Tom* was a resident at the Nightshelter around four years ago. After struggling with his addiction issues and seeking the Nightshelter’s help to get his life back on track, Tom has now happily settled in a new home away from Winchester and become involved in setting up a homelessness project, to help others experiencing the same problems.

“I’m often asked what the pivotal moment in changing my life was – I believe there are a few so far – but my experience with the Nightshelter was a huge one. I learnt many things while staying with you – many of which I didn’t realise I was learning at the time. The biggest thing was that you made sure you didn’t make any changes FOR me, rather left me to realise it was ONLY me that could do that. It helped me learn how to be responsible. While you offered exactly what was needed, you also gave me self-empowerment and that is what I took away with me. Homelessness can all so often involve running from your pain instead of facing it. I needed structure and boundaries in what was an otherwise chaotic and irresponsible life. I also learnt to take opportunities! I volunteered at the Cathedral. I volunteered at the Great Hall. And that, by the way was one of the pivotal moments… After you offered me a bed, I applied to volunteer with the local council. I got some smart clothes from the basics bank and attended an interview. On the form, for the address, I didn’t put “Nightshelter” – I put the building’s address. And I began. All day I could do a real job which helped me to have purpose and identify myself. And gave me confidence. Nobody there realised that at 6pm, I’d be returning to the Nightshelter for dinner and a comfy bed.

“After a few months, it felt right to explain my situation to the manager who interviewed me. I wanted to express how thankful I was. What she said has stuck with me ever since – she said she recognised the building address on the interview form all along – but never mentioned it. To me, what that meant was she had given me a chance and believed in me. Maybe she saw that I believed in myself, but was scared of it? I don’t know. But she knew where I was, and she didn’t judge. And that is exactly the same attitude I learned from the Nightshelter. I had a listening ear and compassion, and a subtly increasing sense of responsibility which began to bloom. And still is.

“I’ve been able to beat my addiction issues for now, and for the last six months, I have been supporting the homeless where I now live. I thought EVERY town had a Nightshelter like yours, but actually, here they have never had one, and the lessons you taught me have proved invaluable for setting up the local shelter project. This former resident of yours has actually stood in front of councillors here at a town hall meeting and expressed all of the above, which helped the decision to fund the project. Never thought I’d do that! So thank you – I will remain forever grateful.”

*names have been changed

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