On World Homeless Day (October 10) BCHA manager Jamie Clarke has told how he came to Dorset alone and desperate and found support to build a new life helping others.
On World Homeless Day (October 10) BCHA manager Jamie Clarke has told how he came to Dorset alone and desperate and found support to build a new life helping others.

As a manager at BCHA Learn in Bournemouth, Jamie Clarke is part of an organisation which works with people many of whom are at rock bottom - struggling with the threat of homelessness, unemployment and poor mental health - and helps them to rebuild their lives through support, education and training.

Jamie knows only too well what it means to be in the depths of despair.

“I had a difficult childhood, with many challenges along the way,” he said.

“Later, as a youth I embraced the rave scene of the 1990s.

“This became a lifestyle for me for a while. It was exciting but it came with instability.

“I’ve had terrible anxiety all my life and it wasn’t long before an unstable and chaotic lifestyle took its toll and left me in despair.”

Jamie moved to Bournemouth 16 years ago in a desperate bid to turn his life around. 

“I was at rock bottom, I had no home and if I’m honest could not see any way out,” he said.

“Fortunately for me, I was offered a place at BCHA’s St Pauls Direct Access Hostel in Bournemouth, with help from a range of support services in the area such as The Clubhouse, for people suffering with poor mental health.”

BCHA was founded over 50 years ago and is a major provider of housing, support, learning and employability services for people across the South West from Dorset to Devon.

Jamie said: “I slowly started joining various groups and courses. I found it helped me to manage my anxiety and build my resilience by learning ways to recognise my triggers and find relief through positive thoughts and actions. I also met new people, who were all supportive and believed in me.

“From there, I started volunteering at some of the groups and an amazing staff member from The Clubhouse called Gary Davies took me under his wing and mentored me, encouraging me to aim higher and teaching me how to facilitate workshops myself.”

Jamie went on to attain over a dozen qualifications.

He also moved into BCHA accommodation as a tenant, and was offered a temporary job working as a Brief Intervention Therapist in Bournemouth and Poole A&E.

Then he heard about a full time job available at BCHA, as a Development Coach with BCHA Learn, the organisation’s employability and personal development arm.

He said: “I had never had a long term job before.

“But I prepared, applied, and was successful - and I have never looked back. It was a huge turning point in my life.”

Twelve years on, Jamie now oversees BCHA Learning Centre and two other BCHA projects.

He said: “I am privileged to see every day how our services help people successfully move on from issues such as the threat of homelessness, mental health, substance misuse and anxiety.

“I also have a family of my own. My children have given me the motivation and drive to continue to build a secure and stable lifestyle. I’ve learnt that these are two essential ingredients for positive wellbeing and for my overall happiness in life.” 

Jamie continues to scale mountains – and not just in the metaphorical sense.

“Along with some of my colleagues at BCHA I started doing really long bike rides as sponsored challenges and this led to climbing mountains in places such as Italy, Greece, North Africa, France and Poland.”

Jamie recently walked 26 miles for Macmillan and is about to head off to tackle some particularly challenging peaks in the Lake District.

He said: “We are climbing Skiddaw and Blencathra, which should be tough, but fun.” 

“We are also hoping people will support us by making a donation, which will be used to fund a Christmas party for people who are rebuilding their confidence through our health and wellbeing courses at BCHA Learn.

“I know what it’s like to be at the bottom. But with BCHA’s help, I know you can fight your way back up.”

BCHA Learn has a wide range of free employability and skills workshops and training to support people in their personal development and towards employment.

For more information email: bchalearn@bcha.org.uk or phone: 01202 410595.

To sponsor Jamie in his next climb please visit this JustGiving page and mention BCHA Learn in your donation.

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