In 2011, Halifax’s Michael Gale hit rock bottom. He was estranged from his family, faced a life on the streets and suffered unimaginable heartache when someone close to him was tragically killed after being struck by a car.
Things started looking up for Michael after a chance meeting with David Fawcett, CEO of the charity Happy Days who not only provide social housing for those who need it most, but who also run the Happy Days Yorkshire Bank Bike Library café and shop nearby Sowerby Bridge.
They were able to offer Michael a place in one of their community housing developments and through the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library scheme he was given access to a free bike.
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It was at this point Michael started to turn his life around when he seized the opportunity to build on his love of cycling by volunteering at the bike library.
His work for Happy Days has helped develop his love of bikes and Michael is relishing his new-found responsibility and the chance to give something back to the people who have brought him back from the brink.
“Before I moved back to Halifax, I lived in Bradford in the Salvation Army hostel. I had a job in Bradford and was in a relationship with a brilliant person. We broke up, and then some time after she was hit by a car and passed away – that totally messed my life up and I had to leave Bradford,” said 34-year-old Michael.
“I was depressed for two years. I couldn’t cope, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I moved to Halifax and it was the first ever place I’d lived on my own. I couldn’t keep up with the bills which meant I got into debt, lost my tenancy and ended up becoming homeless. That was really scary, I’d never ever been in that situation. It was really hard as I’m used to having family around me and none of my family wanted anything to do with me.”
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Michael moved into the Happy Days community in Sefton Terrace in 2011 with, in his own words, ‘the clothes on my back, a bed and a TV’.
Michael was determined to get his life back on track and since he started volunteering at the bike library he has never looked back. Along with his voluntary work, he is now engaged and is hoping to one day to apply to join the police force.
“Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries has given me the opportunity to work things out in my life,” said Michael. “My new-found confidence is brilliant – it’s given me a lot more belief in myself and I can pass this onto someone else as a shining light and build their confidence up, too.
“Thanks to the Yorkshire Bank Bike Library I have a mountain bike free of charge! I want to conquer the world on my bike.”
The Happy Days Yorkshire Bank Bike Library is one of 61 bike libraries and 57 donation stations. This unique initiative is a joint partnership between Yorkshire Bank and Welcome to Yorkshire, with the simple aim of making cycling more accessible.