News and Travel

Begging for a Chance.

Nick Hopkins
Express and Echo. Nick Hopkins, Exeter street beggar, is begging for a chance at a better life.

A previously homeless man has said that he feels discriminated against in his attempts to better his life.

Nick Hopkins had previously been living on the streets for 8 months solid and gained gained a flat through the Council in April 2014. He had been on a waiting list for social housing for two years.

Nick said that despite being on Employment Support Allowance and housing benefit, he still struggles to pay his bills. He said that when he was on Job Seeker’s Allowance he found it extremely difficult to find paid work and felt that a culture of discrimination surrounded him.

“When I first moved in to the flat I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but my faith is slowly fading. Trying to get accommodation in Exeter is so hard, and once you’ve been out of work for so long it’s very difficult to get out of being unemployed.

“I was on job seeker’s at one point but I feel like no one wants to know. I’m a qualified level 1 plasterer and I’ve got a CRB certificate. Maybe I’m being paranoid ‘cos I’ll think ‘do they recognise me from the street, am I presentable enough?’ But it seems there’s one rule for one person and another rule for someone else”, he said.

Mr Hopkins also noted that lack of funds and access to modern communication methods such as a phone or computer, had negatively impacted his ability to find work.

He said, “I don’t have a computer or a phone because of the cost and it’s a five mile walk in to town every day to the Job Centre so there’s a big chance I could miss any offers if I don’t respond in time.”

Housing Justice put on an awareness event in June this year “in the context of cuts to services and welfare benefits, and a hardening of public opinion against needy people in the local community.”

Alison Gelder of Housing Justice said, “Being homeless really knocks your self-confidence and it’s made even worse when people judge you harshly or expect you to be unreliable or an addict because of your history.”

Ms Gelder also said that the practicalities of looking for work presented further challenges to those currently or only recently living on the streets either past or present. She said,

“Access to electricity to charge phones, as well as the money to pay for them is a big problem. Some charities help with money for haircuts as well as ‘interview clothes’. Keeping track of time is another one – if you switch your phone off to save the battery and you don’t have a watch it can be difficult to find out the time, or to set alarms. Sleeping bags in the street don’t come with alarm calls.”


Mr Hopkins is currently begging to help pay off mounting debts from bills. He is assisted in this by Sanctuary Housing. He is actively looking for work.

“Some people don’t even give you the time of day and others yell abuse. My aim is to get a job. I just want an opportunity. I want something to get up for every day”, said Nick.


Article originally appeared on Express and Echo website.

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