Ben's story

Ben went to university at 24. “I decided I needed to finish my education. I owed that to myself.” He started to struggle with his mental health and had little support from family. “I had depression and anxiety, and it was fairly new to me. I was older than everyone around me too and didn’t really fit in.”

Nowhere to go

Ben was working nights to support himself but didn’t have anywhere to go in the holidays. “Towards the end of university was when the panic of homelessness really set in. A lot of fear and anxiety comes with that impending deadline. I was aware that I hadn't had anywhere that I could really call home for a long time.”

He was staying with friends on sofas and in spare rooms, but when the pandemic hit, he didn’t have anywhere to go. “I was reaching out to everyone and anyone, but the response was: ‘Sorry, mate, we're in the middle of a pandemic, we can’t have you coming into the house.’”

"We’ll figure something out”

A friend suggested he get in touch with Crisis. “A couple of days later, Ryan from South Yorkshire Skylight phoned up.”

“The first thing he said was they could help me and look after me: ‘You're going to be okay.’ It's quite hard not to get emotional about it. He said, ‘We'll figure something out.’ It's really hard to put into words what that conversation meant.

“After I had finished that phone call, I broke down for a good hour because the relief just hit me. He phoned me up the next day to go through all the details and find out my story and what I needed. I must have spoken to him for most of an afternoon.”

A new home

Ryan supported Ben to find an affordable flat to rent. “It was one of those moments where it becomes a bit more real because you hear that someone's going to help you and they say, ‘We've got you somewhere, you don't have to sleep in your car.’ But usually, it doesn’t come to fruition. This time it was actually true. We looked around the flat and, they said: ‘You can move in as soon as you need to, sorted the keys out, sorted of paperwork out.’

“He helped set up my bills, my council tax, made sure my benefits were switched across, even brought me little things like saucepans so that I could cook my dinner. It just made such a difference.

“Suddenly little bit of stability crept in, and it was almost overwhelming.”

Personalised support

“I've had cooking lessons, all sorts of different things that I didn't know Crisis did. I was working with him for a year and Ryan got to know me well over that time. He understands me. He treats everyone he works with as an individual. He knows their sense of humour. He knows how best to approach them. He knows how best to encourage them. That's how he got through to me, encouraging me to give things a go.

“I’m not the most athletic person in the world but he encouraged me to do a hike in the Peak District. I’d just spent the last year being locked in a house, but he said: ‘Look, just try it. And if you try and it doesn't work for you, fine. But at least you've given it a go.’ Then I got hooked on it.

“That consistent point of contact is something that myself and a lot of other Crisis members I've spoken to find absolutely crucial because we're facing a world and a system and a society that has pushed you right to the edge. For example, dealing with a benefit system, you're talking to someone different every time, re- explaining your life and your story.”

Asking for help

“It is the hardest thing in the world to ask for help when you need it. It really is. With Crisis you get used to someone wanting to help you. Now I feel okay asking for help.

“Now I’m living in the second flat that Crisis found me. The first one was great for a stop gap, but it wasn't suitable for me long term because the area was affecting my mental wellbeing. When it got to the point that I couldn't deal with it myself anymore, I contacted Ryan and asked if he could help me. He said ‘Yes’ straight away and again quickly found me a place that really suits me. I now live almost in the middle of nowhere, which is nice, it's peaceful.”

A new job

“The big thing I needed was full-time employment. I was trying my hardest, applying for everything, but not having much luck. I had big gaps in employment because of homelessness. Not being from the area meant I had no connections.

“Then my lead worker, Ryan, got in touch and said that they’d got a company starting that Crisis had signed up as partners that focuses on employing and supporting people who've been homeless. I sent a CV.”

Ben got the job at Labre’s Hope, a social enterprise that makes soap. “We make high-end, handcrafted stuff.

“It's nice that this is a very busy place. There's always stuff going on and people having a laugh. This place has been a big self-esteem boost.” Labre’s Hope also provides ongoing wellbeing support in partnership with Crisis.

Ben was originally a soap artist in the workshop but has now been given extra supervisory responsibilities. “I've also been taking on extra learning around supporting people with their mental health needs. I’ve recently been trying to learn some more about people who might be dealing with learning difficulties so that I can better help the people coming through the system who are coming out of possible long-term unemployment.”

Breaking down barriers

“There's no reason for people to be homeless. We have the money, we have the properties, we have the resources, but we choose not to allocate them to people that need them. These stereotypes are so prevalent that get passed on from one generation to the other without really any change. So many social barriers have been broken down and stereotypes have been challenged over my lifetime. This one has stayed the same.

“A lot of people have been unemployed for a long time because once you're out of the system, you're out. Society doesn't want you at that point. You're on the fringes and getting back in is hard and it can take a very long time. If I can make it easier for people, if I can help build them up, that's what I want to do because that's what Crisis has done for me.”

By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.