Having struggled with drugs and alcohol, Les was finding “life going nowhere quickly”. Desperate to turn things around, he went to local housing charity Giroscope in Hull, UK to volunteer in order to get a reference. Almost three years later, he’s still there and helping to mentor new volunteers to a better way of life.
“Life just wasn’t going the way I’d planned,” said Les, aged 53. “I had so many knock backs in life, I just needed to get back on track, and Giroscope gave me the break I so badly needed.”
Desperate for paid employment, Les found himself rejected time and time again with no references, so he approached Hull housing charity Giroscope to volunteer for four days, with the promise of a reference at the end of it. Those four days quickly turned into a long-term volunteering placement as he looked for work, before being offered paid work with the charity. He’s now a permanent employee and mentors others trying to turn their lives around.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be doing this work,” said Les. “Having been through similar challenges faced by other volunteers, I can relate to them and support them to put the work in in order to get the rewards. After all, I’m proof that if you want to change, you can change.”
Giroscope’s work is quite incredible. Not only does the charity buy and renovate empty properties to provide secure, affordable homes for disadvantaged people, but it also provides volunteers with practical skills to help them back into work.
Giroscope, which with partner Canopy Housing in Leeds has just won the 2015–16 World Habitat Award, lets its renovated properties to people in housing need. The charity aims to create more vibrant local communities from fragile neighbourhoods, ensuring that no-one feels isolated.
“With Giroscope, it’s all about the individual, and they recognise what will help them to turn their lives around, which is what happened with me,” said Les. “Giroscope will help anyone, and not just as a one-off. The support workers here install a sense of self-worth and volunteers who have had a rough time start to believe that they can achieve anything.
“It’s no surprise that there’s so much passion here for what we do. We’re always looking for new ways to support people, such as with skills, qualifications and job applications. It’s about investing in people and working towards such a worthwhile end product.
In Hull, where there is now approximately 1000 long-term empty homes, the project is making a real difference to the community as well as to the volunteers it supports.
“It would be great if there were more organisations like Giroscope,” said Les. “Why knock down houses and go to huge expense building new ones when great houses can be brought back into use? There’s a real need for local communities to be regenerated to bring back a sense of pride in the local area. There will always be a need for high-quality affordable housing, and thanks to Giroscope, this is what we’re bringing to Hull.”