Thames Reach
Saturday 18 November 2017
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Keeping busy

Dennis was shortlisted for the Third Sector Excellence Award’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’. A former rough sleeper who struggled with an addiction to alcohol, Dennis completed the TRaVEL volunteering scheme. Generously, he now continues to donate his time to Thames Reach.

Photo of Dennis running a bingo session
Dennis helps to organise social activities at Thames Reach, such as this bingo session at the Robertson Street hostel
“I started volunteering both to help other people and to keep myself safe. I’ve been sober for five years now but I need to keep myself busy.”

Throughout his life Dennis has struggled with poor eyesight and dyslexia. Now he is battling to improve his literacy skills with the aim of getting full-time work.

He has come a long way since his time on the streets. Many years ago Dennis slept rough on the Strand and was downing large quantities of super strength lager.

There was a camaraderie amongst the people he mixed with, but Dennis is quick to quash any romanticism about the street lifestyle.

“It was rough. It was hard. It wasn’t a nice place to be. I didn’t want to wake up in the mornings and was quite happy to drink myself to death.”

Ironically, it was a knife wound to his lung which he suffered in an alcohol-fuelled attack from a fellow drinker which helped Dennis to turn his life around.

“I finally listened to my support worker and when I left hospital it was to an alcohol detox centre, rather than back to the streets.”

Dennis would like to see something done about the availability of the super strength drinks which have blighted the lives of so many of his former companions.

“I’ve lost too many people to these drinks. I’d like to see super strength lagers and ciders banned.”