From homelessness to being named London’s ‘happiest bus driver’
PUBLISHED: 12:57 07 January 2019
If you’re at Hackney Wick and you see a beaming bus driver it could well be Pat Lawson.
His smiling face has resulted in him winning Transport for London’s (TfL) outstanding customer service award at the 2018 London Bus Awards – but not that long ago things were very different for him.
Pat was street homeless and in hostels for years and sold the Big Issue. But he was eventually referred to charity Single Homeless Project (SHP) for help.
Through the charity’s Islington Aftercare Service he retrained as a bus driver, and was given a chance to turn his life around.
Today, he can be found driving the 26 bus from Waterloo to Hackney Wick.
He explained: “I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in prison, I’ve been an addict.
“I often thought: ‘How did I get here?’ But SHP believed in me. If it wasn’t for them, I’d still be on benefits. Now I’m a tax-paying citizen.
“My support worker, Amanda, was continually on my case, and gave me the push forward I needed. She believed in me before I believed in myself.
“Work is so much better and more fulfilling – you put more in and you get more back.”
Pat is loved by his passengers for greeting people as they board, and delivering messages in the style of train or drivers and pilots.
He scooped the TfL award after 45 commendations from passengers, and was also nominated for top London bus driver at the UK Bus Awards.
SHP’s CEO Liz Rutherfoord said: “London is in the grip of a crisis, with one in 52 Londoners now homeless.
“Spiralling rents and a reluctance among landlords to let properties to homeless or socially excluded people mean it can be extremely difficult to get a foothold.
“Our research shows 70 per cent of our clients want a job – but without additional specialist support, only four per cent will succeed.
“It’s the classic ‘catch 22’ of homelessness - without a job, you can’t get a home, but without a stable address, the right skills or a recent employment history, no employer will look at you.
“We’ve shown that people can and do recover from homelessness, but we urgently need to scale up so we can help more people like Pat move on with their lives.”
Donate at shp.org.uk.