When John, 57, arrived at one of our Islington hostels, he had all but given up hope. Now the streets feel like a distant memory, and he is learning to read and write. 

He’d spent 15 years rough sleeping, continuously failed by the support systems that should have been there to help. He was broken. 

When you’re on the streets, every morning feels the same. I’d wake up after getting three or four hours of sleep and just think about how I’m going to survive another day. I was lonely, bored. There was nothing else you could think about.” 

Yet, after just a few months with us, things are looking up for John. With our support and his determination, John already feels he is living a new life and ready to put the past behind him. 

“I became homeless when my marriage broke down. My wife just kicked me out suddenly and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I slept in my car for a couple of years. I stayed in a stairwell. Anywhere with warmth." 

Despite his positive outlook, John will never truly forget how traumatising the streets were. 

"It was a living nightmare. The winter was the worst. The weather was cruel. I never used alcohol much or drugs at all, so I felt every moment of it.

"My last winter was the worst ever. I would have three or four jackets on, but the aches and pains from the cold were unbearable. I don’t know how I got through it." 

John tried repeatedly to seek help whilst rough sleeping, but he was faced with false promises on multiple occasions. His illiteracy proved to be an additional barrier to support. 

"After years of trying, I just gave up. There was nothing I could do. Trying to get support just stressed me out so much that I would forget about eating.

“I would be given a bunch of papers and told to fill them out, come back, and then promised I would be referred to someone else. But I can’t read or write, and I struggle to use a computer or phone, so I found it impossible. Even when I asked whether someone could help with the paperwork for me, I wouldn't get the support I needed. It just felt like nothing was getting done and I shut myself off." 

John met Zoe, our Regional Services Manager, on her way to work one day as she passed him on the street. After a matter of days and great partnership work with the Islington Outreach Team, John was assessed and fast-tracked into one of our Islington services. 

It’s been a miracle coming to Single Homeless Project. Changes have happened that I never thought would happen, and they are all good things.

“I have so much time to start my life over. I want to forget about the last 15 years, lock the memories away in a dungeon. Before, they used to taunt me, but now, they have gone. I’m ready to move on and rebuild.” 

Most of all, John is happy around having his day back, able to spend his time as he wishes. 

I’m looking forward to things in life again. I love music and gardening and recently got the keys to my own little garden in the hostel. It has been amazing to spend time outside, it’s so mind-clearing.” 

John has also begun to learn to read and write, supported by Tracy, one of our Recovery Coordinators. 

“Tracy has been amazing. We have one-on-one sessions with each other where she's helping me. I’m already seeing progress, like writing my own name, which is great!” 

John’s experience on the street now feel like a distant memory, locked away in his mind – but his advice to others experiencing homelessness is to make sure they get support before it’s too late. 

"It’s a frightening, dangerous life, and if anyone gets a chance to leave the streets behind, they need to grab it and never look back." 

It may have taken 15 years, but that’s now exactly what John is doing.