Paul finds a home with the Salvation Army in Perth
published on 24 Jul 2018
A Salvation Army volunteer has credited the church and charity for helping him turn his life around.
Paul Hernandez works at the Salvation Army’s community church in Perth, Scotland. He started helping out there in 2016, shortly after moving from Blackpool where he’d lived for 19 years.
During his time in the seaside town, Paul had lived with his mum until she moved to Invergowrie, near Dundee in 2014. A few months later, Paul, who has severe epilepsy and learning disabilities, suffered a seizure that left him unconscious for three days and stricken in hospital. With no family support nearby, he decided to move north to be closer to his mum.
The 44-year-old was given supported accommodation at the Salvation Army’s resettlement flats directly above the organisation’s community church in Perth. The flats are aimed at helping people get back into independent living.
Paul admits he struggled at first but thanks to the support of Salvation Army church leader Albert Kidd he began to feel part of the community. Paul started attending worship on a Sunday and volunteering at the Salvation Army drop-in cafe for people experiencing homelessness.
It was during a drop-in session that he met Shona Stewart, a specialist support worker at the organisation’s Skinnergate Lifehouse – a 30-bed resettlement centre in Perth aimed at helping people get back into independent living.
Shona was so moved by Paul’s story that she got permission from her manager to take him on as a client. She arranged for a full assessment of Paul’s learning disabilities - something he’d never had done – and worked with social workers to get a care plan put in place. Shona also made sure Paul received the benefits he was entitled to.
“Moving to Perth and finding the Salvation Army has been a life-changing experience,” says Paul.
“Bert and Shona took me under their wings and cared about me when they didn’t have to.
“It was hard leaving Blackpool because I was settled and had friends. But when I ended up in hospital I realised I didn’t have a lot of actual support.
“I was closer to my mum but apart from that I knew no one in Perth. So I was worried about being isolated. But I got to know Bert and he introduced me to the Salvation Army. Then I found out about the work of the church in helping homeless people and I was lucky enough to meet Shona. She arranged for me to be assessed, sorted out my benefits and made sure I had carers to help me live on my own.
“I’ve found a community in Perth with the Salvation Army. This is something I’ve been waiting all my adult life for.”
Shona said: “I’m so happy for Paul, to see how well he is doing for himself. When I first met him I was shocked that no one had assessed his learning disabilities and that he was on the minimum amount of benefits - basically for people who are deemed fit for work.
“My job is to support service users at our Skinnergate Lifehouse but I spoke to my manager and he gave me permission to take Paul on as a client. Paul was working so hard for the Salvation Army and I wanted to do something for him.
“So basically from having no support whatsoever we managed to sort out a social worker to try and source some sort of care because of the amount of learning disabilities Paul has and because of his seizures.
“His mum stays a half an hour’s drive away and he didn’t have anyone else in Perth so from a safety aspect I got conversations going with the social work department who did their own assessment. He now has carers from Arc Bray who come in each day to help him with things like keeping the flat tidy and cooking meals.
“When Paul was being assessed at the hospital his mum came along and she was quite emotional because the family had never been able to access any of this kind of help when he was younger.
“Paul has such a heart for helping people – an example of this being during the winter months when he would do soup runs off his own back for people he knew were having a hard time.”
Paul added: “I’ve got everything sorted out. I’m with people who care about me at the Salvation Army, I have a nice flat and in helping people I’m doing something that I love. I couldn’t ask for more.”