How the Council's Rapid Rehousing Pathway is changing lives
2 September 2019Jonathan Thurlwell endured the mental and physical pain of four years spent living on the streets of Chester.
He slept in doorways, was beaten up and stolen from. He drank so much alcohol every day that he had been suffering from a broken wrist for six months without even realising it.
But his life is now changing after he visited the Council's homeless assessment hub in Hamilton House, Chester, and benefitted from the Rapid Rehousing Pathway.
Since Hamilton House opened in April, Jonathan is one of 26 people who have moved from the streets into accommodation. It is staffed 24 hours a day by trained teams from forfutures who work with people to help them lead more independent lives.
Life for Jonathan, 38, spiralled out of control four years ago when he split with an ex-partner and began treating his depression with alcohol.
Jonathan, from Northwich, said: "I was with my ex-partner for 15 years and it was a blow to me when we split up. I just drank and drank to make it easier and forget what happened."
He began living a chaotic life: sleeping on the streets and moving in and out of hostels.
He said: "It was hell living on the streets; other people sleeping rough would steal money off me. I was on the streets at the beginning of last year and it was that bad I ended up going to Liverpool to a Christian rehab centre. I left and went back to Chester. I stayed in backpackers until Christmas last year when it shut. I put myself in a doorway in Chester on Boxing Day."
He spent the winter sleeping rough in Chester until his life turned a corner in April this year when his selfless act of compassion for a younger homeless person bought him in contact with the forfutures team at Hamilton House.
He said: "I met with Share and they were helpful but I wasn’t really engaging with the outreach teams who were coming up to me. I was stubborn. Hamilton House was a new thing so I never used to go there but one day I took a young lad there who needed help. I realised it wasn’t such a bad place, it had nice people."
After spending a few nights in Hamilton House, he moved at Easter to supported accommodation in Northwich.
He said: "When I moved to Northwich I was still drinking heavily because I was used to it. I began being sick one day and it was coming up black, black blood. It was really bad and I was airlifted to hospital.
"I ended up staying in hospital and was close to dying. I had pneumonia from my chest infection. I went through a detox in hospital and have not touched another drop since I have come out. I don’t intend to. I’m glad that happened to me.
"It used to be like groundhog day, get up and drink some vodka and keep drinking until I was oblivious. Now that I have got myself off the drink I just won’t go back there.
"The support I have had from forfutures has been brilliant. They come and visit me every week to take me out and help me. I am part of an AA group here and have seen the Salvation Army too.
"I have got to have an operation on my wrist in a couple of months. They reckon it happened six months ago. I thought I had arthritis because I was getting these aches.
"People should take all the support they can get. Once I stopped being stubborn and went along to Hamilton House, things moved along quite quickly for me.
"I do want a permanent place and don’t want to sleep under the stars. I plan to get a job in the future but it is baby steps, just getting myself out of the addiction. When I get better hopefully I can get back into work, maybe do some volunteering myself."
Hamilton House is a Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub and one of only 11 similar schemes across the country being funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Council opened it as part of the Government’s Rapid Rehousing Pathway.
Homeless people are able to leave their belongings at Hamilton House, reducing the number of personal items abandoned in doorways. The Council's streetcare team will begin removing all remaining belongings which have been left discarded on the city's streets after 2 September.
Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth, said: "The staff at Hamilton House are doing a great job and they are being really innovative in delivering support to our local homeless community. There are now many effective support services being offered. The latest new initiative is the secure storage service, where people sleeping rough can store their belongings in a secure area while the forfutures team try to resolve their housing needs.
"This service ensures people's personal belongings are accessible, safe and dry instead of being left out on the streets where they could be stolen or treated as a security threat by the police.
"The secure storage service is about responding to the needs of people accessing homelessness services, whilst also recognising the safety and security concerns of local residents, businesses and the police."
Janet Lawton, Strategic Homeless Lead at forfutures, said: "Jonathan's story highlights the vital role that the kind of support offered by Hamilton House plays in enabling people to turn their lives around.
"Our aim for Hamilton House has always been to provide a safe, welcoming and caring place where our outreach team can work intensively with people to assess their needs and enable them to move away from life on the streets. The impact that we are seeing so far is really showing how this approach is making more things possible for more people."
Jonathan Thurlwell at his new accommodation alongside his work.