The Power Of Friendship

“Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there…you’ve got a friend”Those words, originally penned by Carole King, are so relevant in these times of ‘social distancing’.

Sadly, many have suffered from loneliness as a result of having no one on the other end of the phone line. When a “Minister for Loneliness” was appointed back in 2018 to address the social isolation experienced by 9 million Brits, who could have imagined that a global pandemic a few years later would exacerbate the issue?Mother Theresa said that “the most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”. Today, those words ring all the more true.

People often think of poverty as a lack of resources, such as money or food. In reality, poverty of relationships and identity can be just as significant. Many are vulnerable to changes in their circumstances because they do not have a strong network of family or friends to help them in times of crisis. The following story illustrates the importance of those networks.

Charles’s story

Charles (32) has lived in the UK since he was young, but he found himself without a status here after he left school because his father had not processed his visas properly. He has been unable to work or study for the past 10 years. He became homeless after questions directed to his father about his mother (whom he never knew) led to arguments between them. His homelessness was ‘hidden’ as he was sofa surfing, and volunteering, playing football, and training helped him to cope through his homelessness.

He had first been referred to HOPE worldwide in March 2020 by a day centre partner. Sadly, we could not refer him to any hostels due to his pending visa situation. We left his case open and a night shelter partner supported his application for the Windrush Scheme. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, Charles ended up rough sleeping on the steps of St Mark’s Church where our ODAAT office is based since none of his friends could house him.

Feeling very alone, he called Daniela at Two Step. Whilst she still could not refer him to any hostels due to his pending visa, she felt compelled to do something. Daniela referred Charles to Street Link, and on the second night he was picked up by outreach and placed in an emergency hotel as part of the government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme. 

Still awaiting his visa, Charles feared he would remain in limbo. Daniela kept up with him periodically and encouraged him to engage with support provided at the hotel and from the solicitor. He was grateful to know that someone cared about his wellbeing and whether he was still alive. Charles finally received his visa in August 2020 and was granted permanent leave to remain. Still engaging with support from the hotel, he was soon accommodated in the part of London where he has connections. He expressed gratitude for the telephone support he received from Daniela at a time when he felt most vulnerable

As a Christian charity, we seek to bring about restoration, renewal and redemption from not just material poverty but poverty of relationships and identity too. We build upon trusted relationships by listening, empathising and understanding the challenges people face before exploring next steps. We want to empower people to make use of their strengths and resources so that they can work towards their aspirations with access to support if needed.

Two Step takes referrals from over 20 partners and typically helps around 20 people who are homeless to find housing every month. If we are unable to help people directly, we try to help people to access support from other organisations and support them relationally as best we can.

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