December 16, 2019 @ 8:30 by Steven Hugill
A man who spent two years living on the North East’s streets has moved into his own place thanks to the support of a homelessness support worker and a financial advice company.
Durham-based Wealth of Advice was approached by Changing Lives assertive outreach worker Dawn Ward, who wanted advice to help a homeless man she was supporting.
The man, who is in his 60s, had been found living on the streets in County Durham, and as Dawn built up his trust, he began to disclose details about his past.
It transpired the man had worked for many years, however, because of a breakdown in a relationship which had a particularly bad effect on him, he ended up sleeping in his car.
Unfortunately, over time, the car’s tax and MOT had expired and he returned to it one day to find the vehicle – along with all his belongings which he kept with him – had been towed away and crushed.
During various meetings, the man also disclosed to Dawn that he had paid into more than one pension pot, however, because he had no address or identification, Dawn found tracking the money down a challenge.
Dawn, whose role sees her support homeless people across the County Durham area, said: “When I first met the gentleman, he was very reluctant to talk to me. However, over a period of five months, he built up a bond with me and then one day messaged me to tell me about the pension pots he had built up when he was working.
“I tried various routes to track down his pension based on the information he was able to give me, but I hit so many brick walls and nowhere seemed willing to help me until I spoke to Wealth of Advice.
“They took over the searches and were able to locate his money, which has been a life changer for him.
“He’s such a proud man and because of what’s happened in his past he does suffer with anxiety, so it has taken a while for him to be confident to move into his own house.
“Now he’s in and he is like a different person, although still very frugal with his money which is understandable after being homeless for two years.
“He has said he’s going to burn his sleeping bag though now he’s off the streets.”
Wealth of Advice, a family-run business specialising in retirement planning, helped the man secure a fixed income for the rest of his life.
Rachael Crook, from the company’s team, said: “We are really passionate about supporting charities in the area, and couldn’t be prouder that we’ve been able to team up with Dawn to help a homeless man into his own accommodation.
“It comes on the back of the support we’ve recently given to the Bringing Back a Smile charity, and we’re now looking at what other charity support we can offer next year, as it’s something we believe all businesses – which can – should do.”
Dawn’s role is funded by Durham County Council and sees her spend a lot of time on the streets looking for homeless people in need of help.
As well as help with things like GP appointments and emergency accommodation, Dawn also holds daily drop-in sessions at the Salvation Army in Durham city centre.