Homeless man and serial offender turns his life around thanks to charity support

John Moir, who is volunteering at the Teapot Project.

John Moir, who is volunteering at the Teapot Project. - Credit: Archant

On day four of our investigation into homelessness in Ipswich, Gemma Mitchell hears from a man who has lived on the streets of Ipswich, and speaks to the town pastors.

Mischa Pearson and Cat Gosling from the Teapot Project.

Mischa Pearson and Cat Gosling from the Teapot Project. - Credit: Archant

“It could happen to anyone, your sister, mum or dad.”

This is the message from father-of-five John Moir, who has spent most of his life either in hostels, prisons or living on the streets.

Ten years ago Mr Moir came to Ipswich from Manchester to start a new life after getting in with the wrong crowd in his home city.

The 49-year-old became entrenched in a cycle of crime, spending a total of 26 years in prison, mainly for motoring offences.

He is now rough sleeping in Ipswich, regularly spending the night in Christchurch Park or the skate park at Stoke Bridge.

“It’s horrible, especially in this cold,” he said.

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“You walk down the street and people look down at you but it could happen to anyone, your sister, mum or dad.”

But one year ago Mr Moir was given an opportunity that he says has turned his life around.

He was taken on as a volunteer at the Teapot Project, a community interest company in Ipswich which saves food that would otherwise be thrown away and offers work placements to vulnerable people.

The Ipswich Town Pastors.

The Ipswich Town Pastors. - Credit: Gemma Mitchell

“That has helped me stay out of trouble,” he added. “No-one has given me trust like these have.

“The first time I met them I told them about my history but I have given that all up.

“These gave me a chance I’d never had in my whole life.

“I just wanted to change my life, now I need my own flat.”

However, Mr Moir said it is difficult finding a employer who was willing to give him a chance due to his criminal record.

He has been on the wrong side of the law since a young teenager after experiencing a difficult childhood.

But thanks to the support he has received from his “Teapot family”, Mr Moir is finally able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“When the future gets better I would like to help the other homeless, and I would like to do talks to young people in schools about offending,” he said.

“I want to tell them prison is no good. I’m 49 and I have only just realised that. I wish I could turn the time back.

“I had a hard upbringing but I can never blame my parents. I’m really glad I met the Teapot family. I will do anything for them to help out.”

Town pastors helping those in nighttime economy - including rough sleepers

It started as a project to help vulnerable drinkers among the Ipswich nightlife.

But over the past 10 years, the town pastors have extended their support to the homeless and needy on a Friday and Saturday night – when other services are often closed.

The Christian volunteers offer bottles of water, a chocolate bar, and more importantly a listening ear to those who need it.

Working in pairs, the pastors patrol the town centre between 10pm and 4am.

Information is communicated by radios to the volunteers from workers in Ipswich Borough Council’s CCTV control room.

Pastors have a check list of what to look out for, which includes: personal safety, mental health, drunk and incapable, medical assistance, juveniles, homeless or presenting as homeless, domestic violence, racial tension and preventing crime.

“Our job is not to preach,” said town pastor Yvonne Cross. “We don’t talk about our faith unless they want to; some people have questions.

“We try to be non-judgemental; the key is to see past their behaviour.

“People tell us the depths of their heart. It’s quite a privilege and it’s nice for them to get things off their chest.

“Most people come out to have a good time, but sometimes it goes wrong and that’s what we are there for.”

Mrs Cross said the pastors, who operate from the Christian Youth Ministries centre in Great Colman Street, saw a maximum of 12 people presenting themselves as homeless during a shift on a Friday or Saturday.

The volunteers know most of the people who are long-term homeless in Ipswich by name, and they will stop and talk to them, offer them refreshments and ask if they have a bed to sleep in that night.

The pastors will also refer anyone who is homeless or under threat of being homeless to the Chapman Centre to gain further, more specialised support.

Optimist hoping to rebuild his life

During a Friday night shift, the pastors found a group of Polish men sleeping rough in a church doorway.

One 51-year-old man, who asked not to be named, said he became homeless after going through a divorce and losing his job.

The father-of-two, who moved to Ipswich from Poland 10 years ago, said: “I can sleep at my friends’ houses but I don’t want to cause them trouble, so I would prefer to sleep on the street so I don’t bother anyone.

“That is best for me and best for my friends.

“My dream is to find a one bedroom flat and live with no stress. I can shower and watch TV and sleep well and wake up for work and go to work.

“But that is not my life. When I sleep here it is very difficult going to work, you don’t sleep very well.

“I can’t go to work when I can’t shower, and I can’t drink a coffee.

“If I had a good situation, I would be very happy and I could go to work.

“I’m an optimistic, I just need to find a job then I can rebuild my life.”

To read the final day of our homelessness investigation, click here.