Stephen Bray hostel resident

15 October 2018

Stephen Bray, 63, is a hostel resident at YMCA Surbiton and became homeless due to a combination of factors which included losing his job as a carer and a relationship break-up. He has been living at the hostel since March 2018.

Stephen lost his job in October 2017 and signed on, but an administrative error with his paperwork meant he received no income so he spent all his savings on rent. In the middle of January he faced homelessness as he discovered he would only be paid two weeks’ back money. “Trying to maintain a life on benefits is impossible. Everything you want to do is a decision about whether you want to eat.”

He has had a variety of jobs over the years, from working as a train guard, running an art gallery and managing a warehouse. His last job was working as a carer in Kingston for elderly people with dementia and disability. “I was dismissed from my job as a carer because I lost my home and spent one night sleeping on the office floor.”

Jobless and homeless, Stephen contacted Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) and was referred to YMCA by them.  He was devastated to find himself on the brink of homelessness. “Most of your friends don’t want to know, you’re not talking the same language as them. You’re in a different world.”

Stephen’s early life wasn’t plain sailing either. “I ran away the day before my 16th birthday. School bored me intensely, and I was a regular truant. I didn’t have a happy home life. My mother wasn’t married, and in the mid 50s that was a big thing. I was brought up by my grandmother and thought my mother was my big sister for years. I was a source of shame. It was a constant message.”

He is friends with his former partner Lisa and maintains a relationship with his 12 year old step daughter, Sophie. He also became a dad when he was 50 and has a 13-year-old daughter Rhiannon, although they are estranged. “I don’t have contact with my daughter anymore, but I’m hoping she will want to re-establish contact when she’s older. I left when she was five.”

Being a hostel resident

Coming from a care environment to live at YMCA was like a role reversal for Stephen. “A lot of people living here need a high level of care. One of my neighbours regards this as an institution – a prison even. But YMCA is a haven – you can make of this place what you need to.”

Stephen believes that YMCA could go further to support hostel residents, and should seek sponsorship with local IT companies. “The lack of general availability of computers and tech support in the hostel is capping people’s ability to connect with the outside world.”

Volunteering is something that Stephen is keen to do and his knowledge of London and his life experience is broad. “I would be keen on mentoring people who are in the hostels, particularly those who are new to London. I think voluntary work like this will be good for me and will help me to get a new job. I’m trying to get back into working in care and having a few interviews. I don’t want to be unemployed, I hate being inactive.”

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