Abuse and mental health problems lead to relationship breakdown and unemployment. It was a short step, Tommy* said, from there to several years of sleeping under one of Newcastle’s many bridges. The bridge was preferable to the shopfronts which had been his other option. In doorways he had been vulnerable to the violence and insults which were the daily experience of many homeless people. He became physically unwell, lost weight and was often too tired the walk to the volunteer kitchen where he got his food. Those days he went hungry.
Tommy though was resilient. He had made a friend, his dog Rex*, and together they found temporary accommodation in a local flat. A mattress on the floor of a bare room was not ideal, but it kept the cold at bay. However a problem with his benefits meant Tommy was forced to leave and he was on the street again. This time Tommy and Rex made their home on a disused allotment. It was away from trouble, but it was cold, damp and the rundown shed in which they slept was infested with rats. Tommy’s mental health got worse and he said that if it hadn’t been for Rex then he wouldn’t be here.
It was then he discovered Oasis Community Housing and Basis Beds. He would come into the drop-in for tea and toast, warmth and the sense that nobody was judging him. When his shed was burnt down by arsonists he now had somewhere to turn.
Basis Beds offered him and Rex a furnished flat with the security of knowing that the rent and bills would all be covered. It was a chance to find some peace, security and a way to get back on his feet. Tommy said that getting a proper night’s sleep and doing the simple things like making a cup of tea in his own kitchen have made all the difference.
With the help of his support worker he has also started to look forward. He has started growing tomatoes in the garden and taken up his former passion for fishing. Above all he has reconnected with his children. They are adults now and Tommy is a grandfather, but the bonds are strong and they see each other often. Tommy still has struggles, but he says Basis Beds has made all the difference.
In the future Basis Beds will support him into a flat of his own and give him the support he needs to get established.
Having somewhere of your own to sleep is something all of us should take for granted, but for Tommy the change is huge. He said simply, “Without Basis Beds I wouldn’t be here.”
*names have been changed