Bob (June 2016 – Jan 2018)
We worked closely with Bob for about 20 months, during which time we saw him move from homelessness and long term unemployment to a secure job and housing. We tell his story below as it highlights the goal and hope of what we do. We believe that there are many more ‘Bobs’, with the same potential for a more secure, fulfilling and fruitful life.
Initial appearance, out of nowhere
Middle-aged Bob appeared at Open Door one morning in June 2016, completely out of the blue, with not much more than his name and the clothes he was standing up in. He said very little and gave no story of where he had come from or how he had become homeless. He simply wanted something to eat and somewhere warm to be.
Getting to know Bob, very slowly
Over the next few weeks we were able to help him get settled and sorted with showers, laundry and a daily routine of food and drink, shelter and company. He seemed to be very slowly making one or two friendships, as we also gradually got to know him. However he had no interest in finding accommodation and was extremely reluctant to share anything of his past. He claimed to be sleeping rough but even that was hard to establish.
Our first formal involvement with Bob was helping him to set up his benefit claim, during which time we gleaned that he had probably been moving around with a group of travellers, possibly against his will. We realised that we needed to allow Bob to move at his own speed, to facilitate any moves towards a more settled and stable life but not to apply any pressure. We had no idea of what he might have lived through.
By the autumn Bob began to stay on beyond the morning drop-in sessions to attend the afternoon DoMore, as much a spectator of the various activities as getting involved, and maybe possibly only to keep in the warm! He began feel like he belonged and started to talk much more, whilst still not revealing any personal information, and spent much 1-1 time with DoMore staff and volunteers. Importantly, with cold weather approaching, he began to ask for help with accommodation. He was, at this point, sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tiny secluded area behind four trees by a supermarket.
Hostel accommodation was inappropriate for him and any sort of supported accommodation impossible as he was still unable/unwilling to share any of his background. Private rental was the only option and, after a number of failed attempts, and crucially after him allowing us to establish with the police that he had no criminal record, he gained the most basic of rooms by December. At least he was inside and very slowly but surely we were witnessing Bob putting his life back together.
Training, CV and voluntary work
Bob stopped coming to the rough sleepers’ morning drop-in, but we still encouraged him to attend DoMore in the afternoons, with the aim of supporting him to maintain his accommodation and to be there for him as he appeared to be rebuilding his life. Over the next 9 months we saw him regularly as he went on several training courses and began to volunteer in various charity shops. This involved us helping him put together a CV, choose and apply for posts, giving references and providing work clothes. Very slowly we learnt the bare bones of his story.
Birth certificate, computer skills and applying for paid employment
At this time he still had no widely accepted identity documents, an issue which would keep him from any formal employment. He seemed reluctant though to accept any help to rectify this. However, with the trust built with DoMore, he shared that he had been adopted and allowed us to help him apply for his birth certificate, which he eventually received in September.
Also at this stage Bob himself felt the need to become computer literate as he began to look for paid employment. We were able to help him become confident with handling emails in particular as he began to apply for paid work.
Agency work, interviews, gaining a DBS and finally paid employment
The next step for Bob was getting agency work, washing dishes and cleaning etc. That led to him getting interviews for temporary work and then, finally, for a permanent post. We were able to prepare him with informal interview skills sessions and, once offered a job, to facilitate the obtaining of his DBS. This was difficult as he had no address history, so we represented him and explained his unique situation to the company.
We are delighted that Bob is now in secure employment and accommodation and count it a privilege to have been part of his journey. We continue to support him as he carries on rebuilding his life. His latest milestone was getting his first passport and saving up enough money for his first ever holiday!