“Hardship forces you to find yourself. You have to start from zero, from ground zero. It is a fresh start, like being born again.” I sit with Claudio in his new flat in Stamford Hill. He reflects on his journey that resulted in him becoming homeless for over two years. It was relationship breakdown that hit him hardest and he felt “if other people survive on the streets, why not me?” I ask what it was like to stay at the night shelter: “Finally being treated as a human being.”
Claudio was referred to the shelter by Crisis Skylight in November as Winter was drawing in. Being treated with dignity and respect is what he appreciated most from his time in the shelter. Claudio met with Tom and they realised that due to the rules of benefit entitlement, Claudio’s only way off the streets in the UK was to find employment. Claudio’s positive and enthusiastic attitude made him a good fit with the Pret a Manger apprenticeship scheme.
Apprenticeship at Pret: Claudio went for his interview in Victoria and described how he was shaky beforehand. He hadn’t been to an interview for a long time so was nervous, even though he had prepared as much as he could. He was successful and very soon he was serving coffees on the Strand! “Giuseppe [the manager at Pret] could see the person behind the ‘homeless person.’ He gave me an opportunity to see how well I can do.”
“The difference is like night and day. That is the difference between where I am at and six months ago.” Claudio has now passed six months at Pret and with the help of Crisis Skylight moved into a flat of his own. Everything is not perfect, but he is looking to the future. “I want to live for 200 years! I want to see my son and grandson and share my life experience with them. I want to do good and find a career.”
“Homeless does not mean hopeless. Being homeless is just a matter of circumstances. Everyone should focus on improving society.” Outside of his flat buses stop on the busy street. He jokes: “I can still see the bus stop, but I no longer need to sleep there!”