Rob Lowe, aged 38, is a recent guest at the Merton Winter Night Shelter and has been living at YMCA Wimbledon for the past 3 weeks. Struggling with recovery from alcohol and substance mis-use, Rob left his job as a scaffolder and broke up with his partner, leaving behind his 17 year old daughter and two sons aged 5 and 6. His descent into addiction was triggered by the suicide of his mother and the subsequent death of his father. “I just numbed the pain with cocaine and alcohol.”
He lived in his car while he was in rehab, but lost the car as the lease came to an end. He found himself living on the streets. “I was sleeping in car parks and at A&E at St George’s hospital until I got moved on, as well as sofa surfing,” he says. Friends’ goodwill understandably ran out though, and he found himself at the Winter Night Shelter seeking help.
Winter Night Shelter venues
“I spent 10 weeks with the Night Shelter, and I stayed at all the venues. All of them were great, with lovely volunteers but my favourites were the Synagogue and the Everyday Church,” says Rob. Keeping to his recovery plan has proved difficult for Rob while being homeless, but he has been determined to do it and it’s been nearly 6 months since he had drugs and 3 months since he had a drink, so he is very positive about the progress he’s making. He attends local AA meetings and has a sponsor and a 12 point plan in place.
The Merton Winter Night Shelter isn’t just about hot meals and a bed for the night. Volunteers and YMCA staff work hard to help their guests get back on their feet. Rob had lost all of his ID and bank cards and Nicki Zisman, the YMCA Night Shelter Co-ordinator helped him to sort this out. “Nicki was fantastic, within two weeks she had got me a replacement birth certificate, as well as an Oyster card so that I could get around,” says Rob.
The same guests tend to stay for a few weeks at the Night Shelter and Rob made some good friends whilst he was there, particularly a group of Polish guys who he intends to stay in touch with. It was these connections and the support that he received which was so important for Rob. “YMCA saved my life. If I had stayed on the streets, I would have had a relapse into drugs and alcohol, I know it. I can’t thank Nicki and her colleague Krysia enough for all that they have done for me.”