Owen’s Story

“I know they help all the residents, but they’ve been really helpful and I really appreciate it. It makes it easier knowing someone’s on your side.” – Owen

Moving homes is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, but community cohesion project New Beginnings is making moving a positive experience. Owen was one of 55 households that moved into a new building in Stepney in 2014, initially nervous about the move, he is now thrilled to be in his new flat and feeling really positive about the future.

Owen is one of 55 households who have just moved in, initially nervous about the move, he is now thrilled to be in his new flat and feeling really positive about the future.

“If someone were to tell me at the start of the year I’d be in a brand new flat, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Owen. “I was star-struck when I walked in the first time, it’s lovely because it looks right over London and you can see the Shard. It’s all brand new, state of the art, I just love it.”

Before the residents moved in the New Beginnings team, Gail and Anja, met with all the residents to ask them if they were facing any issues around the move. Now all the residents have moved in, they will start the next stage of the project and get the community together to identify how they can work together to build a strong community identity.

Owen, like many other residents, was at first apprehensive about the move. He had lived in flat in Bethnal Green with his mother, who sadly passed away in April 2013, for over 30 years. But the three bedroom flat was too big for Owen and Tower Hamlets council asked him to downsize as there is a shortage of properties in the borough. “After everything I’ve been through the last couple of years, when the council told me I had to move, I thought, I really don’t need this, I really don’t want to move, but obviously I had to.”

Owen applied for a number of flats via the home seekers scheme, but still had doubts about moving. “When I first saw the building, it was like a building site, and I thought I don’t know what that’s going to be like. I applied for it, but I thought, it could be a really horrible place.”

Owen was told he had been allocated a flat in the new building. Anja and Gail met with Owen before the move and asked him if he had any concerns they could help with. “Both of them I really feel comfortable around, in a professional manner, they’re really lovely,” said Owen.

 

owen3-300x182“I know they help all the residents, but they’ve been really helpful and I really appreciate it. It makes it easier knowing someone’s on your side.”

Anja and Gail helped Owen arrange a moving van, make a claim for his downsizing payment and sort out his bills and finances. “Without their help it could have been really daunting,” said Owen

As well as being nervous about moving, Owen was worried about his finances and hoping to find a job. He worked for the Quakers as a concierge eight years ago but quit to look after his mother when she became unwell. He became her full-time carer for the next seven years. Being out of employment for so long had taken its toll on Owen’s confidence and he was not sure how to find another job as a concierge. “I’ve always been confident, but the last couple of years with everything that happened, my whole life just collapsed.”

Gail and Anja are now helping Owen to find a job. “A couple of months ago I mentioned to Anja I wanted a job, and I thought she had forgot, but she called me up and said, ‘I’ve put your name down for a Security Industry Authority course’, which is what you need no to work in security.”

Anja went with Owen to the interview for moral support. “She was really helpful, I was really nervous having to go there, but we were talking on the way and it took my mind off my nerves.”

A few days later he found out he’d got a place on the course. “Anja rang me and she said, ‘Did you get on the course? And I said ‘Ah, I didn’t get on.’ And she said ‘Oh I’m sorry’ and I said, ‘I’m sorry . . . but I start on Monday!’ And she said ‘Owen don’t do that do me!”

Owen is excited to be in his new flat and starting a new training course; he’s looking forward to the future and hopes he will find a job soon.

“When you move in they give you this great big pack, you’re supposed to read it, and it’s like War and Peace trying to read it. The pack we got, it’s called New Beginnings, and that’s very apt, because it is a New Beginning for me.”