- Date: 03/10/2023
Local property developer Chris, who was once homeless himself, joins forces with Honeycomb Group to create accommodation for people facing homelessness
Honeycomb Group’s homelessness charity Concrete began working with developer Chris* last year, when they partnered up on a new housing site in Stoke-on-Trent.
For Chris, he was happy to be involved for personal reasons too. He has lived experience of homelessness and was keen to work with Concrete to give back to those who have faced rough sleeping, alongside addiction and other complex needs.
Chris was homeless for 18 months when his relationship with his parents broke down at the age of 16. He spent time sleeping rough and sofa surfing and says his ‘drive’ kept him going through difficult times. Last year he bought the site in Stoke-on-Trent and was introduced to Concrete shortly after. He believes that everything happens for a reason and as soon as he heard Concrete’s mission, he knew he wanted to help.
Chris said: “My upbringing wasn’t the best, and my relationship with my parents broke down when I was young. I left my family home and spent 18 months drifting in and out of homelessness and sofa surfing. Despite this, I’ve always been a ‘get up and go’ kind of person. I’ve always had such a drive. Even though I was homeless I still worked. Health and safety and all those regulations weren’t as strict as they are now back then, so I’d get changed in the toilets and sofa surf after each shift.”
Chris worked hard, built up experience and is now the Director of his own building and groundworks business.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the homeless. People are homeless for different reasons and many have little to no support. When I bought this building, I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. My plan was to turn it into a residential property. Then I met Mike from Concrete through a friend of a friend. He introduced me to what he did and I was completely blown away. I was hooked.
“The thought of providing a building which will hopefully help people and get them on the right road, back into work, that kind of thing. I get really excited about it. I talk about it all the time with everyone I meet. I really wish there was a scheme like this when I was struggling with homelessness. Even though my extended family have been supportive, I felt like I couldn’t turn to anyone. I didn’t think they’d believe what I was going through. You definitely feel on your own, like you’ve got no one to turn to or talk to.”
Chris is keen to continue working with Concrete and hopes that this scheme can be the first of many similar projects in the city.
“It never really leaves you, the experiences of homelessness and the feelings that come with it, but the new scheme absolutely drives me. I have stresses with other projects like you wouldn’t believe, but the thing that keeps me going is this, because I know people are going to benefit from it. I’m most excited about the scheme opening so that we rehabilitate people. I truly hope that it has an impact on not only the lives of the residents, but their families too. Hopefully it will make quite a few people feel good about themselves.”
Find out more about Concrete by visiting thisisconcrete.org.uk
*name changed to protect identity and stock photo used