13 November 2021

Felix Lakpa Okpemu at his job as a security guard

When Felix Lakpa Okpemu was at primary school his classmates talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up.

“I wanted to be an engineer,” he says. “But I was from a poor background in a country where dreams never come true for the underprivileged ones.” 

Five years ago, Felix arrived in the UK looking for work. He had been living in Spain but, in a country hit by recession, unemployment had soared. 

“The initial months in London were horrific,” he says, “because to secure employment required three major acquisitions: proof of address, a National Insurance number and a bank account. 

When I could no longer afford the cost of lodging and could not secure a job because of the lack of those employment requirements, I began to sleep rough.

Felix heard about HAB and started coming to the centre. One afternoon, as the office closed and everybody was asked to leave, he went and sat at the bus stop nearby. It was getting dark.

He says: “Somebody came out of the office — I think it was the boss — and walked towards the car park. 

He greeted me and I responded, and he further asked whether I was waiting for a bus. I said I had no place to go and I was going to pass the night there.

He did not know that bus stops, flower gardens and parks had become my home in the nights. He offered to top up my Oyster card so I could spend the night in a bus. I asked him: ‘What about tomorrow?’ 

At this point he excused himself and went back to the office. When he returned, he said: ‘You are lucky, you have been accepted into the winter night shelter.’ 

Kate Jack, Felix’s support worker at HAB, helped him obtain a National Insurance number and, when he found a job as a care support worker, persuaded his employer to give him a contract. 

This meant he was eligible for a room in a shared house run by Barnet Homes. And with a room and a job Felix was able to open a bank account. He now had the three crucial things he needed.

Over the course of the next year Felix had a number of different jobs and lived in various places. It was a precarious existence. But he also studied hard and in September 2017 was offered a place at London Metropolitan University on a computer network engineering degree course. 

Felix has now graduated and his family has joined him from Spain. He says: ”So, I am a software engineer – a status I never thought of when I was sleeping rough. 

“Looking back, I was in a frustrating and agonising situation but I never gave up. And my profound gratitude goes to HAB and my support worker Mrs Jack and her boss.

They saw something great in me and never wanted it to be wasted. They made sure I was on my feet before letting go. I don’t have enough words to thank them.

If you're able to help HAB support people like Felix, please consider making a donation. Thank you

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Autumn Newsletter 2021

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Dark days now leading to a bright future

Providing a pathway out of homelessness

Future fundraising

Partnering with Together in Barnet

On board with Marian and Sameer