A former homeless man living at a Chester hostel has secured an employment opportunity with a top Chester restaurant.

John Thurwell, 36, originally from the Northwich area, became homeless as a result of a relationship breakdown and presented himself for emergency accommodation at Foundation Enterprises’ Richmond Court facility in Boughton.

John explained: “I was in a bad place both mentally and physically when I presented to the service with a fractured ankle and not much hope of help.

“The staff were amazing. I was placed on the ‘safe seat’ service initially for 19 days whilst the staff worked tirelessly to get me a core bed. What was important was the 24-hour support and the understanding, patience and compassion demonstrated by staff.

Work is ongoing to convert the former Richmond Court old people's home into a 36-bed hostel in Boughton
Richmond Court in Boughton

“Foundation Enterprises placed me in a core bed and I began volunteering with the service on small maintenance jobs around Richmond Court. That was a lifesaver as I needed something to do. I began to look for volunteer opportunities in the community and came across a bistro locally.

“I made an approach to the manager who recognised my circumstances and gave me a start as a volunteer. I have been there over a month, get fed really well and gain valuable experience and some good tips. Richmond Court helped me out by funding my chef’s uniform and one of the head chefs at the bistro gave me a Japanese knife to start my career off. I hope to gain more permanent paid employment from this opportunity.

“I wanted to tell my story because I want the community to know about the amazing service that I have had at Richmond Court and how locally businesses do care about vulnerable people.”

Many Boughton residents feel the location of Richmond Court is inappropriate within a residential setting compared to the previous city centre base.

Martin Delaney is representing Labour in the Boughton by-election
Cllr Martyn Delaney

And ward councillor Martyn Delaney (Lab) recently criticised the facility, which opened under the former Tory-led council, as being ‘too big’ and ‘unmanageable’.

Now his Labour administration at Cheshire West and Chester Council is considering reversing the policy by running smaller properties that are ‘preferable for service users and local communities’.

Sarah McGrady, service manager at Richmond Court, nevertheless wishes to highlight some of the positive outcomes.

She said: “John’s story is one of many successes we have had across the service. We have worked really hard with the local community and businesses and the bistro's faith in not only John, but Foundation as a service, is humbling.

"We recognise that a small number of individuals, often purporting to be homeless, greatly affect the public view of what we do. We hope John’s story allows the community to have a balanced and informed view going forwards.”

Foundation Enterprises North West are Cheshire West and Chester’s commissioned provider for services to rough sleepers and homeless people across the Borough.

The services provide accommodation-based support, assertive outreach, a 24 hour Rough Sleeping hotline on 0300 123 1562 and the North West’s first purpose-built outreach vehicle.