Hostel saved my life

The Leonard Stocks centre is a life saver, just ask Ray Thake.  Only after he managed to get into the hostel after years or rough sleeping was a brain tumour identified by one of the doctors who regularly attends. Ray said: “He noticed a twitch on my right cheek. When they did the scans they identified a tumour in my brain.”

The operation to remove it was a success but Ray wasn’t out of the woods with cancer spreading to his face. “Then I needed the hostel even more, it was an open wound and if I’d ended up on the streets again it would have become infected and I would have lost more of my face.”

Ten years on and now living independently with a long-term partner, Ray can look back on those darkest days with deep gratitude to the staff. He is still under-going treatment but the future is bright.

Ray was brought up in Brixham, his parents ran the Burton Corner Stores and he went to Dartmouth Community College. His first job was working in a care home and he spent three years on a Brixham scalloper. 

Life began to unravel when he was punched in the face and he lost sight in one eye. Unemployed, he fell into traps of boredom, drug use and relationship breakdown.

Then his mother and step-father died suddenly and the main support in his life was gone.

Ray found himself rough sleeping, sleeping on friends’ floors, mood and physical health slowly deteriorating.

Ray said: “One of the outreach workers found me when I was sleeping in the Terrace car park in Torquay and got me in to the hostel. It was amazing. The staff are incredible. They talk to you as if you are family, they never make you feel less-of-a-person. I never felt unwanted, they give you time – quite a few of the staff have gone through their own situations”

Ray said the games and supper evenings organized by the Friends had been a real help. “We always had a laugh and they got me out of my room.”

Ray knows the hostel is sometimes blamed for anti-social behaviour in the town centre. He said: “It’s the people who hang around, not those living there. If people knew how good they are at helping people like me they would be less critical.”

The Friends of Factory Row was set up to support the residents of the Factory Row project, now the Leonard Stocks Centre, a homeless hostel in Torquay, Devon.

Its activities are wide-ranging and include fundraising, befriending work and contributing to the spiritual life of the hostel. We also support other projects working with homeless people in Torbay.

All money raised locally is spent locally.

An important area of its work is advocacy, providing speakers for any group which wants to hear about the work of the project and promoting its activities among the community through the local media.

There are over 100 members of the Friends of Factory Row. 

Membership is just £5 a year includes a newsletter with all the latest information of the work of The Friends.

To become a member and help support the project get in touch and support this vital work.