Published: 16:35, 22 July 2021
| Updated: 11:09, 23 July 2021
Homeless Darren Abelo and his brother Benito Abela have a new roof over their heads thanks to government cash.
The pair were living at The Quays shelter in Crown Quay Lane, Sittingbourne, when the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) was launched to help rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Housing association Riverside, which runs the centre, worked with Swale council and used the money to find the brothers a new home where they now live with their adopted dog Bubba.
Darren, 54, said: “We’re so grateful for our new home. It’s a two-bedroom house so we each have our own space and we have our freedom.
“Bubba has a lovely nature and is very obedient. She loves the garden here. At our old accommodation she had to walk on the streets. We’ve got her a little paddling pool. We wouldn’t be without her. It’s brilliant, we feel happy here."
After struggling with drug addiction and a stint in prison, Darren has now been clean for more than 11 months.
He said: "Before I got to where I am now, I couldn’t find anywhere to live. Covid changed everything and times got hard. I found myself homeless for a few months in late 2019.”
Darren, the youngest of five brothers and three sisters, said: “We are very close. We lost my mum four years ago and it ripped my heart out. I then spent seven months locked up followed by some time on the streets but now, thankfully, I’m here.”
Benito, 62, and Darren adopted Bubba, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Jack Russell cross, when its owner died.
Shann Roberts, a Riverside journey coach, visits them three times a week to provide help and support. She said: “Seeing Darren and Benito both settled in their new home and getting excited for their future again brings a lot of pride. Working with the brothers is hugely rewarding. They have been on a real journey over the past few years."
She added: "We’re really grateful to the Government for creating NSAP as it is enabling us to create new homes and better lives for people affected by homelessness."
The NSAP, backed by £433m of government money, was launched by housing secretary Robert Jenrick a year ago on Sunday . It aims to provide 6,000 long-term, safe homes for those in need.