I grew up in a big family. My Dad was a very broken man and took out his aggression on me from a young age. I left home as soon as I could and assumed a new identity to separate myself as much as possible from that life.
I had a few jobs and was working as a chef but when I lost that job, I then also lost my girlfriend and my flat. I was housed in a B&B but was forced out of there and ended up homeless. I start sleeping rough for the first time. It was terrifying. People would come up to you in the middle of the night and abuse you. I never got into drink or drugs. I knew that if I started that I would get into a downward spiral and never get off the streets. You have to stay strong and hold onto hope.
I heard about a new drop-in that opened at a Church, so I went to check it out. It was great. There were lots of really friendly compassionate people who made me feel very welcome. At the time I was not a very nice person and these guys put up with a lot. I used to get in people’s faces and I had a big problem with anger.
Through the drop-in I got some counselling and this helped me a great deal. I also started on the Recovery Course and both of these things helped to get control of my anger and become a much nicer person. I am now able to handle difficult situations much better. The staff at the drop-in helped me re-apply for housing and I have now moved into a flat and finally have my own place for the first time in 5 years!
I know that I have a long way to go but if you could have seen me just a few years ago you wouldn’t have recognised me. I have changed a lot. I have for the first time been able to tell people that the last 30 years has been a lie and to talk to people about who I really am. When you live a lie you are always nervous that it will catch up with you. I don’t have that anymore. I have peace instead.
I was deported from the US for offences I committed in America. Because I had moved when I was 4 years old I didn’t know about anything or anyone. When I had been in prison in America I heard about Caring for Ex-Offenders and they had been writing to me, so when I arrived home I did everything I could to find my way to connect with a Caring For Ex-Offenders Church.
When my post from America was forwarded to me it included the phone number for the Caring for Ex-Offenders team and so I called them and straight away went to meet them. They hooked me up with this lady who used to call me every day asking if I was ok. She’d take me out to lunch. I didn’t have no money but the Caring for Ex-Offenders team at the church was there for me.
When I first arrived home I was staying in a hostel, but the team gave me letters to take to the housing benefit people, and I was put in a one bedroom flat. They also gave me a mentor, we met each week and he helped me practically with budgeting and appointments.
I started volunteering in the William Wilberforce projects - it was great cause it kept me busy and able to give back to the Church. I wanted to work and got a job doing construction, but because I didn’t understand the system properly I ended up in debt with my rent and tax. The Church helped me get back in control of my finances. Without all of this support I don’t know where I would be now.
When I came out of prison someone met me. From being met at the gate and being driven to a house where I had a roof, food and clothes provided for me. I didn't have to steal for food. That’s a huge deal! All those things were done for me: helping with somewhere to live and also to find somewhere to work, but more so than that - helping me to find the direction.Read more