Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Fighting homelessness in Stonehaven: How one man’s life changed when he set up tent in Mineralwell Park

The stories of those who have experienced homelessness in the area have helped The Haven form their support model.

Insert image of tent over photo of Mineralwell Park
One man spent weeks living in a tent, similar to the one pictured, in Mineralwell Park in Stonehaven. Image: DC Thomson.

The longest period Mike* spent in one place while experiencing homelessness was the two months he lived in his tent in a Stonehaven park.

Now in his 50s, he looks back on the last three decades of his life and says they are a blur due to drug addiction.

When he decided to get clean and leave his hometown in Essex almost two years ago he had nowhere to go.

He spent six months travelling north with just his bike and a tent which he called home during that time.

“Once I got to Stonehaven, I felt I didn’t have to move,” he said. “Maybe I just got the help I needed.

“I kept moving before because I had to. I’d met a lot of nice people but I’d never been offered help.”

Homelessness support in Stonehaven

On his first day living in Mineralwell Park, Mike met the team from The Haven.

“I was at my worst point,” he said. “My stuff was wet, my bike was broken and everything had gone wrong.

“But I met the guys from The Haven and they were awesome. All of the groups and all of the things I have done here since is why I have stayed.

“I don’t know where I’d be without this support.”

Starkeeper Morton
Starkeeper Morton is the keeper of The Haven in Stonehaven and is dedicated to helping the community. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Thanks to funding from Places for People in Chapelton, the north-east charity is now working to provide support to those in the community who have experienced homelessness.

Their aim is to help find suitable accommodation for all and support individuals to find employment.

“It’s brilliant that Places for People are supporting local community organisations that are genuinely making an impact,” The Haven founder Starkeeper Morton said.

“There is a real spectrum of people who have experienced homelessness. Everyone we are supporting has had lived experience at some point and we’re now trying to provide them with whatever they need to recover.”

Experiencing genuine kindness

Due to this vital support, Mike has now been in housing for the past year and has also started volunteering in the area and taking part in cookery classes.

“A year later, I’m a different person,” he said. “But the funny thing is, I really quite liked living outside. It was good while I was going to different places every day.”

One of the first moments of “genuine kindness” he experienced was from a stranger who had once been in the same position as him.

Person sleeping outside
Sleeping outdoors became more difficult as the weather got worse. Image: PA.

“I was hiding in a field one day and a guy with four dogs started walking towards me,” he said. “I put my hands up in surrender – that’s how the moment felt.

“Then he shouted over: ‘Would you like a cup of tea and a sandwich?’

“Turns out he had been homeless for a while as well. He came back the next day and brought me coffee, showed me how I could protect my things and introduced me to my first food bank.”

Challenging conditions

However, life could be extremely difficult living outdoors, especially when the weather took a turn for the worse.

“I had a really good tent, but it broke,” he said. “So, I bought one for £15 in the supermarket, something you’d buy for a festival.

“I remember sitting in the freezing cold thinking it was the first time I’d been frightened.

“It was so windy and wet, the inside and outside of the tent were touching and water was poring in, I was emptying it out with a cup.”

Despite these challenges, Mike said it was not easy to leave his tent behind when he first got housing.

“I left my tent down at the park for about a month,” he said. “When I went back down it was the first time I noticed I had to get on my hands and knees to get into my home.”

The importance of choice

The Haven sign outside blue door
The Haven has received funding from Places for People in Chapelton to support those who have experienced homelessness. Image: The Haven/Facebook.

Learning about the experiences of those who have been homeless has helped The Haven team structure their support model.

Another person the charity has supported, a woman in her 40s, has lived in Stonehaven for the past two years after escaping from an abusive partner.

One factor which stood out from her story was how important it is for people to be able to make their own choices.

“There’s a charity in Banchory where you can make a wonderful wish list and they will supply you with a van for furnishings for your home,” she said.

“But you don’t get a choice. So, after 10 years of abuse where you have no choice and then you don’t get a choice. I said no to this offer.

“It was not about picking the most expensive or designer furniture, it was about having some choice on what would fit my style. Picking the table, you want to sit at with your computer. Picking the sofa instead of being told this is what you’ll get.”

Starkeeper and The Haven team have also taken this on board to make sure they do not “re-trigger” anyone.

“For example, one of the things The Haven was passionate about is making sure people can choose their own food,” she added.

Spectrum of homelessness

Homeless man sleeping on street
The Haven wants to help educate the community on the spectrum of homelessness. Image: Shutterstock.

Recent comments from the former Home Secretary that living in a tent is a “lifestyle” choice have further highlighted the ignorance around the issue.

“I’ve learned so much about what homelessness ‘looks’ like,” Starkeeper said. “My previous experience was just walking down the street and seeing someone sitting with a blanket. But, in reality, there is a huge spectrum of homelessness.

“We are working directly with people in Stonehaven and I think there will be some people genuinely shocked to learn there are people who are homeless or have experienced homelessness here. I was definitely one of them.”

Openly discussing the spectrum of homelessness is something the team at The Haven hope will raise further awareness within the community where a number of temporary houses are located.

“We’re always keen to challenge stigma and change narratives,” Starkeeper added.

* Names have been changed.