Desperation turned to joy

PEOPLE in Horsham finding themselves in desperate financial situations sometimes have nowhere else to turn, but to the Salvation Army.

And as the West Sussex County Times launches this year’s Caring at Christmas Campaign with the Salvation Army, 52-year-old Richard shares his story describing it as ‘possibly the worst crisis’ he has ever had.

Richard, who has lived in Horsham for 12 years, said there is a ‘vulnerable side to Horsham’ and the volunteers at the Salvation Army centre in Booth Way should be praised for how they help people on a daily basis.

And every Christmas they pack up parcels of food and toys to help people in situations like his. More than 200 families received gifts from the Salvation Army last Christmas as a result of people’s generosity.

He said: “I fell on hard times about 18 months ago. Suddenly work dried up and I found myself restricted to living on a tenth of what I was earning before.

“It was such a desperate situation that my property was almost repossessed through the courts.

“It’s possibly the worst crisis I’ve ever had. I’m not the sort of person who would take their own life, but I came pretty close.

“The fact that someone you don’t even know is threatening to take away your home shakes the very fabric of your security.

“When you’re having hard times it’s bloody difficult to step over the first hurdle because you have to accept you have a problem and be humble enough to get over it.

“You need a great deal of grit and determination to get out of that hole. I just didn’t know who to turn to. I found out about the Salvation Army through the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

“I drove my car and sat in the Salvation Army car park for some time. I had to rid myself of all pride before I got out of the car and walked in.

“I was met by a lady and I just had to say I needed help. It’s a very humbling thing to say I needed help. All of a sudden the staff are falling over themselves to help out.

“They gave me a food parcel, which contains food from places like Marks and Spencer.

“When I came back in the following week they said I looked like a completely different man.”

He thinks people do not realise the extent of this problem in the district, with many labelling Horsham as a prosperous place.

He said: “Horsham is quite a well off town and if you were to say to people in a supermarket or coffee shop, ‘Do you know people are getting free food parcels down the road while you’re sipping on your cappuccino?,’ they wouldn’t believe you.

“In the fabric of Horsham I never realised there were people who needed this kind of help. There is a vulnerable side to Horsham and we need to sing the praises of the Salvation Army and we need to educate people who are in a similar situation to what I was in.’’

The Salvation Army is appealing to everyone in the Horsham district to help people like Richard this Christmas.

They are looking for businesses to be drop-off points for gifts of food and toys for parcels, volunteers to help serving food at the Christmas Day meal, wrapping presents and deliver parcels to homes.

For more information about how to help, see the panel or contact Salvation Army captains Sue and Ian Woodgate on 01403 254624.

Next week: Food and toy parcels, what they are and where they go.