SPECIAL REPORT: 'Homeless people can turn their lives around. I did'

John Spencer used to be homeless but he has now turned his life around. Picture by Glenn Ashley.
John Spencer used to be homeless but he has now turned his life around. Picture by Glenn Ashley.

John Spencer never thought he'd end up homeless.

But he did.

"That's the thing," John says. "You go through life thinking you'll always have a roof over your head - but anyone can become homeless.

"Complex, devastating things can happen unexpectedly which mean you might lose your way in life - and potentially end up losing your home and everything else.

"Think about it, you're just one pay packet away from being homeless."

On numerous occasions in years gone by, John found himself sofa-surfing and living on the streets for a number of complicated reasons, including financial problems and relationship issues.

"It goes without saying that it's horrible being homeless," he recalls.

"You're always worried.

"You're always worried about how you're going to keep warm, you're always worried about how you're going to get food, you’re always worried about how passers-by are going to react.

"You're always worried about surviving.

Rough sleepers on New Beetwell Street in Chesterfield.

Rough sleepers on New Beetwell Street in Chesterfield.

"You get stuck in a vicious cycle - and it's very hard to break out of it."

But John did eventually break out of that vicious cycle.

He is no longer homeless.

The 35-year-old, of Pilsley, managed to turn his life around in the early-2000s with the support of his family and friends.

Former homeless man John Spencer now has a home and a job at Formula One Autocentres in Chesterfield. Picture by Glenn Ashley.

Former homeless man John Spencer now has a home and a job at Formula One Autocentres in Chesterfield. Picture by Glenn Ashley.

He now has a home and works at Formula One Autocentres near New Beetwell Street in Chesterfield - a road which is synonymous with homelessness.

John says: "I often see the people on the streets on New Beetwell Street.

"It would be good if there was a shelter in town, a place for them to go.

"Whatever you think about these people, they're human beings and they're clearly in a very desperate situation.

"Only the individuals themselves really know why they're there and what they're going through.

"There was probably a time when they never thought they'd become homeless - but anyone can become homeless.

Homelessness is an issue in Chesterfield.

Homelessness is an issue in Chesterfield.

"There is lots of help and support available to them - but there are complex reasons as to why they might not accept it."

Michael Leng, operations director at the Framework charity - which helps homeless people in Derbyshire - elaborated on that point.

He says: "As strange as it may sound, some of the people we find sleeping rough do not want to accept our help.

"This does not mean they enjoy living on the streets or are in some way making a lifestyle choice; it simply means they have become entrenched in a cycle that is very difficult to arrest.

"Many of the people, for example, have a fundamental distrust of statutory agencies like the police and local authorities - often because of traumatic experiences in the past.

"Others simply feel that their situation is hopeless and that nobody can help them."

John - who has launched this Facebook fundraising page to help rough sleepers - has an important message for the homeless.

"There’s still time to turn your life around," he says.

"I have.

"If I can do it, you can as well."

If you speak to a rough sleeper, tell them about these organisations which can help them - or contact them directly and tell them about the individual. Your intervention could make a huge difference to a fellow human being’s life.

Pathways

120 Saltergate, Chesterfield

01246 498204

www.pathwaysofchesterfield.co.uk

The P3 Charity

0115 850 8190

www.p3charity.org

Framework

0115 841 7711

www.frameworkha.org

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