Two people turned up to Highway of Holiness seeking refuge from the streets. One of them was Rafael Kwiatkowski who became instrumental in setting up Highway House.
Originally from Poland, Rafael arrived in the UK in 2005 looking for work. He left behind two parents, seven sisters and a teenage son. He became a resident of the shelter in 2009.
He and a friend (now deceased) were sitting outside a B&Q in Tottenham Hale, North London drinking. They were homeless. A woman (Rev. Alex’s wife) came by, chatted with inviting them to visit and handed them a leaflet with an address stamped on it. With the leaflet crumpled in their trouser pocket, they made their way to Highway of Holiness. It was closed, but they returned the following Monday and met with Rev. Alex.
They told him that they were desperate for somewhere warm to sleep and wash. Rafael and his friend were offered a meal, three times a week and they were grateful to have warm food in their bellies. A few weeks later they brought 20 of their friends along for dinner and the doors of Highway House were opened.
Rafael’s drinking problem had affected his liver. Although several appointments were made for him to see a GP he was often too drunk to remember. When he finally managed to get the care he so desperately needed, the Dr said his health was in a critical condition and his liver would have been permanently damaged, if he had continued without help.
His medication had to be taken diligently, with food and because of the severity of his health and the fact he was homeless, Doctors were reluctant to prescribe him with the necessary medication. Rev Alex stepped up and agreed with the Doctors to manage his care and provided the much needed address for hospital records.
Rev. Alex set up a regime of breakfast and medication, yet often Rafael was too hungover or drunk to eat let alone take medication.
Gradually, his liver and general health improved and he quit drinking completely. He was soon well enough to make a much desired visit to Poland to see family and friends. He was there to celebrate his sister’s wedding, but decided he didn’t want to be tempted to drink again, so missed the reception.
Rafael believes he’s completely unrecognisable from the broken man that first entered the shelter almost all those ago. Rev. Alex often reminds him that people at Highway House often had to carry him upstairs when he returned drunk at night.
He now rents a room in a bed-sit and while he is job-hunting he’s also volunteering in a project to rehabilitate other alcoholics. Rafael often finds it funny that he’s now working alongside the same people who used to try and help his and his own addiction to alcohol.
Raphael didn’t know it, but when he brought those 20 friends to Highway House, he helped start a homeless shelter that has gone on to help over 600 people.
Take a look at Life inside Highway House – Image Gallery