BY JAMES TWOMEY
A former homeless man who was once stabbed and lived on the streets for 10 years has been made an MBE for his work helping homeless people.
Dennis Rogers, 59, was awarded the MBE by Prince Phillip for his work with homeless charity Groundswell for the past eight years.
Dennis, who got back on to his feet thanks to his caseworker in Lewisham, said: “I was quite shocked to be awarded the MBE, from being homeless, and I’ve got dyslexia and things like that.
“I never dreamed ever that I’d get something like this. I was gobsmacked. Even if it encourages one homeless person to see there is change, it can happen.
“The first time I was homeless and come off the streets I never dealt really with my alcoholism.
You know I sort of white-knuckled it. I got into work, I was a health care assistant, looked after lots of people with learning disabilities.
“I then ended up back on the street for another five years.
I never went into hostels, because round in those days the rooms in hostels were dreadful.”
Dennis managed to secure temporary accommodation in Lewisham in 2002 when he met his new keyworker Mary Mullany, who went “above and beyond” to support Dennis in his battle with alcoholism.
Dennis, who now lives in Bromley, said: “I then got a new keyworker and she was very stern but fair.
And she was Irish that helped because I’ve got an Irish background. And you know she said ‘I’m here to help you, but you’ve got to tell me how I can help you’.
I was already shouting out for help to go to rehab, detox in rehab because I was sick of being sick.”
A life-threatening violent attack which saw Dennis stabbed in the lung and the work of Mary managed to get him the rehab help that he needed.
Dennis said: “I crawled to my off-licence to get my crate. I had to drink three or four cans before I could walk. “So I thought, nice sunny day, go off to the park. And gradually some of my drinking friends found me and then a stranger came along, asked to join.
“He had a pop at one of our mates, and all I did was tap him on the arm and say you know leave him alone, and, actually he stabbed me in the lung. And from that day, to this, I’ve not had a drink.
“That was what it took. I ended up in intensive care, I was in there a good while. My keyworker said let me stay once the doctors were talking about discharging me. Because she knew and I knew, if I went back home, I would be back drinking again.
“She came down, she managed to persuade the doctors to keep me an extra few days. And in that time she got me into rehab.
“My keyworker and I were talking over lunch. I said I want to start work with the homeless and I want to be as good as you. And she said ‘no, I want you to be better than me.’”
On finding out about his MBE Dennis was determined to locate Mary so she could attend the event with him.
Through the power of social media and the help of homelessness charity Thames Reach the #FindMary hashtag took off and a week later she had been tracked down.
Mary said: “Dennis was always a gentle, kind soul. Thankfully I got to work with him. To say I’m proud is an understatement.”
Dennis was one of the first members of staff at Groundswell to lead the peer advocacy approach to helping homeless people address their health problems.
Just in the past year, Dennis has helped more than 90 homeless men and women across London start to address their health problems and engage with healthcare.
Jeremy Swain, the deputy director, homelessness and rough sleeping delivery at Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, who nominated Dennis for the award has said: “I’m delighted that the totally inspiring Dennis Rogers has received an MBE in the New Year Honours list for services to homeless people.
Dennis has used his own experience of homelessness in best possible way helping many others escape it.”
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