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Coming in from the cold

Posted on 16 December 2016

Sixty-four year old Lloyd Minto is an educated family guy with four daughters. A former teacher, he is a proud man with a twinkle in his eye and a wealth of life experience. So five years ago it was a huge shock when following a legal battle with a private landlord he ended up homeless.

Lloyd fell into arrears with his landlord after a dispute and eventually ended up in court where he lost his home and was ordered to settle the debt. Unable to do so, he ended up homeless and was eventually to come into contact with us through an initiative called the Clearing House, set up to support rough sleepers to find and sustain their own homes.

We have worked in partnership with the Clearing House, run by homeless charity St Mungo’s, for 25 years, helping people like Lloyd to find a home to call their own. Here he tells us his story...

“Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought that I would be homeless”, explains Lloyd. “I used to think that kind of thing could never happen to someone like me. Once you're homeless you carry a label and a stigma, people think you are out there because you want to be.”

“I lived in Brent at the time I lost my flat and spent most nights sleeping in my car. It was so cold at night, but I stored most of my things in the car so it was a lifesaver.”

Lloyd would sometimes use a shelter in Brent which was a church hall. “You could basically just get a sleeping bag and bed down for the night, but we had to leave by 8am so then I would be off looking for somewhere to wash and change. I would go to the local swimming pool sometimes, but it’s hard as you can’t go back to the same place to often as people don’t want you there.”

“I still carried on working at first. It was difficult as clearly you need to be clean and look right but I was reluctant to give up hope.” Lloyd’s pride kept him from moving in with family members who he says have their own lives, this included spending Christmas at the Crisis centre in London. “I didn’t want to burden my family, plus I was trying to get a home and having somewhere to stay would have put me back to square one on the waiting list.”

Lloyd sought help from various agencies and local authorities but felt as a single guy of a certain age there was a real lack of help out there. Nine months on the streets took a huge toll on him both physically and mentally.

“After a while it does affect you. I contemplated crime to get the money I needed to pay off my debts and I can see how people get so desperate it feels like the only route out. Even ending up in prison doesn’t seem that bad an alternative.

All I wanted was for someone to put their hand out and offer some help so I didn’t sink any further.”

Lloyd eventually came into contact with a service run by St Mungo’s called the Clearing House, which placed him on a waiting list for properties available under the Rough Sleepers initiative. The Clearing House matched him with a Hyde home and put him in touch with support worker, Joan Davidson from Thames Reach who works closely with Hyde supporting people housed from the Clearing House waiting list. Together with Pamela Dickenson from Hyde’s Empty Homes team they met with Lloyd to see if they could help him.

“I went to Hyde’s office in Lewisham to talk to them about finding a place and for the first time someone actually listened to me, no one had before. They could see my frustration; I‘m a proud man and it’s important to me to bathe and change my clothes regularly but I was getting to the point after nine months where I didn’t care and was wondering, what’s the point?”

In the end it was quite simple, Joan and Pamela were able to agree a payment plan for Lloyd to pay off his debt and begin the process of finding him a new home. There were complications with the first place not being quite ready but then a flat came up in Deptford.
That was four years ago now and Lloyd has been a Hyde resident ever since.

“Having a home makes you feel human,” he says. “When you don’t live anywhere you don’t feel human. My flat gave me a bit of normality, when I moved in it was like I’m back. Now I’m in my own home it’s so important to me. I like to watch sports, mess about on the computer and just make a cup of tea. Simple, every day things really.”

Lloyd’s time on the streets has left a lasting mark on his health and he suffers from a heart condition which has to be managed with medication. He is now looking to move to a ground floor flat where he can maintain his independence and continue enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Nevertheless he remains unfalteringly positive; “I feel lucky. Hyde and the Clearing House pointed me in the right direction. Meeting people that day who actually cared and took the time to listen to me was vital. No one was looking down on me and there were no animosity or raised voices, it was just a real conversation.  After that meeting I felt myself for the first time and it made me realise that I did have choices.”

See the video below about Lloyd and The Clearing House.