Homeless man who lived in abandoned car for six months housed by Salvation Army
- Credit: Amy Gibbons
A homeless man forced to live in an abandoned car in Stowmarket for six months has been taken in by The Salvation Army in Ipswich.
Andrew Wallace, 49, became homeless when a number of serious falls leading to a brain injury left him unable to work.
He previously owned a window cleaning business for 19 years, but is now unable to walk without a stick. He has also had regular seizures in the past which have led to further complications, including hallucinations.
Mr Wallace said he was in a very dark place over the winter, however his life was completely transformed by volunteers at The Salvation Army who arranged for him to stay at the Lyndon House hostel in Ipswich.
It was one individual in particular, Major Beverly (Bev) Robilliard, who went above and beyond to help him.
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‘Major Bev’, as she is known by the team, is a Salvation Army minister and leader of Stowmarket Salvation Army Church and Community Centre on Violet Hill Road.
She was so concerned by Mr Wallace’s situation that she sent an application through the charity’s referral system, washed his clothes, supplied him with essential toiletries, and drove him to the hostel herself as a matter of urgency.
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“It was Major Bev who got me in here. She is brilliant,” he said.
Mr Wallace was given a ground floor apartment as a priority, and had moved in by March 9. He said when he first settled into his room he didn’t know quite what to do.
“I was thinking there’s a bed, there’s a radiator, there’s a sink in my room,” he said.
“It took a while to sink in. Obviously I want to get back to Stowmarket and be in my own place. But they have helped me out a lot here. If you ever want any member of staff, you can speak to them in confidence. They’re really helpful. I can’t praise everyone enough in here.
“If you ask anyone if they want to be in here, if they put their hand on their heart they’ll say no – they’d rather get their life back on track and get their own place. It’s a stepping stone, that’s how I look at it.
“I’ve come from nothing to something, and hoping at the end of it there’s going to be something even better. I’m just going to take it step by step, day by day, and get my strength up again.”
Mr Wallace added that he wanted to thank the people of Stowmarket for looking out for him while he was sleeping rough.
“They would walk up to me and say: ‘Go and get yourself a coffee,’ or ‘Go and get yourself something to eat,’ and I just found that very surreal. I didn’t realise there were that many nice people out there.
“People came up to me and said: ‘Wow – you’re that guy from the paper!’”
Once he has his medical needs properly assessed, Mr Wallace is hoping to apply for a property in Stowmarket through Mid Suffolk District Council’s homelessness service.
He previously complained that the council had neglected his case while he was sleeping rough.
Sharon Ralph, service manager of The Salvation Army’s Lyndon House Lifehouse, said: “Andrew was referred to our services by our friends at Stowmarket Salvation Army Church who supported him while he was homeless.
“Andrew has settled into Lyndon House really well. After living in a car for so long with mobility and health concerns, our priority is Andrew’s wellbeing. We are helping him build up his strength and confidence while making sure he has access to the financial support he is entitled to. It’s early days, but the future is looking a lot brighter for Andrew now he is able to access the help he needs in a supportive environment.
“The Salvation Army is committed to helping break the cycle of homelessness. While living at Lyndon House, residents are empowered to make positive decisions, gain independence and move on to appropriate accommodation through one-to-one tailored support, life skills training and an activities programme.”
In Suffolk, the work of The Salvation Army includes 15 church and community centres, a Lifehouse for people experiencing homelessness and an emergency response team that provides refreshment and pastoral support for Suffolk’s emergency services.