Birmingham news Rough sleeper reveals how Covid changed his life for the better MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - According to the City of Wolverhampton Council, the number of rough sleepers has dropped down to just four people
Breaking News ! Loss, loneliness and unemployment are just a few of the devastating effects that have hit people across the UK since the start of the pandemic - but one rough sleepers revealed it had brought a glimmer of hope Neil Bowles, who had been homeless for nearly 30 years, said the drive to help rough sleepers - allied with the lack of crowds in city centres - had made life better. The 47-year-old has slept rough on the streets of Birmingham, Worcester and Wolverhampton, the latter of which has seen homelessness fall by 88% with just four people sleeping rough according to latest data. While coronavirus remains a tragedy thousands of families are struggling to come to term with, Neil said it had created a ripple effect that has given him a new chance in life. As shops, pubs and community centres shut, people like him were offered safety, warmth and a roof over their heads - and he has made the most of the opportunity. Neil, aged 47, was one of those that were helped and now lives in a hostel in preparation for moving into his own council flat. He said: “Now I look forward to getting up every morning, whereas when I was on the streets I just wanted to sleep most of the time. I would find shelter in doorways wherever I could. I’d stay away from the main town centres and I’d stay in the outskirts, out the way and undercover. “Now it’s like a sauna in my room. Once I’m settled I’d like to start volunteering and help others who were in my situation. Volunteers at the Good Shepherd Ministries in Wolverhampton (Image: Stuart Manley photography) “There is also someone to talk to hear and they won’t let me go down the wrong way of drinking like I used to. “When I’m walking around now, I still see quite a few homeless people still out there. They sleep in places that outreach workers wouldn’t even think to look. Places like parks and old buildings. “The biggest success for me has been getting off the streets and back into accommodation.“ The City of Wolverhampton Council multi-agency drive to rehouse vulnerable adults in the city without a place to call their own after the coronavirus struck. Across Wolverhampton, more than 100 people who were sleeping rough or facing homelessness were moved into long term accommodation. Read More Related Articles 'I've been sleeping in my mate's shed' - the grim reality of living on the streets during the Sandwell lockdown Read More Related Articles We stuck together 50 years homeless on the streets - brother's tribute Neil, who has been helped by Good Shepherd Ministries, a charity supporting the vulnerable, added: “I left home at 17 and moved into my own accommodation. I was there for a few years but had a run-in with a couple of locals and ever since then, I’ve been on the streets and in and out of hostels. That was back in 1993. “I moved around from Wolverhampton to Birmingham to Worcestershire. “The main challenge was trying to stay warm. Many times I’ve had to sleep rough while it was snowing, many years ago I was in a tent when it was snowing. I got up to go to the toilet and looked back and it was like an igloo, covered in snow. It was around -10 °C to -12 °C then. “When the pandemic hit last March, I wasn’t able to go see my mum for Mother’s Day. She has since passed away and I wasn’t allowed to see her.” Neil is still in touch with people on the streets and said it was a better environment for those out there.
. There’s a sense of security now, you don’t have to worry about people coming along while you’re asleep in doorways and giving you a kicking. People look down on you when you are living on the streets and automatically brand you as a junkie, not everyone is like that.
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“With help from the Good Shepherd Ministries, I’m beginning to get my life back together again. The new lease of life has Neil looking forward to jumping back into a career of painting and decorating. However, while efforts have gone into clearing homelessness from the city’s streets, there are still some vulnerable adults who have fallen through the cracks. The head of operations for the Good Shepherd Ministries, Tom Hayden, said: “There are always hidden homeless people who aren’t as visible on the streets and tuck themselves away to make sure they are safe. “The rough sleepers that are left are tucked away in tented communities. A few years ago there was a huge encampment on the Stafford Road by the railway bridge. You wouldn’t be able to tell anyone was there but there were around 20 people sleeping there.
“We went to help a 16-year-old girl who was sleeping there and there were rats everywhere, it was a terrible living situation. It was a group of tents and even in the conditions they had built a community and had shared cooking facilities.” When the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020, the Redwings Lodge on Waterloo Road was used to rehouse rough sleepers from the streets and night shelters. Tom added: “In the first weekend the hotel took in around 70 people. We worked with local gurdwawas and local providers to bring them three hot meals a day. It was a massive kind of community effort to get everyone in and make sure that they were safe and to make sure we've got the right support.
“The vast majority of rough sleepers have been moved into long term accommodation. It’s really positive.” While Neil’s story a positive one, many families across the city have been left seeking the help of food banks and charities for the first time due to Covid-related job losses, he added. “There are two things that are currently a priority for us, the increase in people needed food services because they have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and the impact this has had on mental health," Tom said.
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“Most of the services are central in the city, now many people have their own accommodation which is fantastic but they are dispersed across the city and have lost that community and social aspect. It has been challenging for us because we don’t want to encourage people to come out during a lockdown to come and access food, but some people need the contact due to the impact isolation is having on their mental health. “From the first lockdown through to the third lockdown we’ve seen a gradual increase in the number of people coming to access food services. We peaked in around mid-April where at one point 180 people were lining up for support. It’s hard to see and there are people who have never had to use food services are now coming for support.”
Source = MetiNews.Com