I am writing to tell you about the Ace of Clubs, and what it means to me and the other people who use it. The Ace of Clubs is a Drop in centre for the homeless and vulnerably housed. It is also used by many elderly and mentally ill people. Services offered include hot meals, tea and coffee, free clothes and bedding (literally a life saver in the winter), clothes washing, hot showers, housing/benefits advice and last but not least somewhere where people can get out of the cold and isolation for a few hours each day.
My homelessness happened when the builder I was working for informed me that he had no more work for me. I applied for housing benefit but was refused because of an administrative error and was evicted from my bedsit after not being able to pay any rent for several months. After spending some time on a friend’s sofa I ended up sleeping in parks and on the streets.
Another homeless guy told me about the Ace of Clubs and when I turned up there one day I was immediately struck by how I was treated by people there. I was given help, advice, food and clothes and generally made to feel like there was hope and I would not be in this situation forever. I do not take heroin, I do not take crack cocaine, I am teetotal and it was nice for me that the people at the club took that at face value and believed me. Most people in my experience look at a homeless guy in his twenties and assume that he is a drunk or a drug addict. They assume he is probably a criminal, possibly violent and almost certainly deserves to be where he is on some level.
In actual fact I am an ex-user of heroin and cocaine and alcohol. Ironically this was when I had a home and a steady job. One of my greatest concerns about being homeless is that I would start using again and ruin all the good work I had done getting clean and sober.
My life is coming together now. With Ace of Clubs’ help I have a room in a hostel. Every night I sleep in a warm place in my own room after eating a good hot meal. I can rest easy knowing that I will not be attacked in my sleep. Next week I start a new job and can start saving for the deposit on a flat. I have started writing my personal statement so that I can apply to university and pursue my dream of being a medicine researcher.
Without the Ace of Clubs I would still be on Clapham Common. The people who work and volunteer there are providing a vital service, not only to help people like myself dig themselves out of a hole they are in through no fault of their own, but to people who are and always will be vulnerable and need ongoing support.
If anyone would like to talk to me about my experiences I can be contacted through Sarah at the club.