Dougie told his story in support of World Homeless Day (10th October) to Ark staff member, Brea Wilde.
Dougie was born in the 1960’s and grew up in the Shrewsbury area. His father served in the British Army, and because of this, Dougie took a great interest in the forces. His father taught him how to shoot, how to remain disciplined, and survival skills – survival skills that would aid him for his journey through homelessness.
Dougie was looking forward to a career in the armed forces, but due to a crime he committed when he was in his young teenage years, he was rejected. Dougie has said that if he had never committed this crime and served time in a juvenile centre – he likely would never have become homeless.
Dougie fell into homeless through a series of events – all pilling onto him at once. During his adult years, he met the mother of his two boys. The relationship was strained due to drug misuse and addiction, and Dougie realised the relationship was toxic for the both of them. Due to his addiction and being out of work, Dougie left his home to stay at a friend’s. The friendship broke down and after a few weeks, Dougie found himself on the streets of Shrewsbury.
Dougie recalls his earlier years on the streets in a positive light. He set his tent up in a small forested area just behind a local housing estate. He remembers the little old ladies bringing him soup and roast dinners every night for his tea – he really enjoyed his stay there! Due to the nature of where he was staying – he was moved on and forced to sleep in the streets of Shrewsbury town.
Dougie remembers that at the start of his homelessness journey, the streets were safer than they are now. There were only a handful of rough sleepers, and the comradery was strong and positive. Dougie is a talented harmonica player and used this skill to earn some money for food and essentials while sleeping rough. He recalls learning about what music will grab the attention of strangers – he noticed an Irish gentleman walking towards him, and started to play an Irish tune, putting a smile on the gentleman’s face, and earing Dougie a generous donation.
Through the years, Dougie told of more and more people entering homelessness and sleeping rough – some individuals he described as dangerous and scary. It was at this point that Dougie took on the role of a ‘father figure’ on the streets. He would look out for the most vulnerable rough sleepers, and act as a peacekeeper for all those sleeping rough.
Dougie had always used the Shrewsbury Ark for support – taking advantage of the food, support, shower and clothes washing facilities. Dougie has said that the support he has received from The Ark, has allowed him to grow as a person, beat his addiction, and even gain a tenancy.
Dougie jumped at the opportunity to learn from staff and volunteers about how to remain housed – learning key skills such as budgeting and saving money. He has now been in his tenancy since 2019, getting healthier, happier and more positive every day.
Dougie has said that if he could say one thing to the general public about homelessness, it’s to not judge anyone you see sleeping on the streets. He has discussed how becoming homeless can happen to anyone, and it’s important that people learn to understand and help the vulnerable, rather than judge and ignore.