By Lucy Notarantonio
A homeless woman is unrecognisable after turning her life around thanks to her successful café business.
Caz Chapman, 31, from Loughborough, spent four years sofa surfing and sleeping on the streets after mixing with the wrong crowd at school.
After failing her exams at school, Caz found herself on a downward spiral and began treating her life as a joke.
Relying on job seekers allowance from the age of 17, Caz decided to turn her life around four years later after realising her life was in turmoil.
After landing a job at a local café, the owner decided to sell up and gave Caz the opportunity to buy the property for herself.
Caz – who had no savings – was able to buy the café by paying her previous boss £200-400 per week – and now after five years, she finally owns it.
She said: “I got mixed in with the wrong crowd at school and began drinking every weekend.
“The police were always coming to my mum’s house, so it was for the best for me to leave home at 18, I then started drinking £2.50 cider more regularly to block out the pain of being homeless.
“It was terrifying on the streets, I was vulnerable. I would fear for my life every time a car would drive past in case one stopped to take me.
“But after meeting my boyfriend, Theo Ramratan, 30, in 2010, while I was sleeping in a hostel, I then began to turn my life around.
“I was 22-years-old at the time and after landing a job at a donut van at the Olympics 2012, then found a vacancy at the café.
“The following day I got the job, my confidence and drive shortly returned, I fell in love with the customers and felt like life finally had a purpose again.
“My boss decided she was going to sell up and I couldn’t let the café go, it had saved me.
“Thankfully we came to agreement, where I could pay weekly instalments and now five years later, the café is finally mine.”
Caz was one of an estimated 4,700 people sleeping rough until she managed to find a hostel within her budget.
She adds: “I realised after school that despite being the ‘class clown’ that the joke was on me.
“All my friends were settling down and renting places with their partners and I was doing nothing with no home.
“I decided to check into a hostel which was scary as I was the only girl in a dorm of five guys but it was a start.
“I don’t forget my past and allow homeless people to come in for food and regularly collect clothes to donate.
“It was imperative for me to make a ‘pay it forward’ board – this allows customers to buy a food item for a homeless person who walks in.
“I feel like I have made it now, I can’t believe the girl who was drinking frosty jacks from the bottle on the streets was once me.
“Owning the café is a dream come true.”