After a threat on his life forced Jim out of Northern Ireland, he was left with nothing. He came to London, the only other place he knew – but struggled to find the help he needed. 

He spent six months on the streets, building up a support network and knowledge of community services to survive.

Our services helped Jim off the streets, helping him stabilise and recover from his experiences. He hasn’t forgotten them, but he is now building a better life for himself in his own home.

Jim had spent most of his life in Northern Ireland. He had friends, a home, a job as a chef at a care home, and was part of a paramilitary group. But after falling out with the group, he had to flee for his safety. He abandoned everything and had just four hours to pack a bag before heading to the ferry port.

He headed for the only place he could think ofCamden. He had lived there some years ago. But with little money or support, things soon took a turn for the worse and he was forced to rough sleep.

“I was on the streets for about five or six months, sleeping in all kinds of places—an abandoned church, a park, under a railway bridge—wherever I could find shelter.

It’s just brutal. People don't understand how hard it really is.

Every night, I was in constant fear. I would sleep for at most an hour. People mostly left me alone, but you felt in danger.

The cold was the worst. Being in that sleeping bag on a wet and cold night is a very lonely and dangerous place. It really affected my health, and I got seriously ill. Things got so bad that I thought about jumping off a bridge.”

I don't know how I got through it. I just refused to be beaten, out of sheer grit and determination.

Jim was eventually found by Routes off the Streets outreach team and offered some housing by another charity. Unfortunately, it was in an unfamiliar area and turned out to be dirty.

“I hated that they tried to move me away from the area that I knew. I would have had to start all over again, building those connections that I had spent months establishing." 

Single Homeless Project was able to step in and we offered him a place at our Camden Rough Sleepers hub. Community plays a huge part in supporting people to move on from homelessness and it's important to keep these connections.

“I was reluctant to move into a hostel at first. The only reason I agreed was that I was absolutely shattered and needed a rest. But it was brilliant. I would have been happy to have stay there to be honest. 

“I can’t say a bad word about any of the staff. They went above and beyond to support me. They really cared for me. Most of all, they made me feel like a human being again for the first time in months. They understood the horrific things I had gone through and took the time to listen and hear my story."

Jim stayed at the service for two months, taking the rest he needed before we supported him into his own flat.

"I'm now living in a brand-new flat with everything I need—shower, toilet, cooking facilities. And it's in Camden, exactly where I wanted. With my friends close by, I feel more at home. I’m so glad to have this place, and I can start to build myself up for my life ahead.” 

While Jim is now happily settled in his flat, he is still grappling with the fallout from rough sleeping.

"Your health suffers while on the streets. When you're walking about all day with a rucksack on your back, you could be covering about 15 or 16 miles a day to find food, drink, and washing facilities. You're always on your feet.”

"I still find it difficult to sleep, and even the slightest noises make me jump. On the streets, you can’t switch off, otherwise, you risk your safety."

“I was one of the lucky ones to find help, but there are so many people out there going through what I did. Nobody should be homeless.”

Homelessness is an experience, not a forever – and with the right support, it can be ended.