‘I slept on the streets after losing my job in Birmingham - but I turned my life around thanks to vital help’

We speak with a former Birmingham City Council worker who ended up sleeping on the streets after losing his job and becoming homeless
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Former council worker James was one of dozens of people who attended a homeless charity’s breakfast club on a grey and rainy Tuesday morning last week.

Queues of people of all ages were waiting patiently that day as a small army of volunteers from Let’s Feed Brum set up stalls outside Birmingham Cathedral and prepared to hand out hot food and other essentials.

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The charity holds evening walkabouts and weekly events in a bid to end Birmingham’s homelessness crisis – something James sadly had first-hand experience of until recently. Speaking at the breakfast club, he revealed he had been working with Birmingham City Council’s parks and gardens team until a string of bad luck left him living on the streets.

“I had a breakdown and lost my job,” he said.”I was in a really bad place. I felt lonely on the streets because people looked down on you. It was terrible. They [rough sleepers] are just people down on their luck,” he continued. “I knew so many people who had lost their properties through losing their jobs – it’s happening everywhere.”

The turning point in the ordeal came when James sought help from the volunteers at Let’s Feed Brum, who provide food, drink and essential supplies as well as a sense of community for many who are struggling.

“Slowly and surely, coming here to Let’s Feed Brum, they gave me the heart and courage that there’s better out there, that there’s help whether you need food or warm clothes,” he said. These things help people so much – I don’t think people appreciate how many people they actually help. If they weren’t here…it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

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He went on to say that the charity got him inside and helped him get a roof over his head, which made a huge difference. James, who is now off the streets and caring for his father, credits Let’s Feed Brum for helping him turn his life around. “I’m in a good place now,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in the position to look after my father without Let’s Feed Brum.”

James was living on the streets of Birmingham before receiving help from Let's Feed BrumJames was living on the streets of Birmingham before receiving help from Let's Feed Brum
James was living on the streets of Birmingham before receiving help from Let's Feed Brum

Speaking at Tuesday’s breakfast club, volunteer Alan Strang said the community and friendships the charity provides are hugely important in making sure support can be provided. “More important than any of the resources is the community that we create here,” he said. “It’s so important to be able to engage with people and signpost them to get support from specialist services.”

He continued: “We’ve got an amazing army of volunteers who do it for free and go out on the wet nights. Nobody needs to be out there. There is a solution for almost everybody but they need to be ready for help.

“They’re not always at that point when we engage which is why it’s so important that we’re 100 per cent consistent and there every night at the same time. They know where to find us.”

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A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said it was “working with partners towards a future where no one is sleeping rough on the streets of this city”. They continued: “We have been encouraged by progress in recent years that has seen a marked reduction in the number of people sleeping rough in the city and we’d like to thank the voluntary and community sector for the great work they do in this area.

“However, there is a national housing crisis and demand for accommodation in the city has never been higher”. They added: “There are currently over 23,000 households on the Housing Register in Birmingham – this includes nearly 5,000 households who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation. The shortage of accommodation is severely restricting what options we can offer to people in need and we know many people across the city are in difficult situations.”

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