Tom's story - #StoriesFromTheStreet - 29/04/2019
You may recall that we have previously shared details about the Friday Breakfast Club at St Andrews Church on Upper Hanover Street in Sheffield, along with stories about their work and the support they offer.
Our project lead wanted to share a positive update about somebody whom she had met there. Here’s Tom’s story…
I was walking down the street looking for the church and saw a guy who I assumed was going to the same place. My assumptions were founded by the fact that he looked street homeless, was carrying a black sack and a Sainsbury's carrier bag and looked like he hadn't washed or shaved for weeks. I asked him if he was going to the same breakfast club and offered to help carry one of his bags for him. He declined my offer to carry one of his bags, but he did recognise me which took me back a little. As I looked more closely, I realized that I knew him too, only he looked a lot different to how he did the last time I'd seen him (to protect his privacy I am using a different name).
You see the last time I had seen Tom he had been at one of the Recovery Support groups at one of the larger homeless support projects in the city centre. He had been a regular attendee to the groups and although he was rather a shy guy, he was always polite and when he shared his story, he would always capture my attention. He was very articulate, calm and a self-deprecating person who was well aware of his own weaknesses and shortcomings and wasn't afraid to point them out. He had his own place, was stable on a script and was generally finding his own way on his recovery journey.
Now he had recognised me, Tom seemed embarrassed, ashamed and slightly reluctant to chat, knowing he was back on the streets sleeping rough. I asked if he wanted me to call Framework, but he politely declined my offer. I asked if he was still getting his script to which he replied no, he said he hated having to go the Fitzwilliam Centre, and being around other people, hence why he'd stopped going to the Archer Project and was keeping a low profile.
My gut wanted to jump into rescue mode, get on the phone call the rough sleeper service, get on the phone to the Fitzwilliam Centre, get him an appointment sorted, but my instinct told me that he wasn't ready for that. As the conversation flowed, so did the tears. He shared how he felt he didn't have another attempt of recovery in him, he was fed up with his lot and just wanted out! Truth be told, my gut instinct was right, he was defeated, he felt he was a failure. It was literally heart-breaking.
Fast forward to this past week…
Whilst I sat enjoying a cuppa with my daughter sitting on the steps outside the city hall a familiar face walked past me! The depressed face I saw last time, was replaced with a lovely smile, he looked so much different to the Tom I last saw. He was clean, had shaved and apart from his weather worn woolly hat, he could have easily been mistaken as your average guy (whatever that is!) He told me how he’d bought his new smart checked shirt for a quid from the charity shop and had got some jeans from the Archer Project. The reason for the transformation? He had an appointment at housing services and wanted to make a good impression!
Tom was eyeing up my new sunglasses, he reckoned they would go well with his new shirt! I politely told him to do one, and he said goodbye. I wished him good luck and he started to walk away, but then he stopped, turned around a said “Thank you, thank you for the kind words you said the last time I saw you, it meant a lot”.
Later that week I had a presentation at the civic breakfast and decided to pop back into the Friday Breakfast club, just to see if he was there and guess who was walking out? I asked how he’d got on at the housing, “It went well, I’ve got a new worker” he also went on to say he was back on a script and had got himself a worker at Addaction. Things are definitely looking up for him.
And the main message of the story – people have to be ready to make changes, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Everybody who works in Sheffield services and charities are committed to help vulnerable people make changes in their lives and move away from a life on the streets.
Kind words and gentle encouragement can mean a lot, so if you have the time, stop and have a chat with somebody begging on the street, ask people if they know about the support on offer in the city. You could buy a copy of the Big Issue North from a vendor who is working. As a city there are so many positive actions we can take to support those in need – for more information visit: http://how-we-help/day-to-day-support