Richard – UPDATE
Richard was sleeping rough for several weeks, after he and his wife separated and he had to leave the family home. He stayed in The Connection’s emergency night centre until he moved into Building Prospects, one of The Connection’s affordable housing projects and has begun a new role working in Riverside women’s hostel – Queen Mary’s.
What attracted you to the job?
I do this because I find the people so interesting. They’re all fascinating individuals – they really are. A lot of mentally ill/homeless people have been abandoned by their families and friends. It reaffirmed my thing about different backgrounds and how homelessness affects so many different people from all walks of life. It’s just surprising who it befalls and how it can happen to anyone. You’ve got people who have come from some very privileged backgrounds and it’s all gone wrong.
Does it help that you’ve experienced homelessness yourself?
Oh yeah, I can empathise better and understand where they’re coming from. These are people with problems. Someone might shout at me but in five minutes time then it will stop and they’ll apologise. It doesn’t bother me. This is a symptom. People have complex needs.
Tell us about an average day?
I’m learning how to run a hostel. I’ll do a week on support and then a week in housing and when I’m there I’m learning about how we support the clients, organise the rooms, bits and pieces like that, get alarms fixed for fires all kinds of stuff. It’s a continuous learning process. For the first couple of weeks I shadowed a wonderful project assistant called Annie. She showed me the ropes and we got on really well.
When you’re not at work, how do you unwind?
I see my children. I like walking and cycling. Last year I walked The Connection’s Pilgrimage [fundraising walk from London to Canterbury]. I walked 74 miles but put on half a stone! As you walk these church halls are laden with cakes. I enjoyed it tremendously. You get people doing it for various reasons, it’s a good crew. We had nice weather and it’s good to get out of London. While the distance didn’t bother me my boots fell apart and had to be held together by superglue!