I would walk 5,000 miles…

I would walk 5,000 miles…

Not to be confused with the Scottish singing duo The Proclaimers, walking 5,000 miles was, in fact, the amazing target reached by Greater Manchester Housing First client Peter, supported by our Jigsaw Support Engagement Worker Paul Taylor last week. What started as a few miles each day in and around Oldham during lockdown turned into an epic goal of reaching the first 500 miles (which the pair did in just three months) to 5,000 miles.

Peter, who volunteered at foodbank Street Angels before lockdown hit, struggled with complex issues and was homeless for many years. He was referred to Greater Manchester Housing First pilot programme, of which Jigsaw Support is a partner.

In the last three years, our team of engagement workers has supported people like Peter with a long history of homelessness to overcome barriers and become sustainably housed in their own forever home. Paul found a number of creative ways to support Peter over the last two years and as part of his recovery sessions, they began walking once or twice a month around Oldham town centre. Paul said: “Peter mentioned one day that he would love to walk along the top of the mountains we could see. I suggested we did that but would need to get some training in first so we started to make the walks longer and with a target. Housing First works with seven principles, one of them being choice and control, and this activity was identified by Peter. I was delighted to help him with it and to help him reach such an achievement.”

Peter used his personalisation fund to buy himself walking boots and all appropriate equipment and the pair would walk in all weathers – sometimes taking a challenging walk but other times just strolling. Doing this also led to Peter becoming more confident and he began attending different courses, managing to get a job as a security safety steward working at major festivals. In the 5,000 miles they completed, they covered (several times) most of the countryside in Oldham, Holcombe Moor, Hartshead Pike, Wythenshawe Park, Heaton Park, and other places they just came across. Peter said: “Since being with Housing First my mental health has improved, I am more productive, I am fitter and much happier. I am now in my own flat which is what I wanted, and I would say to anyone who is struggling like me, to give Housing First a go because they really do get things done and help you to get somewhere.” Team Leader Fiona Oakes met up with Paul and Peter at the end of their 5000-mile journey at Daisy Nook Country Park to celebrate with a special cake. She said: “Our team is so happy for Peter and our colleague Paul for this enormous achievement in both walking but also seeing how Peter has started to get his life back on track.”