Zoltan's story

A New Home and Job for Zoltan Skills_for_employment_graphic.png

After After more than 18 months of sleeping rough on the UK’s streets Zoltan Fehrer says he has been given a ‘second chance at life’ thanks to ForViva group member City West Housing Trust.

The 39-year-old had found himself unemployed and sleeping under makeshift blankets in Manchester’s Victoria Station for warmth and safety despite having a successful career working in construction just a few years earlier.

But after meeting with City West’s team Zoltan has transformed his circumstances, securing a job working with young people in Salford, and moving into his first home for more than five years.

“I owe the team at City West everything,” said Zoltan. “I found a job, a bed, and a second chance at life. But I couldn’t have done it on my own.”

Zoltan, who is originally from Hungary, had been working in America for 11 years as a successful trade worker renovating houses and offices, before he decided to move back home to start a new life with more than $50,000 he had saved.

Upon arriving home Zoltan says he was robbed, leaving him with no money and nowhere to live.

“It shows how quickly things can change for a person.” he said. “I had more money than ever and the chance at a great life, then the next day it was all gone. I had lost touch with my family and I was on my own in Hungary. I had nothing.”

Zoltan moved to the UK in November 2015 to try to find work and a fresh start in life. He originally headed to London before moving up to Manchester in August 2016.

Zoltan looked at securing some temporary accommodation while he searched for work, but was advised that he did not qualify for support as he had not worked for three months in the UK.

“I was looking for work, but had nowhere to live,” he explained “I couldn’t get work as I didn’t have a place to live, but I couldn’t get a place to live as I hadn’t worked.

“I spent some nights in hostels, then others on the street. I always tried to sleep near to churches and charities so that I could get the chance of some food and a place to wash in the morning before I went out hunting for a job. I spent a lot of nights in Victoria Station.”

After linking up with a local charity, Zoltan was referred to The Work Company, which helps people into employment. The Work Company secured him a place on City West’s ESF funded Skills for Employment Programme, which specialises in working with partners and charities to provide a wide variety of training and qualification opportunities for people who find themselves in challenging circumstances.

Through the programme, Zoltan enrolled in an eight-week course to gain his Level One qualification in basic construction skills, meaning he would be qualified to work on construction sites in the UK.

Lee Barker, who runs the programme for City West, said: “As soon as we saw Zoltan at work we knew he was exceptionally talented. I wanted to find out more about his back story and learned that he had spent years working in the industry.

“It was only after three weeks that we realised that Zoltan was homeless and was living on the streets hoping to find a room in different sheltered accommodation centres every night. He came in one day and had been attacked while he was sleeping rough. That really highlights the scale of the problem.

“The team rallied around Zoltan. He is an incredibly positive and generous person despite what he had been through. He has risen above all the challenges life has thrown at him.

Zoltan eventually secured his own flat with the landlord and has now started a new full-time job with City West’s School’s Links programme which provides access to training, qualifications and career support for those who find it difficult to engage in mainstream education.

He said: “I have my life back. This is my first home in so many years. I have a bed and a job, and that is all I wanted.

“I love working with the young people on the School Links programme. I can be a trainer and a teacher. I can teach people about my experiences in life as well as showing them some practical skills.

“I feel like I have a lot of life experience to offer and hopefully I can use some of that to help the next generation make positive decisions in their life.