From rough sleeper to tutor

Dave Arnold, St Patrick's Learning and Resource Centre
From a private collection

My name is David although I prefer to be called Dave, and I was born in the Kings Cross area of London. I am 48 years old and I am divorced. I have two children, who live with my ex-wife Kathy, their names are Carla and Alexander, and they are 12 and 8 respectively. I came to Brighton when I was 5, as my father’s firm relocated here and the family moved with it.

I was educated at Varndean Grammar School For Boys, leaving there at 16 with 4 GCE ‘O’ Levels in English, Maths, Science and Technical Drawing. I started work as an apprentice motor mechanic but soon gave it up as, although I liked the job, the wages were so poor. I then went to a telecommunications company caled ITT Creed, building teleprinters and other similar equipment. I made my way theorugh the firm and ended up as a field engineer installing and maintaining the equipment on site. Unfortunately, I was made redundant in 1982, the firm being taken over by an American rival.

This prompted a career change and I became a bus driver with the local bus company; however after about 8 years of this I felt I needed a break from driving and took some unpaid leave – however the company took a dim view of this and dismissed me. This resulted in my eviction from my bedsit at the hands of an unscrupulous landlord and I ended up as a “rough sleeper”, as it is known.

This went on for about 7 months until I found my way to St. Patrick’s where I spent another 7 months in their Night Shelter. A good side to this rather dismal situation was the fact that I made extensive use of the Learning and Resource Centre where I became, with guidance from an excellent tutor, Mr. Tony Ward, computer literate (this despite never having used a computer up to this point). I made good progress in the Centre and was asked to become a volunteer tutor, teaching other residents computer skills, and even basic life skills as some people required even the basic skills.

Thanks to Tony and Fiona (our other tutor) I am now taking a 7307 Teaching Certificate course at City College hopefully to find work, eventually, in a teaching environment, possibly St. Patrick’s itself. I have also started to take an ECDL course with Rewards to further my IT knowledge. In May this year (2003) I started to take a course in Basic Computer Installation and Maintenance.

I feel that my situation can demonstrate that good can come out of bad…sometimes.

Comments about this page

  • I am very sad to learn about David’s career. I thought my frustrations were bad enough since I thought David’s was the path I missed out on. I learned radio servicing in Wetherby Borstal in the 1960s. I was the star of the whole show, wait for it… staying on of my own volition to take the second course. Then I made the worst mistake of my life. So grateful was I to be employed by David’s old firm on release, I failed to negotiate day release and I was trapped into being an electronic test engineer by the staggering rates of pay I could receive abroad. I worked in ‘the Gulf’ and on the ‘Defence Early Warning’ station on Baffin Island where I came down with cabin fever, a serious psychotic state. I went through the higher education (so called) after graduating in history and achieving a bare call to the Bar. I have never had gainful employment since, though I do work worth over 100 Pounds an hour promoting new charities or helping existing ones to replace public authorities and yet remain within the law. Thank you David for telling me your story since, till now, I wondered where I would have been had I taken the ONC/HNC sandwich course I feel I traded off for a handsome hourly rate all those decades ago!

    By David Barnett (25/11/2005)
  • Having met Dave at St. Patrick’s earlier this year whilst I was homeless, I would like to say how hard working he and the rest of the team are there. Even though I caused them a lot of problems due to me not being able to accept that I was homeless, they stood by me and now my life is back on track. Thanks to all of you and I hope I can repay you all one day.

    By Steve Kidd (23/11/2006)
  • I hope that he’s OK now.  Me and my mum were going to help out on Christmas Day but our car broke down.  We are learning about St Patrick’s today at school because it’s ‘theme day’ which means we don’t have normal lessons.

    By Anonymous (29/01/2008)

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