It was my sister who decided to call Oasis Community Housing’s drop-in in Sunderland. When she told me the opening hours I set off at 5.30am to walk the 17 miles to get there for doors opening.
I’d left Sunderland more than 20 years ago, to try to find work in London. I bought some tools and got by doing what work I could find. Just sleeping out at night to make the most of it.
I was down there for nine years before I decided to move about a bit – Salisbury, Chester, then I stayed in Portsmouth for a while, carrying on doing any work I could find – you know, to buy food – but after a while I decided to come back to try and find my sister. I hadn’t spoken to her since I left. I never had a phone!
At the drop-in they asked if I’d been registered homeless, but I didn’t realise I should have been. Dave [who runs the drop in] asked if I had been claiming benefits but I didn’t realise that either. I didn’t have a bank account anyway.
Later that day, my sister – as I was using her phone – got a call from the Council. Dave had called their housing people while I’d been at the drop-in. They said I could have a space in a hostel. It was a lovely offer, but I’d lived on my own for so long that I felt really unsure about it. It just wasn’t for me.
I stayed with my sister for a night, but didn’t want to be a burden to her so decided just to sleep out in the park.
All the while the folks at Oasis Community Housing were helping me fill out forms to set up a bank account – as I didn’t have no ID – they phoned all the right people to help me get some support through benefits, and they gave me more clothes after the ones they gave me were stolen while I was sleeping in the park.
* Name has been changed