Guy Pope was just 17 when he found himself homeless. Now 21, he has turned his life around. He tells SARAH SINGLETON that there is help out there when you hit rock bottom — you just have to ask for it

ONE dark December night four years ago, Guy Pope, then 17, left home after yet another argument with his dad’s girlfriend and started sleeping on the street.

He says the memory of those few nights has become blurred with time, but he remembers how frightening it was, rough-sleeping in Swindon in the depths of winter, with only his clothes and a sleeping bag.

“It was cold and it was terrifying, not knowing what was going to happen,” he recalls. “I didn’t know if I was going to get attacked, or if it would rain on me while I was asleep.”

Thankfully those nights are far behind him, and Guy, now 21, can look on them, with the distance of time, as a turning point in his life.

From a situation where he had nothing, and no one, he has made his way out and finally has his own place, just started a work experience placement and believes in the possibility of security and a future.

“I have a home, and I hope to get a job soon,” he says. “I am happier than I have been in a very long time.”

Guy lives in a modest one-bedroom flat near the town centre, with his own small bathroom and kitchen. He moved into the flat in December, and says that while it is not too warm in winter, he is delighted to have his own space at last.

He has a four-week placement with Marks & Spencer, working in store operations, in the warehouse. Guy says he is enjoying the work, that his new colleagues are friendly and he is optimistic the company will offer him a job at the end of it.

Guy grew up in Swindon, but his life took a difficult turn he was about 13 and his parents split up. He was living with his mother at first, then moved in with his father, but conflict with his father’s girlfriend began to make things difficult. Finally, he was forced to leave the house.

After several days’ rough sleeping, a friend let him sleep on a sofa, and Guy went to the council for help.

He was interviewed to find out about his situation and given some emergency accommodation. Theshold Housing Link offered the teenager a place in one of its hostels. He was diagnosed with depression, but life was finally beginning to take a turn for the better.

He shared a home with between six and eight other people.

“At first I was a bit worried about what the other people would be like, though I was also extremely grateful to get in there,” he says. “But they were great people and we got on all right. After a couple of years it became like home.”

He said Threshold staff helped motivate him towards getting education and a job, and find his own place to live. Guy managed to continue his course at North Star College throughout his time rough sleeping and homelessness, a testament to his determination, and he gained an extended diploma in IT.

“I missed a couple of days, but I got all the work done,” he says. One tutor was particularly supportive of him through that difficult time, which he remembers with appreciation.

Eventually, Guy decided it was time to move into his own place and he applied through Swindon Borough Council’s Homebid scheme. He said he was lucky, as a suitable place came up for him within a couple of months, and at least he had a home.

“My relationship with my dad has improved since I moved out, though I only call him during the day when he’s at work,” he says. Sadly, he has not spoken to his mother for a couple of years.

“She has my number, but she still hasn’t phoned me,” he said. “But that’s water under the bridge now.”

Although several years have passed since his own dark time on the streets, Guy still stops and talks to the rough sleepers he sees and knows.

“It changed how I viewed homeless people,” he says. “I started chatting and having conversations with them. I think they are very grateful for someone to stop and talk with them.”

He said he realised it could happen to anyone, and as a result of his own experience, he volunteered to join Threshold’s annual sleep-out last year, at the Immanuel United Reformed Church, in Upham Road.

“If you are a young person who finds themselves homeless, go to the council as soon as possible and ask for help, even if it’s temporary,” he advises. “That’s got to be better than nothing.

“If you get into a good place, like I did, they can help kickstart your life by helping you into education or a job, and helping you stabilise your life.”

With a place to live, and the hope of a job, where would Guy like to be in five years’ time? Having come from such a difficult place, his aspirations are also modest.

“I would really like to be earning my own money, spending time with friends, being in my own place. That’s probably it,” he says.

Threshold is a local charity offering a variety of services to meet the needs of Swindon’s homeless community, including a Street Outreach Service, an emergency hostel, accommodation and supported resettlement schemes.

For more information on Threshold visit