From the streets of Romford to a flat in Harold Hill: One Havering rough sleeper's story
PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 February 2019
After spending years living on the streets, former rough sleeper Hughie Carroll now has a place to call home.
He was previously sleeping on friends’ settees, or, sofa-surfing, as it’s commonly called. He’d sleep almost anywhere he could find a bed for the night, and hadn’t looked too much to the future.
The 64-year-old has always lived locally but his fortune changed when his marriage broke down 20 years ago. Suddenly finding himself homeless, he stayed with friends while working as a bricklayer.
After work, Hughie would hang out with friends or pass time in the library to keep warm.
When he couldn’t stay with friends, he would check into Havering’s night shelter where he would be provided with a hot meal, he could shave, shower and bed down for the night.
He would visit Romford’s Salvation Army which provides daily meals for the homeless and rough sleepers. He sometimes also headed to the Apostolic Church in North Street which provides hot meals on Saturdays until lunchtime.
His last residence was with a friend.
He said: “I asked if I could put my head down for a couple of weeks and I ended up staying for a year and half, but my friend had to move, so I had to leave.”
One night he said a woman, who he didn’t know, saw him on the streets and asked if he was homeless.
At first a little wary, Hughie didn’t divulge much information, but the woman, who turned out to be from London Street Rescue, which works alongside Havering Council, left her card.
After initially refusing help, Hughie contacted her the following day and he was put in touch with the Public Advice and Service Centre (PASC) in Romford town centre.
From there he was introduced to Havering’s rough sleepers’ team who took him under their wing. Things began to move more swiftly.
He was placed in accommodation in Harold Hill, where he still lives now.
“I have everything I need – a bed, shower, gas and electricity and fridge.”
Some people are known to miss the streets and the camaraderie that it brings, but Hughie said he is enjoying his current home.
“You don’t miss the cold. During the day it gets boring, because you have nothing else to do. When you’re at home you can put the telly on or go to your mates or do some shopping.
“On the streets you get fed up as every day starts looking the same and there is nothing to look forward to. You just want to sleep and get to the next day,” he said.
But what advice would he give to someone still on the streets?
“There are some people who don’t want to be helped and others who don’t know where to go, but there is help and support available at the Salvation Army or the PASC.”
During the coldest months, between December and March 31, the government operates a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) which means that when the temperature falls below 0c every local authority has to ensure that accommodation is made available to people sleeping rough in their area.
Councillor Joshua Chapman, Havering’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “There are many people out there who for one reason or another have found themselves homeless and they should not be without a roof over their heads this winter.
“In partnership with numerous agencies, the council is geared up to provide advice and support, as well as meals and accommodation.
“We have actively been seeking out rough sleepers to make them aware of this support.
“In addition, we regularly carry out night time counts so that we know who is on the streets to ensure adequate provisions are in place.”
If anyone sees someone rough sleeping, they can call Havering Council on 01708 432824 or 01708 433999, out of hours, or visit https://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20001/housing/331/rough_sleepers_in_havering or https://www.streetlink.org.uk/
If a member of the public wishes to support the homeless, they should give directly to the charities and organisations supporting them rather than to people begging who may already have accommodation and be receiving support.