This is an extract from my diary of my walk for Crisis and where I set out to try and raise awareness for Homelessness in the UK
It was 8pm and we had completed our first day and first leg of our 60 miles on the Crisis - Walk to end Homelessness. We had just finished a lovely meal that was cooked by the all saints church in Sittingborne and then watched the movie ‘Cathy come Home’ this was for me as a film buff a treat although a harrowing film about the down wood spiral of a young couple who once had everything it showed step by step the pair of them ended up on the streets of a city with no home, no shelter and no warmth. Directed by Ken Loach I watched the despair of this couple of how within a few years they went from a happy couple with no cares in the world to a pair who society had forgotten. The film inspired the charity Shelter to form and also was the inspiration for Crisis to start 40 years ago and was a wakeup call and reminder for others of exactly why we were here and why we was on this walk to end homelessness.
Once finished we were giving our groups of who we would be walking with the next day and then we were told the names of the family’s we would be staying with that night. My name was read out along with Jeff Hubbard and I would be staying with a lady called Jayne. Shortly after a group of people came in and I quickly found Jayne who I would say was in her mid 60’s. I remember now her wide smile and a comfortable stance as we greeted each other and knew straight away we was going to get on.
I quickly found out who Jeff was as I hadn’t been introduced yet to everyone on the first day and was delighted to find out he was the guy that had been running while we walked between all our 4 groups taking pictures and was the official photographer of the walk. He must have done twice as many miles that we had done with all that running but he looked a fit man but I recalled thinking I prefer to take images underwater as I didn’t need to be as fit as him.
We walked (why not) to Jayne’s house about half a mile away and we talked about the architecture as we passed the Georgian buildings of Sittingborne until we reached her house. I remember thinking how lovely this person was to invite two total male strangers into her house after only a brief meeting and so minded my language and I and Jeff asked politely if we should take our shoes off as we entered her house and graciously entered her house.
Jayne made us feel at home and showed us to our rooms for the night I had a large double bed and Jayne asked if I wanted the electric blanket but her home was lovely and warm and not to put her to too much trouble I said no. After a lovely shower I went downstairs passing photos of her son and his passing out ceremony at Cambridge University to find Jeff sitting down with Jayne who had just poured herself a large Gin and offered us both a cold beer. Now because of some of the people on the walk were guests and some had alcohol related problems it was decided that alcohol was banned on the walk but with us been alone now I looked at Jeff and said I won’t say anything if he didn’t to which we all smiled. I told Jayne that I thought me and Jeff had hit the jackpot not only did we have a lovely bed each to sleep in cold beer and a warm home with a lovely host and we all sat down together for a chat which brings me to the point of this post
She asked me and Jeff why and what had wanted us to do the walk to which Jeff answered first but on hearing his reasons I found mine answer short in comparison as I was eager to know more from Jeff if he would be kind enough to share it. Jayne had also picked up on this and so we found ourselves listening to a Jeff for the next hour about his journey. Jeff had been a very successful business owner in New Zealand and wasn’t a stranger to expensive luxury holidays all over the world that was until he found himself in depression and went to Hawaii where he locked himself away from his friends and family for two years. His only contact was when he would venture out to the shops when he felt he could and get his groceries before going back to his rented home on the island and shutting that door and the world out behind it. It went on to tell us that after two years his money ran out and with his last amount of money he bought a ticket to London and this is where his story and rebirth began. He found himself homeless and after going to the local authorities who said they couldn’t help he found himself on the streets of Hackney but feared of been kicked in by youths in the night he moved his kit bag and all of his possessions and would sleep rough in the square mile after all the city workers had gone home for the day. It was quiet at night and although still sleeping rough he felt safer than in Hackney but after two months in January he started to lose all hope until he found the homeless charity ‘Crisis’ who helped him find shelter, warmth and he slowly started to get himself back on his feet. I was listening intently to his story and was saddened coming from a background to which this was alien to me but this is when he told us the most remarkable twist. Jeff had always had a love for photography and Crisis helped him explore this side of his talent. They took him on as there official photographer and he runs workshops from the skylight centre on Commercial Street and only last week was sent up to Liverpool to cover an event. He works and gets paid working on a weekly basis from Crisis and this man who I had only met a few hours before told me that shortly after been taking on by Crisis he was asked by the charity to photograph Prince William becoming the first ever member of the public to do so to which in turn his photographs were then published all over the world. I knew in that moment that CRISIS works it had done for Jeff and so many tens of thousands and I knew in that moment that anytime I could give to this charity and life line to so many people would be used wisely. The story inspired me and after hearing it I vowed that I would fight harder in the future and would never feel sorry for myself again and I have shared it with you in the hope it inspires you. We went to bed shortly after that and I was asleep in moments feeling warm after of course I put the electric blanket on.
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