As we welcome participants to our eighteenth Employment Preparation Programme, we share with you some of their experiences. We want to highlight how real the issues faced by those affected by homelessness are; how our participants come to join our programme and demonstrate the ways in which our Employment Academy provides the support and training necessary to get people back into lasting, good work


Paul’s Story…


Before Covid-19, I was a commis chef working in a pub in South London – where I also lived upstairs. I lost my job during lockdown as the pub had to close its doors. Unfortunately, it also meant I lost my accommodation. I suddenly became homeless which was a very scary reality. I got a sleeping bag and found somewhere to bed down – I thought that sleeping in front of a church would be safe…I was wrong. For about two weeks, I stayed in the same spot and encountered people facing issues I had previously only read about: drugs, prostitution and crime were all around me. The day times were safe, and the sound of the church bell kept me in tune to what time of day it was.

Loneliness crept in pretty quickly; I was occasionally approached by other homeless people who were seemingly trying to find out what I had and whether I could give them anything. I had a bag of clothes stolen and someone tried to steal the shoes off my feet as I slept. Going to the bathroom was always an issue – it was lockdown, nothing was open. My phone lost battery and I did not have anywhere to charge it. I spent every night freezing and shivering under my sleeping bag, and I did not know when this nightmare was going to end. I felt like screaming every night.

One night a person from a homeless outreach team found me, and after a brief conversation at 3am in the morning, I was taken to hospital. It materialised that I had caught the Covid-19 virus, and I was then quarantined for two weeks. After my time in hospital, I was moved into a hostel. This was better than being on the street, but it came with its own issues. I felt that I had to get back to being myself, and in a direction that I wanted to go.

I was told about the House of St Barnabas and a support worker sent in a referral on my behalf. I started to look on the House’s website and was very interested by the blogs written by the participants of the Employment Preparation Programme, and its’ graduates. I really felt that the House was the right place for me to be right now, so nervously – I attended a recruitment day where I met some amazing people. I had a lot of anxiety on the day, but this slowly went away, and I decided to apply for the programme. After an interview, I was happy to receive a call from Brian offering me a place. This was my chance to make a fresh start.

I have since completed the first two weeks of the programme, and I already feel like a new man. I feel more able to deal with the future due to the support around me, and by spending time with my fellow, wonderful participants. I will be carrying out my work experience in the House’s kitchen; I am so excited to put on the uniform and get stuck in!

It’s been a wonderful experience meeting the team at the House – to be trained by Jennie Carr and all the lovely, friendly staff members and facilitators. I love coming into the House and being part of the group. Every day, I feel more confident; stronger, and more focused. I am trying my best to put the trauma of being homeless behind me, and I look forward to being employed as a chef again, with the encouragement of the Employment Preparation Programme at the House.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point and thank you for reading my blog.

We work to provide people with the support and training they need to find lasting paid employment. To find out more about our Employment Preparation Programme, head here.