Jim Andrew was living in a damp, rat infested “shoebox” until a friend recommended him to ScotsCare.
The charity supports Scottish people throughout Greater London and soon found him a warm flat with friendly neighbors – not furry ones. ScotsCare client support worker Danny Gibson said Jim’s case started as a simple repair job but became an opportunity to turn his life around. “People often ask for a new fridge or something basic for the house, but it might be revealed they’re living with difficulties. You always help where you can, regardless of what the person’s asking for, and see what areas you can help with.”
Jim said the new flat was “like a five star hotel” in comparison to his former residence, and he no longer required layers of jumpers to stay warm. The retired lorry driver from Baillieston, Glasgow spent 17 years in his “shoebox” sized villa until his health worsened from the cold, heart surgery, and a home attack.
“I got home one day and there was a strange man sitting in my chair. My chair! Next thing I knew he’d hit me over the head and I woke up wondering what on earth had happened,” he says. “I thought I was indestructible. That nothing could happen to me. Now I’ve got a pacemaker and I’m shaking so much I can barely write my name. I never thought I’d see retirement age.”
Jim, who turned 65 in December, credits ScotsCare staff like Danny, and volunteers for getting him out of a potentially harmful and isolated living situation. “ScotsCare saved me,” he says. “The place I’ve got now is like paradise. I’m beginning to get out and live the life that I’ve missed. I’ve even got my driver’s license back.” Beyond his newly decorated walls, Jim can hear Scottish voices now instead of rats.
ScotsCare volunteer befriender Tom Marshall has assisted Jim’s journey from the beginning. He organised home repairs when needed and took Jim to see his new flat when he no longer felt safe in the old one. Jim faced his health problems with “quiet stoicism and good humour,” Tom says. “Jim’s a very nice man who’s had a full and interesting life. He has a fund of anecdotes and memories of his adventures in Scotland and since moving to England. “Having the chance to visit with him has been enjoyable.”
Further comfort is found in Jim’s weekly phone calls from volunteer Willie, asking how he’s getting on. “Nobody’s ever done that,” Jim says, adding that phoning ScotsCare was the best thing he could have done. “If it weren’t for ScotsCare I would have given up. I would have died in that house. I’ve got a lot to be really thankful for. ScotsCare gave me a chance at life that I never had before. They gave me faith in myself and that’s what I was needing.”
ScotsCare offers personalised help to Londoners in need. It could be housing, services such as advocacy and counselling, advice on debt, job and training, grants, or as with Jim, also a little faith.