Hope after homelessness: Damian's journey with the Furniture Recycling Project
Christmas is just around the corner. It is 2022 and Damian Wakefield, his partner, two daughters and Ozzy, their cross German Shepherd have just been made homeless after privately renting for 15 years.
Damian’s landlord, who lived abroad, decided to sell his portfolio of properties at short notice, leaving Damian and his family homeless. They had to vacate the property in a matter of days and over the next six months will sleep on the floor of Damian’s father’s house.
“It was a massive shock to the system,” Damian recalls. “We had never been in that position before; we had never been homeless.”
Damian and his family were able to secure housing through Stockport Homes’ Temporary Accommodation Scheme operated by its charitable arm, SKylight. Once they were provided with long-term accommodation, they utilised the offering from another Stockport Homes Group service, the Furniture Recycling Project. The main function of the Project is to alleviate furniture poverty, the inability for a person or a family to procure essential items to live in comfort and dignity.
The Project had such a positive impact on Damian’s life that he was inspired to become a volunteer. Volunteering and meeting people in a similar situation to what he and his family endured was an eye-opening experience.
“There’s a lot of social stigmas attached to people being homeless,” Damian explains. “It's very easy to classify people in certain camps. But when you’re put in that position yourself through no fault of your own, it’s very strange how people change towards you. Even people close to you think you must be doing something wrong, or something must have happened that wasn’t your fault, or you didn’t provide.”
The stark reality that many people who rent privately in the UK are facing is that they could be made homeless at any moment. In an already saturated market, where the number of tenants requesting rental property viewings has risen by over 300% since 2019 (BBC) there are simply not enough rental properties available to meet demand. One option for people with nowhere else to go is temporary accommodation schemes like the one Damian’s family accessed at Stockport Homes, which supports an average of 143 families each month.
But even these options are limited. Geoff Binns, Head of Homelessness and Rehousing at Stockport Homes Group says, “The number of individuals and families needing to access our services due to homelessness continues to increase. We get up to 600 applications for each social housing tenancy becoming available in Stockport. We are proud to be able to offer what support we can but are aware that demand is growing rapidly. Even in the face of increased pressure, we are committed to continuing to provide the life-changing services we offer. Damian’s story is a great example of the wraparound support Stockport Homes Group delivers across the Borough.”
The Furniture Recycling Project and the other support services at Stockport Homes Group transformed Damian’s life. “I have a full-time job now through just giving something back and going through the journey. I would not have known this place existed had I not been made homeless. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change it. I’m glad that I came through what I’ve come through. It makes you stronger and it makes you see the other side of what can happen. Don’t take things for granted.”
If you are homeless or worried about becoming homeless, our homelessness webpage can provide you with some advice and where to get support.