Liam is a former rough sleeper and StreetLink volunteer, and now works permanently at St Mungo's. Here he reveals how volunteering changed his life and tells us about a ‘typical’ shift with the team.
StreetLink community spotlight - Charrissa
"I became homeless after trying to rent a property that I found online. Everything seemed fine so I paid my deposit and first month’s rent. A week after I moved in, the police knocked on my door. It turned out that the landlord was actually a squatter and was renting out the property illegally. The police didn’t offer me any support, they just told me I had to leave, and I lost the deposit and rent I’d paid. At the time I was only working part-time as a security officer, and I didn’t have any savings, or any family in the UK to go to. Because of all that, me and my dog Benjie became homeless. I went to a friend’s place first, but her son was allergic to dogs, so I had to go elsewhere.
"Thankfully I had another friend I could go to – but because it was a council flat, she would have been in trouble for having a lodger. She kept Benjie for me, and I slept under the stairwell in her building. That became quite hard because I couldn’t let other people in the building see me in case they called the council, which would mean my friend could get evicted. So sometimes I stayed outside until late, or all night sometimes, which scared me a lot. I remember spending a night on a park bench once, but it felt so dangerous I couldn’t sleep. I just kept thinking 'am I going to be safe sleeping on this bench? Will I even see the next day?' It was really stressful, I was constantly on edge.
"I had to quit my part-time job because of the travel costs, the stress of my situation and my depression – I just couldn’t keep it up. I didn’t like begging, but sometimes I just needed a pound or something to at least buy a bottle of water. I was homeless for about eight months all in all. I kept going to the council for help but they just told me I didn’t qualify as a priority, and I thought 'how can that be?'"
How StreetLink helped
"It got to the point where I was really depressed, suicidal even. I kept thinking, “I’ve got a degree, how did I get here?” It was so hard not having my family around. Eventually, when it started getting colder in November, me and my friend heard about StreetLink. My friend called them for me. I expected them to take a few days, but they turned up late that same night. It all happened quite quickly. I just gave my friend back her blankets and the outreach team took me straight to ‘No Second Night Out’, where they assess people who are homeless for the first time and find the best place for them to go.
"Eventually me and Benjie moved into a St Mungo’s hostel in South East London. St Mungo’s really took the time to understand what I needed. And thank God they accept pets! Because I don’t know where me and Benjie would be today otherwise. Without St Mungo’s, a lot of people like me wouldn’t make it.”
Now and the future
Charrissa and Benjie have been in their own place with a big garden since Spring 2018, where they have been joined by a pure Dalmation called Bella - and the two dogs get along well! Charrissa is hopeful for her future again. She is in the second year of her Masters degree in 3D animation and continues to volunteer with St Mungo’s.
“My ambition is to start my own business and make a mobile phone app. I went to St Mungo’s Recovery College and they gave me a mentor who has been helping me with my business plan. It’s been brilliant, and I feel like I’m achieving my goals one by one."
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Louise is the communications manager at Homeless Link.
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