The kindness of strangers

For almost a decade Kenny Bywater (46) slept rough on the streets of Bicester with little more than a bicycle, sleeping bag and his beloved guitar. But through the kindness of a stranger and the support of the community, Kenny got a new start in life. Here he tells us his story.

“Ten years ago my life went into a downward spiral and I became homeless. At first it was really tough sleeping on the streets but I suppose I got used to it. I had my guitar so I would busk every day. Music was my saviour; I’d write my own songs and play them to whoever wanted to listen. I also turned to alcohol to get me through the day. I wasn’t a big drinker before, but a bottle of cheap cider made things more bearable.”

“As the years went by I didn’t ask for help from the council or anyone else. I was much too proud for that and just accepted things as they were. Then one day, everything changed. I wasn’t feeling well and a guy called Steve, who would sometimes stop for a chat, realised that I needed medical help. He encouraged me to go to hospital, and after some tests, I was diagnosed with heart failure. It was a shock, but after so long living rough and drinking heavily, I should have known. My body was starting to give up.”

Feeling safe

“Because of my illness, I was put into supported accommodation for a few weeks. I then got help from a local charity called Connection Support and I managed to get a home through the local council. I moved into my bpha flat in Chesterton on 30 June and all I can say is: it’s heaven! For the first time in a long time, I feel safe. I have the freedom to do what I want – to go to bed, eat and have a wash when I want.”

“The flat itself is lovely and I take much pride in keeping it clean and tidy. When I moved in, it looked pretty bare. But Steve stepped in to help by putting my story on Facebook and asking the people of Bicester to donate any unwanted furniture or household items. The response was amazing – I was given a washing machine, TV, a chest of drawers, bedding, kitchen pots and pans, food vouchers and more. I’ve been blown away by human kindness; it’s a miracle. Through all the years of being homeless my faith kept me going and it continues to give me support today. You couldn’t meet a happier man.”

“For the first time in a long time, I feel safe. I have the freedom to do what I want – to go to bed, eat and have a wash when I want.”

Looking after my health

“Now I’m settled in my flat, I have to focus on looking after myself. My condition makes me feel tired and I’m on lots of tablets. I’ve stopped drinking and I keep myself fit by hopping on my bike and riding into Bicester.”

“Looking to the future, I’d like to have a family one day – who knows? I’m just so happy to have a roof over my head and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped me get here. I can’t thank them enough.”

bpha works in partnership with Connection Support to assist residents who are dealing with complex life challenges. This might include people who have been homeless, or have an addiction or mental health problem. Residents are given support to improve their health, mental wellbeing and confidence, helping them to lead an independent and fulfilling life.