Robert had previously worked as an administrator, both in the Civil Service and the NHS. But when his mother became ill, Robert took special unpaid leave and became her principal carer, which he did for the next six years.
When his mother passed away, Robert returned to London and to his old job, but struggled to adjust back after the long period away. He left, hoping to find replacement work, but instead found himself drifting, and drinking. An underlying depression and over-reliance on alcohol saw his mental health deteriorate and he spent two months in a psychiatric hospital. When he was discharged, Robert went to live in a hostel but was paralysed by inertia:
“I call it my walkabout phase. I just seemed to go from day-to-day with no real focus on what I wanted to do or what the future was going to hold.”
When the hostel closed, Robert was street homeless for nine months. At night, he found shelter in Paddington station and it was here an outreach team referred him to Wytham Hall, a north London charity which provides housing and support. Robert had stopped drinking a few years before but his general health was still suffering. At Wytham Hall he could recuperate, and staff helped him secure a flat of his own.
The next step was finding employment. Robert knew The Connection from when he’d been homeless, and would visit the podiatrist to treat his feet, which had suffered badly. This time, he was looking for volunteering, courses and part-time work.
“I walked through the door of the Connection to come to Workspace and there was something about the place that I thought was really positive, and that positivity has remained with me…”
At The Connection, someone suggested he try working with people who had been homeless. So he did – by volunteering in the Day Centre, and helping people use the computers. After a successful job application and interview, Robert now looks forward to his new paid role as an Engagement Advisor.
“It just seemed right… I thought ‘why not?’ Why not use the fact that I had been street homeless and use that as a positive to get myself some meaningful employment.”