Former Homeless Centre Resident Finalist For Award After Regaining Confidence

published on 13 Mar 2015

A 25-year-old man living at a Salvation Army Lifehouse in Stoke-on-Trent was a finalist for an award at a red carpet ceremony organised by The Prince’s Trust and attended by a host of celebrities including HRH Prince Charles.

David Ansell was nominated for the HSBC Breakthrough award having previously won the West Midlands regional award in the same category. His photo along with other nominees was shown on an electronic advertising board in Piccadilly Circus. The event was hosted by Ant & Dec and attended by a host of celebrities including Simon Cowell, Rod Stewart, Thierry Henry, Darcey Bussle, Gok Wan, and Fern Cotton. His award was presented by actor Kevin Spacey.

David came to The Salvation Army’s centre Vale Street Lifehouse two year ago after splitting up with his girlfriend and finding himself on the streets in Burslem with no employment, and no family or friends, to help him get back on his feet. While staying at the Lifehouse, the chaplain – Captain John Stark – encouraged him to take part in a Prince’s Trust football tournament, called Get Started With football, in July last year. Due to David’s lack of confidence he eventually agreed but only on the condition that his friend Anthony, another resident at the Lifehouse, went with him.

This tournament at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium proved to be a turning point in David’s life. 

He said: “I wouldn’t have gone to the tournament if it wasn’t for the Chaplain John’s encouragement and if Anthony hadn’t gone with me.”

A lady who was running the football tournament from The Prince’s Trust picked up on David’s lack of confidence and suggested he took a self-development programme run by the youth charity. That started in October and for five days a week for 12 weeks David attended the course (excluding a two week break over Christmas) which focuses on confidence building, teamwork and communication skills.

David invited Michael Tunnicliffe, his key worker, to attend the awards ceremony with him.

David said: “The course was fantastic – it has really helped me develop my confidence. My Salvation Army key worker, Michael, was very supportive. It was quite strange going to the course and coming back to the Lifehouse because most others on the course were living at home with family or friends. But it was great because I could tell Michael about the things I had done at the course and it was nice to have someone listen to me and get excited about the things I was doing.”

The team David was part of on the course, with the support of MP Joan Walley, for Stoke-On-Trent North, raised more than £500 to enable them to clean up and improve the area at Rudyard Lake, near Leak. They developed a patio area by a children’s playground, creating a stairway for walkers, as well as removing weeds and rubbish. 

As part of this David also spent time on a two-week work experience placement with the local fire brigade – learning about fire safety, and even taking part in a training exercise using breathing apparatus to enter a smoke-filled room to find a casualty.

David has now completed a cycle mechanics and business enterprising course, lives in an independent flat, and hopes to work for a charity in the future to support people who have faced similar struggles to him.