I haven’t felt at home anywhere since I was a teenager. I’m nearly 40 now.
I was first homeless in 2008 when my dad died. My mum had already passed away at this point. I had nearly 30 prison sentences mainly due to drug dependency and struggles with mental health. I stayed at several local accommodation providers – but none of these worked out and I was back on the streets. I felt the option to help me wasn’t there.
I’ve been through the housing system and the prison resettlement team and with me having no benefits, I ended up back on the streets again. I was getting hurt a lot and my injuries were getting worse. I was stealing to get money for drugs. I was in a prison resettlement property for a while too, but this didn’t suit me either.
Before Housing First
I was first told about Housing First by a PCSO while I was on the streets. They tried to say that Housing First could get me in a house straight away. I didn’t believe them because I’d been promised things before that didn’t happen and I thought Housing First would be the same as everything else.
I went to prison again after this because I still struggled to believe the help was there for me. I regularly missed my probation appointments, drank too much, and get myself in vulnerable situations.
When I was in prison, a Housing First service co-ordinator came in to meet me. I was released in April 2019 and have not felt the need to offend since I’ve been with the service.
I was managing a tenancy within a couple of months of leaving prison. I looked at a few others but chose this one. It’s close to places I know – so I wasn’t isolated. I’m able to get to the shop and the chemist on my own. At first, I didn’t stay in it for a couple of days, because I was scared to be alone. Housing First helped me to where I am now. I was given bus passes and support so I didn’t feel alone. Now, you can’t get me out of here, I love it.
I was introduced to everyone, not just my support worker. If my peer mentor isn’t working, I know who I can ask for support. Everyone knows me, and my situation, so I don’t have to keep repeating myself. They help me with appointments and claiming benefits. Thanks to them, I am confident enough to buy furniture now and call this my home.
I’ve started detox now, I go on my own, but I know the service is there to help If I need it. I’ve stopped my drug use and my mental health has improved. The police services don’t recognise me anymore because I’m doing that well. This is the only service that’s helped me and stayed with me. I can be a handful but I’m learning and I’ve had some bad days where other services would have left me, but these have never given up. They have stuck with me and they’re still here now. I’m getting better all the time.
When I first started with the service, they helped me to get appointments, but now I have the confidence to ring myself. I used to walk out of the doctors, it wasn’t for me, but now I stay and I’m listened to. Since Housing First, I’ve never missed any appointments. My probation is nearly over, and I can’t wait, the constant loop of prison and probation just got boring and I’m so glad it’s nearly over.
I’m talking to Housing First about sorting a weekend Peer Mentor, bit I think I’m ready now. I have some major trust issues, but I do trust Housing First. They are open and listen to me. They have given me stability and helped me to get out of the circle I was in.
When I first got here, I didn’t have much, but I’m getting more and more now.
There is no end to me having this flat. I’m also the opposite of how I was before which is great. I can see the future now. Without Housing First, I don’t know where I’d be.