During lockdown, David was taken to a Croydon hotel where he felt isolated and uncared for. He explains why his Cromwood home has given him plenty of reasons to sing.
David introduces himself as a singer and musician with a melodic burst from a George Michael track. ‘Keep it light, life is fun,’ he says.
He picked up his first guitar and pair of drumsticks at the age of 14 and says that music has kept him alive through two divorces, the death of both parents, and a period of homelessness that he still struggles to talk about.
Sleeping with one eye open in Heathrow Airport was one thing, being bundled into the back of a taxi with no idea of where he was being taken during the coronavirus lockdown was another.
‘It was bizarre,’ he says. ‘The airport was shutting due to the pandemic and they threw everybody out. I remember crying in the back of the taxi. It was ridiculously horrible.’ And it got worse.
David ended up in a hotel in the centre of Croydon at a time when lockdown rules meant that people were allowed outside for an hour’s exercise a day. The father of two knew no-one in the area, felt as if no-one cared, and was beaten up in the hotel. ‘I was in prison, it was isolation city,’ he says. ‘I had a TV and shower but that was it.’
All the things he loved – playing his guitar on the South Bank, going to the pub, and enjoying ‘lots and lots of music’ – had been taken away.
This man of mottoes and mantras had always said, I am homeless, not hopeless, but during his year in an area of Croydon which he describes as ‘a place you go past to get somewhere else’, his mental health deteriorated.
‘I’m a positive person but I was lost,’ he says. ‘It wasn’t a good time in my life.’
Then, the wheel of fortune spun in the opposite direction and he was offered a place in a Cromwood housing development. Once again, he found himself in the back of a taxi, but this time he was supported by a friendly worker from Thames Reach which partners with Cromwood to provide housing support. When he arrived at his brand new accommodation, he signed the tenancy agreement on the spot.
He moved into his new flat on the day his mother died. ‘It was bitter-sweet, not a day I’ll ever forget.’
Cromwood provides long-term, high quality, affordable accommodation where previously homeless people have all the security they need to start to rebuild their lives.
David describes the journey from sleeping rough in Heathrow airport, to feeling unsafe in a Croydon hotel, to his new Cromwood home as ‘surreal’.
His new home has given him a place to recover from a recent heart operation, the headspace to start thinking about writing his memoirs and somewhere to invite his children. And he can finally sleep with both eyes closed.
‘It means more to me than I can possibly describe,’ he says. ‘It is peace of mind. I don’t get any trouble here. I have what I want and what I need and I’m happy. It is my security, it is home.’ And, with that, he breaks into song.