Sailing brings hope to drug-taker

A homeless man, who was given fresh hope after a sailing trip round the Isle of Wight – has now landed a job in the marine industry.

Scott Perry, 21, a formerly homeless man from Plymouth, has been short-listed by national homelessness charity, Crisis, for a Crisis Changing Lives Champion’s Award. Supported by Barclays, the scheme helps vulnerable homeless people back into education, training and employment. The award ceremony will be held in Canary Wharf, London, on 19 October 2009.

The awards will be presented by ITN Chief Economics Editor, Daisy McAndrew, who is returning for the third year. McAndrew said: “The Crisis Changing Lives Awards were set up by the national homelessness charity Crisis to give people a chance to achieve their full potential and ambitions. The Awards celebrate some remarkable achievements of formerly homeless men and women who have overcome some amazing challenges and problems and made great efforts to change their lives. Their stories are always humbling and awe-inspiring and it’s a real privilege to be asked to share their day with them again.”

Scott has been nominated for an award in the new talent category, in recognition of his success in overcoming homelessness and unemployment to retrain for a career in marine management.

Scott was raised in Plymouth. He left school at 16 to join the army and spent a year with HM Forces Infantry working in radio communication and first aid. His army career fell through a year later when he was medically discharged because of an injury.

There were few job opportunities around when he came out of the army and Scott was out of work for a year and a half. During this time he worked on local voluntary projects, teaching skills for the construction trade. Scott said: “I enjoyed this work, though it was all unpaid. I helped homeless and vulnerable people learn new skills for the construction trade, including plastering, painting and decorating.”

When he was 18, Scott became homeless and spent a few days sleeping rough in the city. He then stayed at friends’ houses and spent a year and a half sofa surfing. Scott said: “I had no money. You tend to become lazy and don’t do much. You lose hope that you’ll find somewhere to stay and you start to lose hope in yourself. I started drinking more and doing drugs.”

Scott had some contact with his family but describes being in his ‘own world’ a lot. He said: “My friends at the time had their own places, so I could stay there as long as I wanted. But I didn’t want to abuse that system and I wanted to sort myself out. I was looking for work but I put that to one side to try to find somewhere to live, that was the most important thing.”

Scott wanted to change his situation and started looking at sheltered accommodation, hostels and shared flats. He sought advice from the Plymouth Foyer Housing Association and spent two years in sheltered housing. Once he had found somewhere to live, things began to turn around for Scott. He said: “When I moved things started to move forward. I became more active, doing courses and activities.” Scott hoped to pursue a career in construction but, as the recession set in, he found it difficult to secure work and decided to pursue a career in marine management.

Scott had always been interested in boats and was offered the opportunity to go on a sailing trip around the Isle of Wight. He said: “It’s peaceful. I’m in my own different world when I’m sailing. I’ve got nothing to worry about. All the problems you’ve got you can leave on land. You can do your own thing and relax.” Scott then found a new job and spent 18 months managing a site and marina.

Scott decided to use his army training and carpentry skills and apply them to a career in the marine industry. It was at this point that he found out about Crisis. Scott received two grants -£2,500 in total – to fund a number of courses, including: the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Powerboat Levels 1 and 2; Intermediate Powerboat Training; Advanced Powerboat course; First Aid course; Day Skipper Shore to Sea Theory; Day Skipper Sailing Sea Survival; Radio SRC course; Radar course; Diesel Engine Maintenance and the Ocean Youth Trust (OYT) South Voyage.

As a result of completing his training and gaining employment, Scott now feels more confident and motivated. Scott said: “I’d like to open my own business in commercial diving using my qualifications. I’d love to have my own dive and training centre one day and my own boat.” At 21 Scott has achieved a great deal in a short amount of time. He added: “People sometimes think I’m older than I am. I feel good I’ve actually achieved something. I’m not wasting time- I’m making the most of it. In a couple of years I should have my career on the go. I don’t plan on hanging around and waiting for things to happen.”

Scott added: “Two years ago I felt like I didn’t even know myself. But now I know who I am. It has been a real eye-opener. I didn’t have anything back then. Now I’ve got my own place, I’ve been on courses and I’ve got contacts. One day I’d like to move into a bigger house with a garden. I’m climbing up to my bigger stepping stone.” On hearing that he had been nominated for this year’s Crisis Changing Lives Champion Award, Scott said: “I’m really pleased that I have been short-listed for this year’s Award. The news came as a great surprise!”

There are four categories in this year’s awards: business, education, long-term achiever and new talent. The winner and two runners up for each category will be announced on 19 October. Each winner will receive a cash prize, a certificate of recognition and a memento from the day. There will be one overall winner who will be presented with the Barclays Achiever of the Year Award.

Julia Husband, Barclays Head of Community Relations for the South West region, said: “What Scott has achieved goes to show how a relatively small grant can empower and motivate someone to fulfil their potential and attain the goals they may have felt unreachable. At Barclays we strongly believe the Crisis Changing Lives programme is not just about investment in one individual. It is also about investment in a local community, which will reap the benefit of having someone like Scott back as a productive and dynamic member of society.”

Barclays has been supporting the Crisis Changing Lives Awards since 2002. In this time the scheme has provided nearly 1,700 financial awards to people who are homeless or settling into new homes and looking for support to achieve their educational and vocational goals.