Every homeless person has a story. This is the story of Mike n Milo (Mike’s cheeky Jack Russell).
Mike was referred to *West Berkshire’s Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) programme and explains how getting a little practical help has literally changed his life.
Mike said: “Three month ago, I had a tent and the clothes I stood up in.
“I’m from Somerset originally. I’d had issues with alcohol for many years and my family had fallen apart after my dad died.
“A friend offered me his boat to live in for a while and when he sold it, I stayed living on the canal in Newbury.
“People used to say that living on a boat must be idyllic, but it was in bad repair, absolutely boiling in summer and freezing in the winter.
“I’d tried to get a house and when I spoke to housing, they asked me if I had any local connections. That really struck a nerve and made me feel that I had failed because I had no connections at all.
“Before I met Andrew, I’d stayed at the West Berkshire Homeless shelter for a bit and was referred to MEAM by Healthwatch.
“When I got onto MEAM, I was pretty scared of the whole ‘system’.
“Anxiety is a symptom of my depression. I don’t like to go on a bus or train on my own, it makes me feel anxious. All the forms “I needed to fill in to be part of the ‘system’ were a nightmare for me and made me feel really stressed.
“But Andrew got his hands dirty and did what needed to be done. Without him, I’d be back in a tent or staring at four very damp walls.
“He helped me get a room a room at Two Saints and they made an exception and allowed Milo to stay too as he’s really not allowed to wayfare!
“Meryl from the Newbury Soup Kitchen got Milo on the Dog’s Trust ‘Hope’ programme so Milo now has his own ‘credit card’ for his vet bills and stuff like worming. This has helped so much as there was no way I could afford these things, but I’d be lost without Milo. He’s a great character and really good company.
“Things aren’t perfect, but we’re heading in the right direction. It’s warm, I’ve got a TV and Milo is with me. I sometimes go to Eight Bells, it’s good for socialising and spending time with people also makes me feel better.
“Andrew and the MEAM programme have really helped me, and I’m not the only one he’s helping, he’s working with a lot of homeless people in Newbury.
“I’ve been coming on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of months, my self-esteem is on the up and I’m hoping to get myself a job, maybe driving a delivery van or forklift truck.
“Like most people, I needed a hand to navigate the system. If you’re not a part of it, it can be scary and isolating. Having Andrew to help me with that has made all the difference and got me back on track. “
Andrew Granata, MEAM Co-ordinator at West Berkshire Council said, “I’m delighted to have been a part of Mike n Milo’s journey. Mike needed to rebuild trust with services, and taking time to build a trusting relationship with him was integral to this.
“Change can be overwhelming, but he knew I was there for him every step of the way, whether providing support in meetings or helping with paperwork. I helped him move forward at a pace he felt comfortable with and allowed him the freedom to speak his mind to me. We had some difficult sessions, and some emotional ones too where we both felt that we had made massive steps forward.
“With the support of all our dedicated MEAM and voluntary sector partners, it didn’t take long to guide Mike n Milo towards a brighter future.”
Hilary Cole, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Housing and Homelessness said: “This is a great story and a brilliant illustration of MEAM in action. It shows that simply reshaping our services where required to provide practical support where it is needed is making a real difference.”
Lindsey Finch, Chief Inspector, Thames Valley Police said: It’s really encouraging to see some practical success coming from the work that many have been doing in West Berkshire to tackle homelessness. Andrew’s role as the MEAM Co-ordinator enables him to challenge and work with lots of different teams and agencies to try to find ways through traditional red tape, and just try to do the right thing for those who have the most trouble with seeking or accepting support. There are more people like Mike out there (with or without a ‘Milo’!) who continue to need our joint support and encouragement, and as MEAM continues to progress, I hope that we get to hear more updates like Mike’s.”