Ron also goes by ‘Acorn’, an affectionate nickname given by friends he made on the street. It seems especially fitting these days, as Ron thrives in the new life he builds for himself:
“It’s like being reborn. Everything is different… Connections have become a family I never had, and I know who to go to if I have problems. They are helping me help myself.”
It’s a dramatic contrast to Ron’s start in life. Raised in care since he was six months old, Ron experienced little love and support, instead being told he wasn’t wanted, and that he’d amount to nothing. Once he turned 18, he would stay in the beach shelters at Southend. Describing himself as anti-authoritarian and anarchic, Ron survived but says when he was younger he did sometimes struggle with drugs. As he got older, Ron realised he needed to look after himself:
“Now I’ve lost so much weight it hurts me with my bones lying on the concrete… and I can feel the weather, how cold it is… I’m not 20 no more, I’m not young, my body has had enough.”
Ron moved from Southend to London ten years ago, and in the last year that he began to accept support. Lesley, an Outreach Worker from The Connection, spoke to Ron and suggested he stay at their night centre. Not only did he find he could get a safe and peaceful night’s sleep, he could eat two hearty meals – dinner and breakfast. Gradually he began to put on weight. He became more involved in The Connection too, nourished by the support of people around him.
Ron now volunteers for The Connection’s gardening group, maintaining the St Martin’s courtyard and lightwell gardens, to be enjoyed for everyone who passes by:
‘It’s beautiful… and it’s therapeutic for me as well. It’s calming… it slows down and I can think about things… At the moment my head is thinking about my future.”
Not only has he found a new love of gardening, but The Connection have helped Ron to move into his new home, a studio flat in south London, with its own garden.
“St Martin’s are the people who’ve given me hope. Thirty years out on the street I’ve been and I know how to survive no problem, but live, I’m not quite sure. But I like where I’m going…”