A 74-year-old man who had been sleeping rough outside a Wellingborough shopping centre now has a home to call his own thanks to the extraordinary efforts of staff from a local estate agency.
Richard Jackson, who was regularly attacked while sleeping in the town centre, says he cannot thank enough the team from William H Brown who have fought his case for him and made sure he now has a warm one-bed flat to call his own.
The pensioner, who has a number of health conditions including angina and chronic pulmonary disease, had become homeless in November after being evicted from his flat.
He was sleeping in the roving night shelter which runs five nights a week, but many nights he had been outside in the sleet and rain and one night was threatened with a nine-inch blade.
Wellingborough Council, which runs the housing service, provided him with emergency shelter during the nights the council’s severe cold weather protocol was in operation.
Once that came to an end he was able to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights until his money ran out, then he was back to sleeping rough again.
W H Brown staff stepped in to help after he went into their branch in January.
Lettings manager Violeta Pali said: “When he came in and sat down we were heartbroken. I just thought, ‘what are we going to do to help him?’
“This flat was becoming vacant and so I knew we had somewhere that he could go to.”
But Violeta and her colleagues faced an uphill battle to get the housing department and social services into action.
Violeta says she and colleague Georgijs Levins sent countless emails and made numerous phone calls to the relevant agencies. They attended meetings with Wellingborough Council and have filled in paperwork to ensure Richard can get the financial support he needs.
She said: “I told them: “‘How can you not help this person? He is a 74-year-old man and should be looked after.
“I have had sleepless nights worrying about him. If my dad was to sleep out on the streets like that and nobody had helped him I would have been so mad.”
At the start of February Richard tried to kill himself after giving up hope of getting anywhere to live.
He said: “When Violeta found out she shouted at me and said ‘don’t you ever try that again. There are people that care about you’.”
Last week, after providing three nights of emergency accommodation, Wellingborough Council paid a deposit and first month’s rent for the flat and Richard moved into his place on Friday (Feb 15).
William H Brown administrator Courtney Bird went to find Richard on the streets at his usual daytime place outside Nationwide in Market Street to tell him the good news.
She took him down to the flat and helped him move in.
She said: “He was singing as he was going up the stairs. We are so pleased for him.”
Richard, who helped for many years as a volunteer driver for Shopmobility, is very emotional about the help he has received.
He said: “Violetta is an angel and I can’t thank everyone enough for all they have done.
“The flat is beautiful and I’m now feeling hopeful. I feel like I could live to reach 100.”
Violetta has arranged with social services that he has a cleaner come in once a week and she is going to help him furnish his flat.
She said: “I’m always going to keep an eye on him. We will make sure he will settle in quickly.”
The estate agency in Sheep Street has not charged for any of the work it has done.
Richard had also been helped by volunteers from the Wellingborough Homeless Centre, especially Wendy Steele. She says the council should employ an outreach worker to help the growing number of rough sleepers in the town.
A spokesman for Wellingborough Council said the authority’ is committed to providing housing assistance and advice for all residents and the housing options team works very closely with its partners to review individual cases to provide support and offer guidance.
Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter