his past, and planning for his future.
“I’ve come to the point where I have the challenges which ordinary people surrounding me have. Thinking about the next day, thinking about rent, about bills… but I’m positive, if I can face homelessness and beat it, why can’t I take the next steps?”