From sleeping rough near a bus station to working for Crisis, Kevin has come a long way. He shares his story here, including the incredible turnaround he’s been through. Thank you for making it possible.
“I’m from a working-class family in Birmingham. We were poor, but we all worked. I learned my trade as an apprentice carpenter and then worked as a carpenter from the age of 16 for about 40 years.
“Work dried up in the UK and so I moved to Berlin in 2001, met a lady and opened an Irish bar. I was still working as a carpenter and my partner was running the bar. We closed after eight years, in the recession. We moved to Holland, where I carried on with my carpentry and we stayed for two years.
“About eight years ago we moved to Cambridge. I carried on working as a carpenter. Until everything went wrong. The relationship broke down and I think I had a breakdown.
“I spent all my savings because I couldn’t work and was evicted. I didn’t sign onto benefits because I thought I was the problem. I didn’t realise I had mental health problems – I didn’t know anything about mental health.
“I moved to Peterborough as you could get food by the cathedral. I was rough sleeping for a couple of weeks before I got enough money together for the train back to Birmingham where I still had family, three brothers. I stayed with them for a week, but they blamed me for my situation and I ended up on the streets.
“I slept near Digbeth Coach station. Then I found a place, St Anne’s hostel. It was quite chaotic. I was there for seven months and started to get help with my mental health. I gained more knowledge of the issue, stopped blaming myself so much and started to repair myself.
“Then I was sent to St Eugene’s, where I was introduced to Crisis. I joined the Crisis football team, as I found out how much exercise could help my mental health. I also did an engineering course with Crisis. This was the start of me getting better.
“Crisis helped with my travel costs so I could attend the course. They were always there if I ever needed to talk things through.
“With Crisis’ help, I then found a property. Crisis taught me how to register and bid on social housing. Crisis encouraged me to bid every week. I eventually found a nice one-bedroom flat.
“It’s in the area I was brought up in. I never met any of my old friends when I went back to Birmingham, but when I moved into my own place that changed. I have now been here three years. I was moved into a 30-year old building – no decorating had been done for 30 years. I had no cooker, fridge, cooking facilities or anything to sleep on. I lived like that for three months.
“I approached Crisis again and they got me a bed, a couch, a cooker, a fridge, towels, pots and pans, knives and forks, plates and mugs: the things you need to live, which made it easier as I could get food from food banks and cook it. I could eat more healthily.
“I passed my engineering course and was going to work on the railway. Then I spoke to Crisis who said there was a trainee position coming up and although I would have made more as an engineer, I went for the job as trainee progression coach. Luckily I got it and really enjoyed working with Crisis members. It was two years as it was extended over COVID.
“Then I went for a job with the Crisis Health Now team. I’m now in that position, working in partnership with the council, the NHS and other agencies to help people who are homeless with their health. My title is peer coordinator. I really enjoy it.
“I feel I really could have had more help with mental health, having no knowledge of it or how to fix myself. If I had known of Crisis before, I doubt I would have been homeless at all, let alone street homeless.”
Thank you for helping people like Kevin turn their lives around - we simply couldn’t do our work without you.