Job joy for homeless man who was set on fire – Kent Online

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05:00, 11 November 2021
 | Updated: 15:42, 11 November 2021
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A homeless man has turned his life around by enrolling at college and securing a job at a Pizza Hut yards from the doorway where he sleeps.
Michael Cordes has experienced shocking abuse while living on the streets of Canterbury.
Michael says he hopes to put his life on the streets behind him
The 38-year-old has been urinated on, set fire to, attacked as he slept, and robbed of his most treasured possessions.
But he has now bagged a job at Pizza Hut while studying to fulfil his dream of becoming a hairdresser.
The popular chain in Canterbury High Street is just a stone’s throw from where Michael sleeps in a tent each night.
He spotted the restaurant was hiring when he went in to redeem a voucher he was handed on the street.
“Obviously they were apprehensive, which I totally understand,” he said. “But they got to know me and realised that I just want a job.
“The only difference between me and anyone else is where I sleep.”
Michael previously worked as a heating engineer for about 20 years but stepped down after a car accident in 2019.
He had his first day at Pizza Hut on Monday, which he described as “absolutely brilliant”.
“For my sense of self-worth more than anything,” he added.
“The fact that they’ve taken a chance on me is amazing.
“It was a little overwhelming at first – it’s been a while since I’ve been at work since my accident – but once I got into the swing of it I really enjoyed it. Everyone was lovely.”
Michael has also started training part-time as a ladies hairdresser at Canterbury College.
“It’s the highlight of my week,” he said. “I love it.”
Michael – who has only a basic mobile phone and no internet access – visited the college in person to enrol, where staff helped him apply for a full bursary that covers his course fees.
He hopes to work at Pizza Hut while he trains and save enough money to rent somewhere of his own, before looking for jobs in the hair industry when he qualifies in about two years.
Michael is able to store his bedding and other belongings in lockers at the college, where he can also use washing facilities.
He says he is regaining a feeling of humanity, which was chipped away by abuse he has repeatedly suffered on the streets.
“People look at you and they judge,” he said.
“But I go to college, I go to work. I’m doing everything I can. I’m not a burden to the state in any way.”
To others who feel their prospects are bleak, Michael advises: “Find out what you want and do it – it’s as simple as that.
“There’s only you holding you back.”
Canterbury College principal Victoria Copp-Crawley praised Michael.
“We’re incredibly proud of Michael’s dedication to training in a new skill and wish him the best of luck in his continuing education,” she said.
“We’re passionate about enabling everyone to study, overcoming any barriers that may be in the way. Therefore bursaries are available wherever possible.
“We would like to thank Michael for taking the opportunity to study with us, and we hope that he continues to learn as much as possible under our excellent lecturers.”
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