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A life off the street

True story typed

Thomas had become a well-known figure around Shrewsbury town centre - you would see him time and time again in his usual spot, surrounded by blankets, bags over flowing with belongings, with a begging bowl and dog at this feet.

For almost two years, pedestrians would bypass him on the pavements. This had become Thomas’ life - begging during daylight hours and finding a sheltered spot to bed down for the night. This wasn’t the first time that Thomas had tumbled into this lifestyle. He had been here before, but with finding his faith he began to rebuild his life. He had settled down, holding a joint tenancy with a social landlord, securing employment and had started a family. However when the relationship broke down he was catapulted back into the lifestyle he knew so well.

Engaging with Thomas was difficult, primarily because he felt that he didn’t need additional support as this is something he could fix himself, like last time. Because of this, Thomas was assigned to the complex needs worker, who would steadily work to identify the complex barriers facing Thomas. Weeks passed, the outreach service persevered but to no avail. Thomas’ situation was deteriorating and his denial towards his lifestyle which had escalated into drug abuse.

It took months for Thomas to accept support, with his rapport slowly growing with the outreach workers. Although Thomas’ situation was taking its toll, he was still not proactively looking for accommodation. Housing Options actively worked with the outreach service to make steps towards securing accommodation. However, the prospect of returning to his tenancy remained the biggest barrier. His ex-partner had stated that she did not want him returning to the property. Thomas had a joint tenancy, so legally he could return and could not get his name removed due to the rent arrears at the property.

Thomas was hospitalised in early 2015 and it was at this point that something changed. Thomas began seeking support from the Ark, he hadn’t done this since the first time he slept rough. He had also made the decision to rehome his dog, which had been a longstanding barrier to accessing accommodation.

Housing Options and the Ark worked closely to identify options and secure accommodation for Thomas. The overriding issue of the joint tenancy still needed to be addressed, as Thomas would struggle to claim housing benefit on any other accommodation whilst holding that tenancy. Housing Options liaised tirelessly with the social landlord, who finally agreed that if Thomas’ half of the arrears were cleared, and both tenants were in agreement, then his name could be removed. At this point Thomas was ready for discharge from the hospital but as he was of no fixed abode he was considered bed blocking. Housing Options offered temporary accommodation but this was refused by Thomas as it was not in Shrewsbury, however with support from the Ark he was able to find a friend to stay with for a short time so he could be discharged.

The outreach service used the complex needs budget to cover the arrears and have Thomas’ name removed from the joint tenancy. With help from a family member Thomas found accommodation, which Housing Options agreed to cover the upfront costs for. With this stable foundation it is hoped that Thomas can continue to take steps to rebuild his life off the street.

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