Gary, 57, loves his bike. It’s more than just a means of transport for him. It’s a symbol of his new-found confidence, strength and hope as he moves, (or in this case pedals), towards a brighter future. 

Gary has built his bike as part of the cycling strand of the Sport & Health Project and it’s helped him turn his life around. Before this, he struggled with life on the streets. 

“When I came to Single Homeless Project, I was lost and didn’t know what to do. After a relationship breakdown in my late twenties, I had nowhere to go and was forced onto the streets for the first time. Once you’re there, it’s so hard to get out. My one support was my mum. With her around, I could get a little help with accommodation now and again. When she died, my world collapsed. 

“My mental health deteriorated. I just didn’t know what to live for. I used drugs to try and cope and it was all I had left.” 

Gary needed something to show him that there was more to life.  

“I didn’t know much about bikes when I went to my first session, let alone how to build one. I certainly didn’t think it would be something I’d be able to do but I was curious so I tried it. After one session I was hooked. I had something to work on and give me purpose. 

“Over the next few months, I slowly put my bike together. Sam, who runs the session, would test me on what the different parts are called and I learnt how every mechanism works. My knowledge grew to the point where I could be testing Sam! 

“Now I have my own bike that I built myself and I’m so proud. Every time I look at it, it’s a reminder that I put my mind to something and achieved it. I love going on bike rides now and knowing that I’ve given myself this freedom. I also help other residents at my hostel with their bikes if they have any issues. I’m the bike expert! 

“It’s also helped me to stop using drugs. I love art and writing poetry. I keep a sketch pad and it’s helped me to see beauty in the world around me. I’ll be going to college to study English soon because I want to get better at writing. All these things have shown me that there are so many activities to sink your teeth into that make life worth living. 

“I may have only had the chance to find this out in my fifties but I’m making up for it now.”