I first saw Jim when I came for my second interview, I remember him clearly, sat outside the Shelter office with his red sleeping bag and I thought to myself, these are the people I’m going to be working with. I was encouraged by this thought.
I had been in employment with Shelter for one month and had passed Jim lots of times and greeted him daily, he would answer but would turn his head away, and never looked like he wanted to talk. Then one day I went out and he spoke to me, asked me how my job was going, and we spent a good ten minutes chatting about work and then himself. He told me he was from Scotland and how long he had been on the streets. During the next few months we would talk about his previous accommodation and how he had struggled with the DWP. This caused him to just up and leave his accommodation and he was not motivated to try and claim again, he said he couldn’t be bothered with the system anymore. I explained that I could phone the benefits office and try sort it out; he would just say “One day I will”.
It became apparent that Jim didn’t really speak to anybody and considering this and how much he was engaging with me, I would only mention coming in to sort his benefits out and get accommodation when it looked like he was comfortable talking to me. Jim became more comfortable as time wore on, we would talk about addiction and street sleeping as well as all the issues surrounding that and what made him leave his last accommodation resulting in him being on the streets.
I made Jim a cup of coffee once because I wanted our relationship to be built on the trust I was building; and when I did make him that coffee I told him he would have to bring the mug back upstairs himself; he laughed and said okay then. Jim came up to the office and had a look around, I showed him the store room and asked him if he would like to go in a room; but he was comfortable enough just looking round he said. We had a bit of a laugh and then he left. I saw Jim a couple of times after that sat outside the office still, but I didn’t push him I just kept going as I had done since I met him.
After a few weeks, a colleague said that she had seen Jim at SIFA fireside and he was after a belt. A few days later my colleague left a belt for Jim in the office. When I next saw Jim he was in his usual place outside the office sat on the floor begging. I approached him, really pleased to see him and said that I had a belt for him and would he like a coffee, his face lit up and he said yes. I took his belt and coffee down to him and put a new hole in his belt because he was so slim. I said I hadn’t seen him about for a bit and he confirmed that it was because of the disruption around the building and that people were trying to take his begging spot. The nights were getting colder and Jim had said before that when it gets to winter he will come in to see me. With this in mind I encouraged him Jim a little bit more and asked again if he would like us to sort his benefits out for him so he has some money. He said okay, jumped up and said that he would like a hostel as well. I took Jim upstairs and sat with him and began to support him with his benefit claim. It was getting late so we got him an emergency bed at the Salvation Army. During this time the CGL Homeless Team was here at the office and spoke to Jim as well about his script.
Jim was found a place at another longer term hostel and settled really well. He started to show signs of good physical recovery, and was paying his rent well and going to SIFA fireside and soup kitchens for food. He said he was really settled. I applied for a Bridging Fund and Jim was made an award that covered new winter clothing, a television, DVD player, hair clippers and bath towels. We took Jim shopping for his new. He was thrilled and decided to keep all of his new things for when he moves to second stage accommodation for a fresh start. Jim was anxious about moving to this accommodation as he had lived there previously before becoming street homeless. I had spent time assuring Jim that we will help him with everything and support him with any problems he may have. Jim has now moved in and we have supported him with the physical act of moving his belongings. We supported him with signing up to a tenancy and Housing Benefit. Jim is engaging well with CGL and continues to address his addiction issues. He is now considering volunteering as the next stage of his development.