Stephen Rands hit rock bottom when he became homeless, but the baker-by-trade is now back on his feet and doing what he does best – making bread.
Stephen, aged 60, worked in bakeries for 37 years, starting his first job as soon as he left school at the age of 16. He retired in 2017 but unfortunate financial circumstances led to him becoming homeless for 15 months.
“The things you see and do when you’re homeless, you wouldn’t believe, but I was born a survivor and you carry on the best way you can,” said Stephen who would ride a night train from 11pm until 5am most days. “It would shelter me from the wind and rain and from gangs,” he said. “On Saturdays I had to sleep on the streets. I also spent a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms and libraries.”
Eventually he was found by an outreach team from St Mungo’s charity and taken to a shelter before getting accommodation in Whitechapel. He was referred by Poplar Jobcentre Plus to the CLW WHP JETS scheme which is delivered across London by Ingeus. Participants are given tailored support and training to help them find new work.
Stephen’s employment coach Jayne Tinson supported him and arranged for experts at PurpleCV to write his CV. She invited him to an Ingeus event held on National Employability Day, to meet employers. At the event, Stephen was put forward for a job at an upmarket bakery and within a week had been for an interview and secured the role.
He works for an Italian bakery company, where he makes different types of focaccia, buns and bread such as sourdough, walnut and onion.
“I’ve previously worked in English bakeries, the Italian methods are very different, but I’m learning quickly and enjoying it,” said Stephen. “I’m really happy now, I just want to get on and live a normal life.”
Stephen said he was very grateful to the JETS programme: “Jayne was extremely helpful and I would never have been able to produce a professional CV myself, so would have struggled to get a job,” he added. “The employment day, which matched me to my employer, was fantastic and really made things easy for me.”
The JETS programme’s full name is Central London Works, Work and Health Programme Job Entry Targeted Support (CLW WHP JETS) and is managed by Central London Forward. It helps residents in Central London who have been affected by the pandemic.