Homelessness – it can happen to anybody

Our Homeless Project offers empathy and practical support to those homeless and vulnerable.

We started the Windsor Homeless Project in 2009 following the death of a homeless man in the town. Patrick O’Leary died in Windsor from cold and lack of care. The project was set up to prevent this happening again, by providing food and somewhere warm to go, especially during the cold winter months. Since then, the Project has developed in different ways, and we now provide a four times weekly drop-in centre where our guests can get hot food, a shower, friendship and advice. Our aims are to find solutions to homelessness, both by helping guests to access housing and through counselling and practical help. We also aim to help those at risk of homelessness stay in their homes.

The Homeless Project support those with strong connections to the town, and caters for individual needs. We can help our guests engage with local agencies and services, and can support them along an often difficult journey back into housing, when they can begin to build a normal life and develop a sense of purpose and self worth. In addition we give mentoring and support with setting up home; tenancy sustainment; financial management; health issues; and job seeking.

Becoming homeless can happen to all of us. Here are some stories homeless people told us:

I was married for ten years. I had a house in Datchet and worked for a security firm. It didn’t work out and after that I had a number of different partners,. I was in the army and fought in the Falklands War. When I came out it it was hard to get used to normal life. I started drinking and everything went downhill. The drinking has affected my health and I had to have an operation recently for a stomach abscess. I must admit I don’t eat properly. I am on my own now and sometimes I just can’t be bothered. Also my son died when he was 21. I still haven’t got over that.

I was working for fifteen years as a mechanic in the racing car industry. I had my own business and bought a lovely home. When the recession came I lost a lot of business and was unable to pay the mortgage. At the same time I was going through a divorce and my life fell apart. I lost the house, my marriage and my kids. To numb the pain I started to drink heavily. At the moment I am living in a car. The council won’t house me because I am not “vulnerable”, so I have to look for a privately rented accommodation, but very few landlords will accept people on DSS. My only option is to look for work, but I’ve been quite depressed lately and it’s hard to find the motivation.

When I was younger I had work as an AV engineer. I lived with my partner. She died and after that I got depressed and stopped caring about life. I started doing alcohol and cocaine, and got into arguments with the customers about late payment. Since I have been homeless I have done shoplifting and got in trouble with the police quite a bit. I have been to prison several times. Recently I have had an operation and am in quite a lot of pain. I have to claim for ESA because I am not fit for work. Filling in the forms is really hard. My mum still loves me but I can’t live with her because she can’t cope with what I am doing any more.

Since the start of the project, we have helped people moving back to a normal life. Here are the “happy ends” from some of our guests:

I have been going to the project since it opened, they helped me get a house and find furniture and everything I needed. I am very happy there. At the moment I am on a Community Work Placement, doing gardening in a park. Hopefully it will lead to a permanent job.

“I started drinking when I was a teenager and then began to do weed. The crowd I hung out with were doing cocaine and I soon got into that and then heroin.  I was in a relationship and had two children. After my second son was born my relationship broke up. I was on benefits and started shoplifting to support my habit. I ended up in prison and I lost my home and my children who are now being looked after by their father. When I came out I was destitute and went along to the Homeless Project for help. I gradually stopped drinking and got help from SMART for my heroin habit. At the Project they helped me with practical things including moving in to a new home. I am now working for a cleaning company and have just been offered a supervision post.”

Fundraising news:-

  • In February 2016, forty three people slept out under the stars in Windsor, in aid of the Project. The event raised a fantastic £14,000! We are already planning the next SleepOut, which will be in March 2017.
  • Our Head of Community Liaison, Jane Deakin, raised over £500 in July 2016 for the Project from her paraglide flight from the top of Penkenberg mountain, near Mayrhofen in Austria.
  • We are holding a Community Project Week from Monday 26th September to Sunday 2nd October 2016, during which time we are asking Windsor businesses to do something to raise money for the Project. We already have great support from many members of the local community, and are looking to expand this support during the Community Project Week.
 Homeless Project sleep out
The volunteers were entertained before they got ready to sleep out in their boxes!
Sleep out pic
Our Head of Community Liaison Jane Deakin on her daring paraglide flight from the top of Penkenberg mountain, in Austria – all in aid of Windsor Homeless Project.
Jane Deakins jump

 

The Homeless Project operates under the umbrella of Windsor Christian Action (WCA), the local charity operating social action projects in Windsor Town centre. We are supported by the local churches, and several local organisations including the Michael Shanley Foundation, Pret A Manger, Radian Housing, Prince Philip Trust, Windsor & Maidenhead Christian Trust, RBWM, Thames Valley Police, and the Edith Murphy Foundation, Leicester.

Where to find us

Windsor Baptist Church (entrance in Russell Street) 12:30-2:30 Mon & Wed, and Friday.

St. Stephens Church, Vansittart Road: 12:30-2:00 Sat.

Ways to support us

  • Become a volunteer: This involves serving food, talking to guests, and clearing up afterwards (please email wcahomeless@gmail.com for more details)
  • Donate clothes: Anything warm/waterproof/hard-wearing.
  • Donate food: Tinned or packet soups and tinned vegetables.
  • Donate toiletries: Disposable razors (with at least two blades), shaving foam, shampoo, shower gel, soap, …
  • Donate new underwear & thermals: Men’s boxers in M or L and women’s briefs in size S or M.
  • Donate financially: Money given by individuals is used to buy food for hot meals; coffee and tea and other supplies.
  • You can become a member of WCA: Your annual gift of £20 (individual) or £50 (corporate) will help us support a Windsor resident back into settled living. You will receive a quarterly newsletter from us and an invitation to take part in the AGM.

How to contact us

Pop in and have a chat! we are at:- Windsor Baptist Church, Victoria Street, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1EH

Email: wcahomeless@gmail.com
Text: 07807 603836

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