A HOMELESS man who was forced to sleep in his own car after the tragic loss of both of his parents has thanked a Southend charity for helping him off the streets.

Ray Richardson now has a roof over his head thanks to Harp, who support Southend’s homeless, after couch-surfing between the homes of different friends and family for the past 20 years.

And his journey far from easy, starting after the death of his mother back in 1999 he was impacted so much that he lost his home.

Relying on the support of his loved ones, Ray had been staying with his daughter since 2015, when his father, who he had been caring for, passed away.

But when her circumstances changed earlier this year and he had to leave, Ray had nowhere else to go. At this point, he knew it was time to seek help.

The 56-year-old from Southend, said: “When I was sleeping in my car I actually prayed for a solution. It’s horrible- you don’t have any privacy and you don’t know where you can clean up or go to the toilet.

“I don’t normally listen to people and accept help. I normally just try to do things by myself, so when my son told me about Harp I didn’t really believe him. I’d never been in this situation before and didn’t think anyone would help me but I’m glad I listened.”

Ray visited the Bradbury Day Centre on York Road, Southend, and was able to get a space with the Churches Winter Night Shelters project- a partnership between a group of amazing local churches, the charity, Southend Council, and Love Southend.

After a couple of weeks Harp were able to give Ray a room in their emergency accommodation- thanks to their support, he is now living in supported accommodation and is looking forward to moving into a place of his own.

He added: “When they said they had a room for me longer term, I was chuffed to bits. I had my very own key to my very own room.

“As soon as I moved in Covid started, so I couldn’t really do anything. Luckily it was the ideal opportunity for me to actually spend time with myself doing what I enjoy. I’ve now got a hobby- I am learning my chords and I’ve even written a song.

“I still can’t believe it. To come from nowhere and have someone open their arms, let you in and put a roof over your head. I didn’t think it was possible.”

Once Ray has moved into his own place he aims to volunteer for HARP.

He added: “I feel like I’ve just been floating around for 20 years and I’ve finally landed. It feels like I’ve been given a ticket to my own life.”