Resourceful and Resilient
Posted on February 22nd, 2017 at 6:51PM
I was in Hastings in East Sussex this week where I had the privilege of meeting Mark, one of over 9,500 people who have been helped through Acts 435. I was delighted to be able to put a face to the name as I remember well his first Acts 435 request as it stood out as being something a bit different. It read as follows:
"Single man who was sharing a flat. Lost the flat share as lessee wanted to be on his own, and then lost his job as a bricklayer as he was off work for 3 months following operation for tennis elbow. Homeless & sleeping in local park- he has a sleeping bag but little else and has made a make shift shelter in woodland. Needs a lightweight tent, cooker and a second hand bike to get around on- £120 will provide all. Trying to stay away from the groups of homeless alcoholics and drug addicts in the town centre."
Mark is in his 50s and explained to me the problems with working as a bricklayer, not just when health problems come, but more generally with the difficulties of finding work in the winter months when not on a contract. It was clear to me that once he was dependent on ad hoc work, he was terribly vulnerable to what was out there and what the British weather was doing too! I loved the resourcefulness of that request - in order to keep away from the drug and alcohol scene in the town centre, he wanted to stay away in a park but with adequate protection. The addition of a bike to get to work, all for £120, indicated that the advocate too was showing resourcefulness and maximising the potential funds.
I was astonished to hear of how Mark had survived in his tent for nearly a year. It had given him some flexibility and at one point he moved to a project in Hampshire, found somewhere to pitch his tent, near the local swimming pool where he could get some exercise, get a shower, and then go and do his bricklaying. However, it was a tough period in his life (and not the only one either) and he needed to show great resilience to see it through.
The wonderful news when I met Mark was that at the start of this year he has now been helped by the local Salvation Army and Hastings Council and been able to get a flat. The Council helped with the deposit but all his spare money had gone on admin fees, rent up front and a mattress to sleep on. Mark shared with me how he had some basic furniture in storage, as well as some basic pots and pans and utensils, but had fallen behind on his payments and needed £164 to get them out. Acts 435 came to the rescue again this month with £120 and Mark was able to contribute the rest.
Mark was so grateful to Acts 435 and told me that "the support had been essential in turning life round for him". I love meeting those being helped through Acts 435 and it was particularly lovely to see the relationship between Mark and our Hastings advocate. This is what Acts 435 is all about - a resource that crucially runs alongside that wrap-around care that the church and others can provide for vulnerable people in need. This was not a hand-out. It was most definitely a hand-up alongside Mark's own determination to survive against the odds.