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Owen's story. 'I’m praying I don’t end up having to sleep rough again.'

I am 60 and was born in Jamaica. When I was 35 I left Jamaica and came to Wales, to be with my mother who had been living here a long time. I was working 2 jobs, as a mechanic in the day time and in a double glazing factory at night. I managed to save up £120,000.
 
I wanted to get a certificate in mechanics but had never learned to read or write because I had been taken out of school to work in Jamaica from a young age. I tried to learn but I was told I was dyslexic which made it even more difficult for me. However, with the money I saved I still managed to move to London and buy a house with a mortgage. I rented a garage and started running my own mechanics business, but lots of administrative things were impossible because I couldn’t read or write. I didn’t know I should have changed my mortgage after my deal ran out so kept paying a high rate. I didn’t manage to sort my tax returns out. I always have piles of letters that I have not opened because I cannot read them.
 
I had to put faith in other people because I could not read and write but unfortunately a lot of people let me down. It is so difficult because it feels like everyone can understand this secret language that I find so hard to make sense of. Someone who I knew and trusted, and who was meant to pay the mortgage for me had kept the money instead. Someone else I trusted stole £25,000 from me. Then I was arrested because one of my workers brought in a stolen car to the garage. They took away my tools and shut the garage for weeks.
 
Eventually I ended up losing my business and my home. That was when I was put in touch with Crisis. I have a coach at Crisis who goes out of her way to help me however she can. Although she is only meant to help with my literacy, she has supported me by reading important documents and advising me in many other areas of life.
 
Until February 2020 I was working as a cleaner and living in the YMCA, paying my rent out of my earnings. Unfortunately my job ended and I could no longer afford my rent. I could not apply for benefits as I was no recourse to public funds so I ended up on the streets. I slept rough for about a month, in the park and anywhere I could find until we went into lockdown and I was picked up by an outreach worker.
 
I have been placed in a hotel in Romford. It is quite a nice place. I have my own room and shower and we get two meals a day which I am very grateful for, however I am really struggling as I cannot work and have no money. Crisis is also helping me to find work but obviously everything has come to a stand still now because of the coronavirus and this has made things even more difficult for me.
 
I had some emergency cash from Crisis but everything you need to do is online these days, and I cannot do that because I cannot read or write. I can’t access banking or anything. Now that lockdown is here everything is online which makes it even more difficult for me. This make me feel even more isolated.

Crisis continues to support me. My literacy coach is still in touch and keeps checking in on me but sometimes it can be very lonely here on my own for such a long time. I also worry about what will happen when lockdown is over. I really hope they can find me somewhere to live but being no recourse to public funds makes it difficult. I’m praying I don’t end up having to sleep rough again.
 
It would be nice if there was more support for older people with dyslexia. Accessing every day services like shopping and banking can be quite difficult and there is no help available for this. It makes life generally a lot harder to navigate. Everything is a challenge.”
 
Owen, London

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