What can I say about my life? - Former LLHS Resident, November 2018
I had a great life. I lived on a boat on the Grand Union Canal with my beautiful and wonderful wife until my life changed forever. One December night, she was killed in a road traffic accident on a busy road near the centre of Leighton Buzzard and my life, literally, from that point on, took a dive in one hell of a way. Shortly after her funeral service in Somerset, where we first fell in love, I was sat on our boat which was moored near Leighton Buzzard, when the police came with the River Authority and claimed the boat was no longer mine to live on. I won’t bore you with the details.
On losing my home on the water, I went back to Somerset to feel close again to the love I had lost. I lived in the woods nearby to where we had first enjoyed life together. For a few months, whilst sleeping rough, I did what I felt I had to do, I hid away from the world. I felt I was not able to walk with my head held up to greet people eye to eye. It was not just sleeping rough that was hard for me but it was seeing unpleasant reminders of her family who had been involved in taking my home away from me as the boat was in my wife’s name. I made up my mind to leave Somerset and head back to Leighton Buzzard.
Of course, being homeless and penniless, I had to walk; walking alongside the canal system I know so well. I walked approximately 257 miles without a tent, just a plastic sheet and my bag. I slept where I could, mostly out of sight, not in fear of being moved on but out of the shame I felt. I felt I was no longer a valued member of the system, and it is a valuable system, I know. I wanted to hide away from sometimes pitying eyes like those of children who couldn’t understand and eyes that could see nothing but my dirty clothes.
Although it was long and difficult, I made the walk, I made it to Leighton Buzzard where the first thing I did was to walk into the Black Horse Night Shelter expecting nothing but just to ask for maybe some packet noodles - anything to eat. But what I saw and what happened that day was the start of being seen again, being welcomed back to the world.
In the short time I was there, I was fed very well and offered kindness that I hadn’t seen or felt in so many years. Staff and volunteers were on the job straight away. I was offered a bed, I was offered clean clothes and these good people worked hard not to just doing their bit but working hard for me. I felt great within days and it was thanks to them that I had a warm, dry and safe place to sleep. I was fed every day, I had help with obtaining benefits and they helped me registering with a local GP. During the time I was at the Black Horse, I saw staff and volunteers work their way supporting and helping the other guys staying at the shelter, remaining on top of everything that was thrown at them. A lot of the people at the shelter had many problems but everyone was treated with total kindness and respect. I can say that even with what you have read about me, I was truly the lucky one. I had my fair share of problems as I served in the Royal Marines and suffered with mild mental health problems but I was accepted by the people at the shelter and helped by the local mental health crisis team.
I was truly blessed to be helped through the fantastic, supportive relationship I formed with staff and volunteers at the Black Horse Shelter and through the work of Amicus Trust which help and support former members of the military to get housing and to back on their feet. Within two weeks of walking through the door at the Black Horse Night Shelter, I was given a share of a three-bedroom house with two other vets; they have organised and paid for a course to train for me to become a forklift operator.
Without the help from the staff and volunteers of the Black Horse Night Shelter, I would still be rough sleeping. Now, I think about those who looked after me and my needs, and how they helped move me forward to having a home with my own front door key and an exciting job prospect.
I could never thank these people enough for giving me back my strength and dignity so I can hold my head up high and look people in the eye again.