In 1998, I moved to the UK from the Netherlands for work. I lived in a B&B sorted by my company, where my landlady Diana* and I quickly fell in love, and shared a very happy time.
Sadly, over time, Diana became ill. In 2008, I gave up my job to become her full-time carer. In 2017, she suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital. Her daughters, who didn't have much contact with us, took over Power of Attorney, and placed her in a care home when she was discharged from hospital.
My mental health had severely suffered from seeing Diana's condition deteriorate, and caring for her full time. Suddenly left alone, I found it impossible to keep up with the bills. As the Final Demands and Court Orders started arriving, I suffered a full breakdown. In August 2019, I returned home to find the locks changed. Diana's daughters had thrown me out.
I starting sleeping rough behind the library in Chesham. I only had the clothes I was wearing, and my laptop. When I collapsed in the High Street a few weeks later from exhaustion and hunger, I was brought by ambulance to Wexham.
I was released 2 days later, on Sunday morning into a strange new town. I ended up at the Salvation Army, where they were giving out food. The next day, they gave me some breakfast and a tent. I ended up with two other homeless guys under an overpass of the M4. I spent my days at the Slough Homeless day centre, at the library, and in the high street, where the local Sikh charity hand out food. Over time, our spot was discovered by more homeless folk, and it started to feel more dangerous, and I started to feel more uncomfortable.
In March 2020, I was given a room due to Covid-19. After a stay in a local hotel, I was moved to a house in Alma Road with 3 others. That’s when the best thing that ever happened to me: I discovered WHP, the Windsor Homeless Project.
I started going there for food, coffee, toiletries and clothes. In my own time, I told my story to the WHP volunteers and staff. They offered to help. It’s hard to trust people, because on the street, altruism seems non-existent. But over time, we were able to start trusting each other.
When my accommodation at Alma Road ended in July 2021, they helped me find and pay for temporary accommodation (funded by a generous donation). Although I have been in the UK since 1998, I had been told I wasn't eligible to receive any benefits. WHP helped me register for Settled Status, and, with the support of our local Job Centre outreach worker, got me approved for Universal Credit.
Most recently, they vouched for me, and helped me to get a tenancy for a very nice Studio Flat!
The day I registered with WHP changed my life. Thanks to them, I have landed back on my feet, and I can make a fresh start. It will take time and a mental effort to come to terms with the sorry saga of the last 4 years, but WHP gave me back my confidence and belief in myself. They REALLY can move mountains, and I will be in their debt forever. The fact they trusted me was, still is, and always will be, invaluable.
Though I have started to regain my independence, I won't break my ties with WHP: I will be there for them if they need any help I can provide, and commit myself to the best of my abilities.
I would like to mention (and thank!) the WHP volunteers: Jeremy, Jenny, Lizzie, Marion, Eleanor and the others who invariably welcomed me with coffee, food, the occasional essentials, a nice chat, and most of all, a warm heart Once again, a big Thank-You to all of them.
(*Diana's name has been changed in this story).