THE iPhone had just come out, people were flocking to the cinema to see the final Harry Potter movie, and the Spice Girls went on a reunion tour.

But that was not what one guy from Essex will always remember about 2007.

For that was the year Phil, originally from Braintree, saw his life begin to fall apart.

The death of his mother preceded a breakdown of his marriage and being kicked out of his home.

A five-year prison sentence for drug offences soon followed, along with a stinging problem with addiction and an inevitable breakdown of family relationships.

It all led to a ‘bed’ for the night on the floor at the Q-Park Meadows multi-storey car park, the one next to the shopping centre and opposite the Odeon cinema in Chelmsford town centre.

Phil recalled: “This was the first time I had ever felt vulnerable. You had to sleep with one eye open otherwise your stuff would be taken.

“I knew this wasn’t the life for me and struggled to cope with sleeping on the streets.

“Being around people wasn’t good for me so I found myself somewhere else where I could be on my own but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to cope for long.

“I would go to sleep each night really hoping I wasn’t going to wake up the next day.”

But just ahead of the arrival of the era defining Covid pandemic in 2019, Phil’s prospects got a vital boost when his prison probation officer introduced him to CHESS Homeless.

Now clean from drugs, Phil soon got a proper bed at the charity’s night shelter. He improved his fitness, signed up for voluntary work, and committed to support meetings.

And the upward curve continued in early 2021 when he was offered a flat with a small garden area for those aged over-50. And he does not intend to ruin his second chance.

Keen to highlight the important work at CHESS and acknowledge the charity’s incredible support, Phil added: “CHESS helped me get hold of some furniture and I’m settled now.

“I have reconnected with my family and they are now in my life again, which is great.

“When I think back, if that probation worker had not made that call and taken me along to the Winter Project and introduced me to CHESS – I really doubt I would still be here.

“I would like to be able to do something that helps others that have gone through the same experiences as I have had.

“It will make me feel as though what I have been through was worthwhile and that my life has not been wasted.”

Phil is typical of the type of vulnerable Essex resident who has been able to rebuild their life after being given structured support by CHESS Homeless.

The charity is currently in the middle of a huge fundraising push to build 24 new self-contained units at one of its existing facilities for rough sleepers from across the county.

The ‘Turning Point’ project now only needs a commitment of £164,000 to reach its £2.7million target (you can listen to CHESS CEO Rob Saggs talk about the project on BBC Essex radio by clicking here).

The charity is still looking to bridge the final part of the funding gap but talks are ongoing with potential benefactors ahead of a deadline at the end of March 2024.

The development will rely on renewable energy sources and feature homes tailored for those with disabilities and serious health conditions.

More than half of funding is from the government’s Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) and is dependent on the facility opening by March 2025.

If you or your company would like to make a donation, or if you would like more information, please call CHESS Homeless on 01245 281104 or email [email protected]