‘I am well-spoken and not an addict’: how homelessness can happen to anyone

The Brett Foundation are working on breaking the cycle of homeless in the Royal Borough, we feel very strongly and are passionate in reducing this all together.

It can be so easy to become homeless and to not fit into any of the categories which receive help. There are people who use our shelter whose own stories could mirror these. The below link is a heartfelt story, published in the Guardian that really touched our hearts.

Tom: ‘I am educated, well-spoken and not an addict’

My story of homelessness is not one you usually hear. I am not the type of person you’d expect to sleep rough. I am educated, well-spoken and was not an addict. People didn’t believe a guy like me could end up with nothing: no friends or family for support.

It all started after my father died 10 years ago. I had been working abroad in commercial advertising but came home to bury him. Then I made the decision to move back to London, but I ended up losing contact with a lot of people I once knew. I was also estranged from my family, so I didn’t know a soul in the city. Over the next few months I used up all my money, failed to get a job and – because I’d been away for a while – struggled to reintegrate into the social welfare system.

I ended up on the streets. There are very few shelters where you can walk in without ID and get help. I had my passport but didn’t know my national insurance number or my address (I didn’t have one) so I couldn’t get the necessary documentation.

When I first started sleeping rough I didn’t know what I was doing and ended up in hospital with pneumonia. When I recovered, the social welfare person at the hospital told me – once again – they could not help. So I found myself back on the streets.

At the beginning of a particularly harsh winter I came up with an ingenious idea – to fake a mental illness to have somewhere warm to stay. I walked into a fire station and behaved as if I was having a psychotic episode, pretending not to know where I was. I was admitted to hospital and eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and being marginally bipolar (which was partially true and partially made up on my part). But because I was not a danger to myself they discharged me.

At this point I was so desperate I swallowed some pills and was found by the police in Hyde Park the next day. I was back in hospital and told I needed immediate surgery (the pills had ruptured ulcers in my stomach). The nurse arrived and asked for my address. I told her I didn’t have one. Next of kin? None. A friend? None. There was nobody to contact.

This was when things finally changed for me. In hospital I met someone visiting a relative who offered me help. Then, a month later I ran into the same guy in Hyde Park. He once again told me to stay with him, but I had become very suspicious of people.

Finally, after much persistence on his part, I agreed. He had a spare room and said he’d help me get paperwork. He even helped me open a bank account. I started to make my way back into the world. I even got a job.

I will never forget my time on the streets. I spent my life trying to achieve my dreams. Then, one day everything was gone and I couldn’t get it back. I did nothing wrong, but there was no room for me in the inn and I was on my own.

To read more stories please click on the below link


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