Once homeless Darren pays tribute to Housing Trust for turning his life around

Published on: Tuesday, 28th March 2023
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Darren Cox

An ex-chef who lost his job through Covid and ended up on the streets has paid tribute to the caring staff at Derventio Housing Trust for turning his life around. 

In 2022, 39-year-old Darren Cox of Cotmanhay thought the world would be better if he was no longer in it. 

He had lost his job as a chef when the pub he worked at in Scarborough shut in the Covid lockdown, and then ended up sleeping in a shop doorway in Hull after a relationship breakdown. 

Last year, everything got too much for Darren and he ended up on Trent Bridge in Nottingham, threatening to throw himself off. 

“I had nobody,” he said. “I was a single man by myself and I thought people were better off without me.”

But fate had other plans for Darren, and a policeman managed to get him off the bridge and out of danger. 

After being looked after by the police, he was referred to the services of Derventio Housing Trust, which offers accommodation across five counties – including Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire - to people who have recently been homeless. 

Within a short time Darren had secured accommodation through Derventio. Then it did something just as valuable for him, by encouraging him to start attending its highly-valued Growing Lives service, a day centre in Ilkeston which offers support to people through a range of activities, including weekly walks, craft sessions, a woodworking room, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the listening ear and advice of its caring and supportive staff. 

It was there that, Darren said, he gradually began to heal.  He said: “I had a brilliant mentor from Derventio. Growing Lives has been absolutely brilliant. We have been on trips – I went to Mount Cook Adventure Centre with the Growing Lives team. I’m scared of heights but I did this zip line – not only did I do it once, I did it three times!

“I really like the staff at Growing Lives and I love the woodworking room. It means everything to me. I could be sitting at home twiddling my thumbs. This is keeping me active. It has turned my life around.”

Now Darren regularly helps out his local food bank at the back of Arena Church. He has also become a regular church-goer, and is training to be a lay preacher. 

Today, he keeps the pair of old trainers with a hole in the sole that he wore when he was sleeping rough in Hull inside a wooden bread bin that he restored in the workshop at Growing Lives – a reminder of the dark and the light times in his life, and how he was brought back from the brink. 

“When I put the trainers in this bread bin, it’s like putting my old life away in something I’ve restored,” he said. “On that bridge, I was at the bottom of a barrel. Derventio’s staff have shown such patience with me. I was still self-harming when I first moved into their accommodation and if it wasn’t for their patience and understanding I still would be. 

“I do have my bad days because I always will have bad days. Nine times out of ten I’m fine though. The support that these guys give me is absolutely amazing.

“If you have got problems, you can talk to the people who work here at Growing Lives. Everybody is dead open. Everyone is so lovely. I love it here. I’ve started to get help with mental health too.”

Now, when Darren sees someone sleeping rough, he knows what they are going through, and he says, despite everything, he would not change the past – as it has led to the positives of the present. 

He said: “I never once when on the street asked for money. Most people would think homeless people will score drugs. Getting off the bus near the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, I must have seen ten homeless people in the space of 100 yards. 

“I get down and speak to them. I’ll give them a fag because I know how hard it is. I would never change what happened to me. It’s a real eye opener, living on the streets, and if I could see that police officer now, I would want to buy him a pint or something to say thank you. He effectively saved my life.

“I’m hoping one day to get my own place. That is my main goal at the moment but only when I’m right in my mind and with the support from Derventio I’m ready to move on.”

As for what he would say to anyone else in the same situation as he was last year, Darren had this to say: “Don’t waste your life. There’s always a silver lining at the end of the tunnel. 

“There’s always a purpose. Now I believe that God put that policeman there to drag me off the bridge. He’s got a purpose for my life, whether it’s coming here to Growing Lives, or coming to church. 

“There’s always a purpose in life. If I saw someone on the bridge, I would sit on the bridge with them, talk to them and calm them down. I would say: ‘There’s no point in jumping. You’re going to hurt more people than yourself’.”

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