By Winter Johnson
While Brett may love the occasional Stella Artois with his friends and a spot of fishing, his real passion lies in a hard day’s work. In fact, he was at work on a warm afternoon when he took a break to tell us how his life has changed since connecting with Two Step.
‘I’m grateful for the help I’ve received from Two Step. If I never had the help, I never would’ve got back to work,’ he said with the wide smile that he is known for. He described his experience prior to coming to Two Step as ‘chasing your tail,’ because he couldn’t get a job without an address, and he couldn’t get accommodation without a job and income.
If you’re looking for Brett these days, you’ll find him on construction sites in Southeast London — dressed in protective gear and his favourite Dewalt work boots — recladding buildings and doing steel metalwork.
Or you may find him revising for the CCCS Supervisors’ course (his next goal) that will allow him to be the main sign off on the many construction sites that he works on throughout London. But one place you probably won’t find him is at home – he loves to work so much that he even uses bank holidays to get extra pay at work.
Even though he is busy and loving it, he takes time every day to speak to people experiencing homelessness. From his own experience and his talks with others, he cautions us against thinking that homelessness is a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.
‘Some people say, “homelessness is homelessness”, but that isn’t true. Some of the people who are on the street are not actually homeless, they may just ask for money and go home,’ he said. ‘But people who are truly homeless — their face will tell you everything. People who are truly homeless don’t want to look at you. They will try to hide.’
Brett was among the ‘hidden homeless’ according to Rob Payne, director of homeless services for HOPE worldwide. Even though he was sleeping in his van during plunging temperatures in winter 2017, he didn’t want anyone to know. He took pride in keeping himself ‘clean and tidy’ as he says, and only approached a local homelessness charity (FirmFoundation) when sleeping in the van became unbearable.
FirmFoundation referred him to Two Step, who quickly found him a flat in 2017, and provided him with the precious work boots that allowed him to return to his passion — working.
It was not only his work ethic that allowed Brett to have such a turnaround. It was also his attitude to persevere despite setbacks — such as not passing his Construction Skills Certification Scheme exam by just one point, after revising outside in freezing temperatures just to use someone else’s Wi-Fi. He tried again and passed in 2018.
‘People fail and don’t try again, but you have to go back out there and try again. A lot of people sit back and want things to be given to them,’ he said with a smile. ‘But if you want something bad enough you will go after it.’
As for the future, Brett isn’t planning on stopping at the supervisors’ course once he passes, because he says, ‘the sky is the limit’. But if he does take a moment to put his feet up, don’t interrupt him – he’ll be watching a documentary.
Click to watch Brett describe his battle with homelessness in London.
To learn more about Two Step, click here.