"Now I realise what happiness is." - Mark's Story
Mark came to HARP after being homeless for eight years. He was squatting and sofa-surfing to avoid sleeping on the streets and coping with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. Mark has now moved into his new home after staying with HARP for over a year and a half.
“Without help from HARP, I’d still be bouncing about, rough sleeping, sofa surfing and sleeping here, there and everywhere,” said Mark. “Life would be rough and getting rougher. I was getting really tired of it all.”
The HARP team supported Mark with his Universal Credit claim, arranged GP appointments and counselling sessions, and assisted him with paperwork and telephone calls. Marks keyworker also attended his appointments which helped with his anxiety. She also acted as an advocate for him so that he could get his point across.
“The best thing about the support at HARP is my keyworker, Ruth, having one-to-one support every week and knowing I could come to staff for any help,” said Mark. “I liked the fact that when I closed my bedroom door, I had privacy, and the counselling HARP arranged really helped me.”
With HARP’s support, Mark has now moved into his own home. This is a big step for Mark, and although a challenging experience, Mark is determined to learn the skills to live alone.
“It feels absolutely great to get my own place after so long,” said Mark. “I was worried I would feel lonely after being in communal living but, I now realise what happiness is. I go out, have a walk, and come home to my own place. That is happiness!”
HARP staff continue to support Mark while he gets used to living independently, helping him with his post, bills, making phone calls and assisting with budgeting. Mark knows that he can contact HARP for help whenever he needs it.
Mark’s Keyworker, Ruth, couldn’t help but sing Mark’s praises.
“Mark is such an inspiration to the work I do for HARP. He makes my job so rewarding and worthwhile. It truly has been uplifting for me to see how he has transformed and turned his life around,” said Ruth. “The icing on the cake was when Mark’s son made contact. He now sees his family regularly. Seeing photos of Mark cuddling his grandchildren melts my heart.”
Mark says his hope for the future is simply to have a fresh start. He looks forward to coming out of the pandemic and living a happy life.
“Having my forever home now feels like I’ve made a New Year’s resolution that has come true. I feel really hopeful, and I haven’t felt this hopeful about the future in forever.” said Mark.
Ruth recently caught up with Mark who has now been given a secure tenancy on his place.
"Mark moved into a South Essex Homes property where the tenancies start off unsecure. Providing all goes well, after a year you are given a secure tenancy. Mark has just been given his secure tenancy on his place and he is over the moon!"
“I could be a poster boy for HARP. They have done so much for me. I’ve really turned my life around, and I will be forever grateful.” said Mark.
This is part of our series Two Charities, 20 Years, 20 Stories, celebrating the joint 20th anniversaries of Essex homelessness charities - HARP in Southend and CHESS Homeless in Chelmsford. To read more, visit the Two Charities, 20 Years, 20 Stories Hub.
And don't forget - we're not just celebrating the past, we're also looking to the future. You can give blue skies and bright futures to local people experiencing homelessness by supporting our Bluebird Appeal.