“I see it as a way of giving back to the help I’ve had, to the support I’ve had. I should be able to go out and support others now. I got stuff to look forward to… I’m looking at the moment just to put bits back.”

Austin was working a steady job as Assistant Night Manager at a newspaper distributor. One morning after leaving work, a car knocked him off his motorbike. Austin suffered serious injuries and was off work for six weeks. Isolated at home, he struggled with depression and began drinking. Austin returned to work, but the impact of the accident remained and his drinking eventually became unmanageable.

“I had days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I was in that much pain… I was doing me night shift and going home and just drinking. And the drinking got so bad I ended up losing my job, couldn’t pay the bills, lost my accommodation and ended up homeless.”

Overwhelmed, Austin packed a rucksack and walked out into the street. He stayed in a churchyard at night, sleeping with his motorbike helmet on to provide some shelter and protection. It was here that Austin met another rough sleeper who told him about an organisation called St Petrocs, where he could get support.

“Within 3 hours and 20 minutes I have the room I’ve got now, after walking through the door and registering at St Petrocs… Whether something was shining on me that day I don’t know… I came in with a skip in me step. I was that excited”

Austin had a safe place to stay and quit drinking as soon as he arrived, but a misunderstanding at his previous home meant he was suddenly faced with a bill for £15,000 in unpaid council tax. Only a Debt Relief Order could clear the amount, but this required ID, which Austin didn’t have. With a court case pending, Louise Keld at St Petrocs submitted an urgent application to the VRF for the cost of a passport.

“If I hadn’t paid my council tax I probably would have ended up in prison… When the letters for the court judgments come through the door I just showed them straight to the house manager… She arranged the funding for the ID”

With the VRF grant, Austin was able to settle his debt. Since then his new ID has continued opening doors, enabling a DBS check so he could become a Homeless Health Advocate and support homeless people accessing medical services. Determined to give something back through volunteering, Austin now has stability, is healing from his injuries and looking for a home of his own.

“I see it as a way of giving back to the help I’ve had, to the support I’ve had. I should be able to go out and support others now. I got stuff to look forward to… I’m looking at the moment just to put bits back.”

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