Back from the brink: Kevin's story
Financial disasters and family tragedies left Kevin homeless and helpless. But with a determination to rebuild his life, and the generosity of strangers, he is on course towards a brighter future
Nothing prepares you for becoming homeless. Years ago, growing up in Scotland, I would walk past rough sleepers and feel sorry for them, never imagining for a moment that I could end up in that position. One thing that life has taught me, is that it only takes one unfortunate circumstance to create a ripple effect of misfortune.
Before the financial crisis of 2008, I was running my own successful real estate business. Life was good – I had a nice car, and owned several houses. However, 2008 was a really tough year for the industry, and my business collapsed. I tried to stay afloat, using loans and credit cards to pay for things, but I was forced to admit defeat. In 2011, I declared myself officially bankrupt. Bailiffs came to take the car first, then eventually my home. I had nothing left.
After the bankruptcy, I struggled to find permanent work. I slept on the floor in my mum’s one-bedroom flat for the best part of a decade. I’d take the odd cash-in-hand job here and there, any driving work, or taxi work, to tide me over. My mum did the best she could for me, but she was a pensioner.
In 2014 I moved to Thailand for a fresh start, although I later realised that I was simply trying to run away from my problems. I ended up getting a job in a rehab clinic. It took my attention away from all of the material things missing in my life, and in their place, I found a renewed sense of focus and purpose.
As a recovering addict, this experience made me realise that I could pursue a career helping others, and that my destructive past could be used in a positive and productive way. Supporting others improved my self-esteem, and I started to see light at the end of the tunnel.
After my time in Thailand, I moved back to the UK in 2016 hoping to rebuild my life. I lived with my mum for a short time before deciding to move to London in search of better opportunities. Sadly, mum passed away shortly after I left. Her death really affected me, and I’m grateful that I didn’t let my past addictions catch up with me. I’d been clean since 2002, and I knew that alcohol could never help me, even if it felt tempting at times. I had a duty to myself to stay strong. Sadly, my two brothers were still battling their own addictions at the time, and I was unable to save them. Both of them passed away 18 months after our mother’s death. My life felt like a game of dominoes, one terrible thing happening after another.
After losing three members of my family, it seemed right to get away again, so I took a trip to the Philippines. It was there I met my partner, who later fell pregnant – I was so happy. Having my daughter felt like a second chance at life, and it’s given me renewed motivation to find stable work, and a home, so I can bring her and my partner to the UK. Our daughter is named Eileen, after my mother.
In March 2018, I returned to the UK with a renewed sense of purpose. But despite my best efforts, my life was still in a constant state of limbo – yo-yoing between hostels and overcrowded flats, with everything I owned bundled into one bag. I’d put in long days and work hard, but the work was never consistent.
When coronavirus hit the UK, I was working as a tour bus driver. Sadly, I lost my job when the tourism industry collapsed, and I struggled to find anything else. The casual work that I’d been so accustomed to getting no longer existed. Not only that, but the AA meetings that I regularly attended were also suspended due to restrictions. Having that support network was such a crutch for me, and once again, I felt that I was losing control of my future.
Usually at this point, I would have scrambled together every last penny and gone abroad to try to escape my problems. Except this time, I couldn’t. Coronavirus left me with no choice but to face my fears and problems head on which, in a funny way, was the best thing that could have happened to me. It meant that I finally sought help from my local council and admitted – for the first time in my life – that I was homeless. I admitted I needed help, and that I could no longer live my life in ‘survival’ mode. I wanted to be the best version of myself for my daughter, so this meant being honest about my situation.
After getting in touch with my local council, I was referred to social enterprise Beam, who said they could help me access training to get me back into work. For so many individuals like me, you have the drive to work, but financial barriers often mean that you stay stuck in an endless cycle of unemployment.
"The last decade has taught me that I can use every negative experience, and every obstacle in my life, to help others who are struggling with the same issues"
My caseworker at Beam helped me set up a profile on their website last summer. I managed to raise an incredible £4,254, which contributed towards my first month’s rent, transport, and training costs. In total, 234 strangers donated to my campaign, and sent me messages of encouragement. One supporter wrote: “Keep going, you can make it. You’ve got this far… the future is bright!” Another said: “Very proud of you for working to build a better life!” It feels amazing to know that these people, despite not knowing me personally, want the best for me.
Becoming a support worker is my ultimate goal. I feel at my best when helping others. However, I’m currently working as a minibus driver for disabled children, which is allowing me to have an income while I continue my training. The last decade has taught me that I can use every negative experience, and every obstacle, to help others who are struggling with the same issues.
For me, I found it difficult to swallow my pride and ask for help. However, there are so many great organisations and people out there that you can turn to, and with their help, and your own hard work, you can get back on track. While nothing can prepare you for being homeless, there is always help if you’re willing to look for it.
Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr says:
Kevin has certainly had his share of challenges. What’s interesting is that despite it taking the pandemic to truly face his fears, throughout his whole story he’s sought out opportunities – working hard, dealing with addiction, and building relationships. What is striking is that at the time, he felt as though he had to do to all himself. But a real turning point came when he realised that there is no shame in reaching out. Allowing others to help us on our journey means that we can go on help others, too. It enables us to become stronger, with more insight than ever.
To connect with a counsellor for support, or to learn more about navigating addiction or bereavement, visit counselling-directory.org.uk