Manchester man changes his life after sleeping rough in Brighton Brighton News

A MAN who was left homeless after losing his job and breaking up with his partner says he can’t wait to have his own front door again after turning his life around for the second time.

Paul Agnew, 50, was a full-time scaffolder after falling into the wrong crowd, experimenting with drug use and serving 20 months in prison for counterfeiting banknotes.

He said: “I’m not proud of it and when I was released I thought ‘no more jail’. I moved in with my mother Yvonne and found work.

However, his mother – the “rock of the family” died, his relationship with his partner began to crumble, and he found himself using drugs.

He said: “Although I was working full time, it was a job that brought money. I took my daily salary and went out in the evening, where I started using drugs again.

“There were a lot of arguments with my partner. We weren’t good for each other and I was faced with a choice: either stay and let things get worse, or leave.

Paul chose to separate from his partner, but soon after his employer moved to Australia. Although he was offered to accompany her, he was unable to do so due to his criminal record.

He explained that his situation had become too difficult where he lived in Manchester and last August he took a train with a small bag to Brighton and pitched a tent outside a seaside hotel and lived there for six weeks.

He said: “It was scary, but almost straight away I found someone else who was living on the streets and told them about the support available.

“Everyone thinks people who end up on the streets are miserable, but we all take care of each other.”

“Down in the dumps for something to look forward to”

Local social workers directed Paul to a day center where he could shower, find food and wash his clothes, where he went every morning to stay clean.

It was there that he found St Mungo’s, a charity that works with the homeless, who offered him a room in a town centre.

Paul said: “I finally had a roof over my head and a safe space to recover. I stopped using drugs and they helped me find my bearings. I was able to reconnect with my family, apply for the right benefits, and find longer-term housing options.

“I went from being in the dumps to having something in life to look forward to again.”

Paul became a customer representative for the service, helping others settle and encouraging vaccination against Covid-19 amid low turnout among the homeless.

Through 207 services, St Mungo’s supported over 31,600 people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness last year.

“It can happen to anyone”

The Argus: Paul, right, with St Mungo worker Dominic LesterPaul, right, with St Mungo worker Dominic Lester

Dominic Lester, assessment and reconnection officer at St Mungo’s in Brighton, said Paul’s experience reveals how close people can be to finding themselves in the same situation.

He said: “Particularly in today’s world and in the current situation, we are all just a paycheck away from being homeless.

“A lot of people have preconceptions about homelessness, but it could be anyone.”

Dominic also said the government needed to do more to support people who were in Paul’s position.

“At the start of the pandemic, the government had a very good opportunity to review the way homeless services were run in this country and the cause and effect of sleeping rough.

“It was dropped pretty quickly and it became clear that there really wasn’t a long-term strategy for homelessness.”

‘Stronger than ever’

With help from the charity, Paul has secured accommodation in Manchester and is now looking forward to getting back to work.

The Argus: Paul's tattoo with the words Paul’s tattoo with the words “refuse to sink” – a motto he applies to his life

He said, “I will have my own apartment and I want to go back to work.

“There’s a tattoo on my arm of a ship’s anchor with the words ‘Refuse To Sink’.

“This is the motto I apply to my life; I was depressed, but I didn’t give up. Now I’m back and stronger than ever.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-07 05:00:00

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