A YOUNG MAN who lived on the streets of Leeds is working his way back to a normal life thanks to a partnership between charity and business.
Scott Stephenson is 24, yet in his short life has fallen victim to alcohol and substance addiction, homelessness and destitution.
He walked out on his parents in Rothwell after deciding he was wrecking their lives too with his substance abuse and other problems.
He tried to save himself, working in hotels and at Ainsley’s bakery, and dreaming of becoming a chef. He rented a flat, but his addiction problems mounted and he again ended up homeless, jobless and on the streets.
After six months he went to St George’s Crypt, which has been helping destitute people in the city since the economic depression of 1930.
“I’d lost my job and my flat. One of my old colleagues from Ainsleys told me about the Crypt,” he said. “All I knew about it was that I could get a warm meal there. But a member of staff asked me if I wanted a bed.”
He ended up staying. That was four years ago.
He went through the Crypt’s recovery programme, moving into its “dry” hostel Faith Lodge, then into shared housing. There were steps backward too – recovery is not easy.
But he ended up becoming a voluntary worker at the Crypt, first as as a cleaner and gardener. He was part of the award-winning team from Faith Lodge at the Chelsea Flower show in 2009 and 2010.
But he still longed for a career in catering and began working in the Crypt’s kitchen.
His latest breakthrough has come through a partnership between the Crypt and Pret a Manger, the upmarket sandwich business. He has been given an apprenticeship at the firm’s Leeds shop- the first apprenticeship the group has awarded to a homeless person outside London. Nationwide, the group is taking on 25 new apprentices from among the young homeless to mark its 25th anniversary.
“Working with Pret means a lot,” he said. “It’s a beginning and a new opportunity – I really thank Prêt for all their support. I will not let them down. I know that my way forward is to be totally positive – it’s changed my life.”