66-year-old Marcus was living in a car with his dog after being evicted. He went to Launchpad’s drop-in service for help and never looked back.
In 2017, Marcus and his dog, Ruby, were evicted from their flat in Whitley – a property he thought was going to be his forever home. With nowhere to go, Marcus and Ruby were forced to sleep in his car. “I didn’t have enough money for a deposit on another place but I did manage to get myself a lock up garage for my belongings,” Marcus explains. “I had a people carrier at the time, and it was big enough to sleep in so I parked outside the garage and that is where we stayed for weeks. It was the middle of winter and it was so cold. I was shivering.”
St Mungo’s outreach team found Marcus sleeping in his car, and offered him a place at Bed for the Night – a temporary night shelter scheme that opens in the winter and is run by local churches in Reading. They weren’t able to accept dogs so Ruby slept under a duvet in the people carrier while Marcus was able to stay warm and safe at the shelter, and he picked her up every morning for a walk and some food. After a month, the weather got milder and he returned to his car – although things would soon change.
Reaching out for help
“I was at an appointment at the benefits office and they told me I couldn’t carry on living like this. They said I should go and see the people at Launchpad because they could help me. By this time, it had been over four months since we were evicted and I was still living out of my car, which I had parked at a friend’s yard where I could use their electricity,” said Marcus. “I made my way to Launchpad’s drop-in and as I got to the stable doors and rang the bell, I remember thinking it was going to be a waste of my time. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. You walk in there and you are just put at ease. They were so helpful and supportive, and the nicest thing for me from all this is that they did not judge.”
After Marcus’ initial appointment, he was referred to the supported housing team so he could be assessed for one of Launchpad’s temporary homes. Within a couple of weeks, Marcus and Ruby had moved into a room in a shared house and Marcus was allocated a Launchpad support worker. “I got the call about the place and I was so pleased – we finally had a home. And the great thing is that Launchpad would accept Ruby as a tenant too,” Marcus said. “But what was even better is that just two months later, Costas, my support worker, told me a flat had become available for me and Ruby. I was shown this new place and it was amazing. Ruby loved it – it was wonderful taking her for walks down the canal.”
A unexpected challenge
However, an unfortunate accident in the summer of 2020 meant Marcus’ accommodation became unsuitable. “I fell over my coffee table and I knew I’d done something bad because I couldn’t even move to let the paramedics in. I did myself a really nasty groin injury which turned into a blood infection. Ruby died of an inoperable tumour a few months before and I was already at a real low ebb, so the fall really was my lowest point. I spent four and a half weeks in hospital – all during the pandemic – and had physio to try to walk more, and they gave me a stick. I had no clue how I was going to manage at home because there were 22 steps up to my front door.”
While Marcus was in hospital, Costas worked quickly to apply for sheltered housing so Marcus could live somewhere accessible. Costas secured a flat with Southern Housing Group and also applied for grants to purchase a fridge, cooker and washing machine for Marcus’ new home. Not long after Marcus was discharged from hospital, Launchpad’s removals team helped him transport his belongings to the flat and Costas assisted Marcus with setting up his council tax and utilities, and transferring benefits to his new address.
A new beginning
“I was in my hospital bed when I got a call from Costas about my new home and I was so low, I can’t tell you what a boost it was. I was given somewhere with a beautiful shared garden and a lift directly outside my front door so I can get around easily, and it was good to be going somewhere that didn’t remind me of Ruby too. Costas has done so much to help me – my debt of gratitude and his faith in me can never be repaid.
“I owe my survival to Launchpad to be honest – I don’t know where I’d be without them. I was in a hellhole, I was in a real bad place and it was just so lucky I found the charity and it lead me here. If you’re vulnerable and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn to, nowhere to live, and nowhere for support – well, you’ve got it all there in Friar Street behind those stable doors.”