“What kept me going was that I knew it would end and one day I could look back on it,” says John Prastitis who finally has a place to call home after almost an entire year on the streets.
John, 52, was made homeless when he evicted via a section 21 order from his Cliftonville flat on January 15.
The former gallery assistant and his girlfriend sofa surfed, slept under bridges, were burnt out of the boathouse at Palm Bay and had windows smashed while they were inside an old caravan at the rear of Dreamland.
John found a lifeline through the Prison to Pavement project run by Dean Stalham of the Stretch Outsider Gallery after he went in with a piece of his work. He became part of the project -representing the pavement as a voice for those on the streets – displaying his art in the eventual exhibition at The Margate School.
John, who has a degree in fine art and spent some 12 years as a gigging musician, used the project to give himself the space and facility to paint and provide some structure to his life.
But he remained homeless and, despite contact with the RISE (Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment) and regular property searches it was not until this month that he finally secured a flat in Cliftonville.
John said: “I see other people homeless and I feel so bad but I say there is an end to it. It was bad but I just kept going.
“It’s is like in Japanese the word for crisis and opportunity is the same. I had the capacity to work hard and be a strong person. A lot of it was sh*t but I had things to keep me going, I had art, there was being in the paper and the exhibition and having people on my side.
“I didn’t know when things would happen but I knew they would even though it hurt on the way.”
John was helped by Rise to get the flat and has been supported with an ongoing friendship with Dean.
He said: “I’m still getting used to it but it is cosy and I like it. I haven’t really got anything, I bought a coffee table and there is a cooker. I need to get a bed and a fridge. It would be nice to have a rug as it is a bit cold and echoey at the moment. I need everything really.
“It feels like a new experience. I feel like it is my duty to show that there can be a positive. If you work for it you can get there, not in a Thatcherite way but just as a human being.
“I want people to see that you can be having a bad time but there will be an end. If I can do it then they can.”
For anyone who has home items they might like to donate to John contact him via Dean on firstname.lastname@example.org
In need of a home
There are approximately 2,645 households registered on Thanet’s housing waiting list and some 111 placed in temporary accommodation.
Thanet council owns 3,021 homes but demand has outstripped supply.
To tackle this the authority has undertaken its own scheme of building or refurbishing 150 homes by 2020 at a cost of £30million.
Some £14million has been spent on housing schemes across Thanet. These projects include a new build programme, Margate Housing Intervention project, Empty Homes Project 2012-15, and King Street intervention.
The council also plans to create its own housing company by April 1, 2020. The company would enable the council to directly buy land and build properties.
It is hoped the project will mean better standard housing, better management and more affordability for residents.
Contact RISE on 01843 577277 – or 01843 577 000 in an emergency out of hours.
Wednesday 9.30am-12pm Margate Gateway
Tuesday 2pm-4pm GAP Baptist Church, Broadstairs