Sam, Suzie and Rover

E. Smith Service user stories

I have been homeless on and off since I was 13 — I am from a very, very violent home. Now I’ve been sleeping on the streets or squatting for about 22 years. I slept in Piccadilly Circus, but made sure my wife Suzie never slept on the streets, so found squats. I really want to sort my life out now that Suzie is pregnant.

With our baby on the way, due in August, we want a normal life instead of moving every month in squats. That’s so stressful. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have an address. It’s getting harder to squat now — with the new laws you can only stay in non-residential buildings.

We started coming to the 999 Club in October 2015. The Police told us about it and when we walked past, we realised that was the place. We just saw the sign and came in. We’ll miss coming here. It was so difficult getting housing, because of the way I look, all my tattoos, people weren’t very friendly. Alison, the Advocacy and Advice manager at the 999 Club, is helping us with a house. She also helped us get our benefits up and going. Alison said it would be very hard to get a place in London — how would we feel about moving out of London? I didn’t want to move out of London as it’s my home, but with Suzie being pregnant, she needs a stable home, we can’t be bouncing from place to place.

Everything is looking up. We’ve seen pictures of the street we’ll be living one. It’s a 2-bedroom terraced house with a garden for Dover, our Siberian husky, who is my service dog for my epilepsy. With my epilepsy I black out and don’t know my name. I’ve woken up in really random places, so I carry all my emergency contact numbers with me.

I just heard in the West End that there’s now a £1,500 fine for sleeping rough, and if you’re caught with a dog, your dog is taken away. They assume if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of a dog. My dog has given me hope and happiness. Lots of homeless people take better care of their dogs than themselves. It gives you that ray of light. It gives you something else to be responsible for.

Now it’s a fresh start for us. The house that Alison has found for us is up North. We get to leave London and go to Durham. It’s nicer for a child to grow up out of London. We want to know the sex of the baby so we can get ready.

Names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.