A snapshot of life at the hostel from the Friends archives. All names have been changed to ensure anonymity
People don’t become homeless because they lose their door keys but because of deep rooted problems that take more than just a hot meal and a bed for the night to sort out.
We hope that from the day someone crosses the threshold into we can begin the healing process addressing issues such as addiction and mental health by finding the expertise they need.
Over the years I have had a number of opportunities to join residents for a chat and hear their stories.
Most are willing to talk about their experience and how much they value the shelter and base provided. The vast majority have local roots, none more so than Tony and Jim who 25 years previously were friends at a Torquay school. Tony had moved to Southampton and lived there for years with his family but a break up sparked a personal crisis. So many of the men we help are battling depression and loneliness sparked by some upheaval in their lives.
That is why all of us, now matter how secure we may feel, may one day find ourselves in exactly the same position.
His friend Jim had never left Torbay, his ex-partner and three children still live in Hele, but the huge problem in Jim’s life was heroin addiction. He told me: “I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think about is where can I get a tenner for a fix. I even stole from my own family. Prison is the only way out of it – you can do your detox in there.”
Jim longs for rehabilitation but there is a long wait for the professional help that he will need.
It is estimated that 65 per cent of people sleeping rough have drug addictions.
Bill is battling alcohol addiction. The 46-year-old plumber was married with kids but six years ago his relationship ended.
This year he has had to deal with the death of both his brother and sister
Bill said: “The last six years have been vacant, I’ve spent four years sleeping rough. This place is brilliant.”
Ian, aged 48, had lived in Torbay for 20 years and was a hotel worker including many years at the Belgrave on Torquay sea front. How did he find himself here?
“I got kicked out of my flat for owing one week’s rent,” he told me. “The landlord threw all my gear away including the TV and video.” I slight man he seemed easily intimidated.
“I’m trying for jobs but they don’t like it that I have a Factory Row address. I’ve got experience but they are not interested.”
A lot of hostility is directed against the hostel and its residents. Despite their vulnerability the homeless are constant targets for insults and attacks which only deepens their sense of isolation and undermines self esteem.
Chris, 26, had first stayed at the hostel in 1996. He’d found his feet and for four years lived in a Paignton flat with his girlfriend. When the relationship turned sour he’d returned to Wales to live with his parents, but that didn’t turn out either. Homeless again, he remembered the love and support he’d found at Factory Row.
A place in time of trouble – we all need them.
John, a quiet young man, spent four days trying to get into the hostel before a bed had become available. More people sleep rough on the streets of Torbay every night than are ever accommodated in the hostel.
Boredom is the biggest enemy for so many of our residents and we spent time talking about all the things we could do if only….
The work of Factory Row draws its strength from so many local churches and individuals inspired by the teaching of Jesus to love thy neighbour as thyself. It is fellowship that needs love and prayers. Torbay’s Christian community does not “pass by on the other side” in the face of the homeless crisis on our streets – it supports the Factory Row Centre.