Life is good. There have been times in my life when I hated life. There was lots of despair. Now I have everything I want in life. It’s not been given to me. I have worked for it. Today, I love life.
I am on an 15 month apprenticeship programme with St Mungo’s Housing First Service in Brighton. But life was not always like that.
I come from a long background of substance misuse – 30 years approximately. I have had many issues with the criminal justice system, courts, prison, etc. I’ve had problems with my health including, blood clots, ulcers and pulmonary embolisms. I came to a place in my life around nine years ago where I had just had enough. My health was bad. I was told that if I carried on I would only live for six months. At that point, I was also looking at a long prison sentence. When I went to court I was given a chance with Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR) Order. With this, I was able to become substance free in the community.
‘I am a strong believer in remaining positive’
After successfully completing the Order I got involved in recovery, fellowships and a mentoring program. I did voluntary work for a charity for people with learning difficulties. By keeping myself busy, being positive and constructive, I maintained my recovery whilst giving back to others and the community.
I got my council flat five years ago and subsequently received a secure tenancy 12 months later. There has been loss of family members and general difficulties of living life on life’s terms, however, I am a strong believer in remaining positive and looking at things in a positive manner. By having an outlook like this, my life remains healthy and fulfilling.
‘Part of a team and something special’
I have been involved with St Mungo’s for many years both as a client, volunteer mentor and paid locum worker. Although I had been a locum with Brighton Housing First for over a year and part of the team, I never had full access to St Mungo’s’ systems and I was not permitted to perform some duties alone.
The Housing First approach is based on helping people with complex needs to secure a tenancy first along with a long term and flexible package of support around them.
I applied for a Housing First worker position in July 2016. I was invited for an interview but I was not successful – I had not prepared myself at all. I had never been interviewed formally before. Then I subsequently applied for the St Mungo’s Apprentice Programme, which would give me an opportunity to continue working in a job I enjoy and gain a recognised qualification. The interview was less daunting than the first one, however, I attended fully prepared, although still quite nervous.
I was notified the following day of my success at getting the position of Apprentice Housing First Worker. This really made me feel part of the team and part of something special. Now I have an employment contract so I feel more secure.
‘I get a lot of fulfilment seeing people progress in life’
I applied to become an apprentice because I wanted to help other people like me. I have knowledge and the ability to work with and empathy towards the clients because of my experience. I also applied for selfish reasons – it makes me feel good about myself. I get a lot of fulfilment in seeing people progress in life. I like to help people ‘tread their path’. I want to help them get to where I am. Everybody’s recovery is different but I can show them how I did it.
This is a career that I have tried to get into since I came into recovery as I enjoy helping people to achieve their goals and rebuild their lives. I prefer working directly with clients and feel lucky to have such a supportive team around me.
‘My clients have been let down so many times in life’
My clients have multiple complex needs, mental health illness, distrust and serious abandonment issues. They’ve been let down so many times in life. One of my clients wouldn’t let me into his house before. I would bang on his door for 40 minutes but he wouldn’t open the door. Now he waits for me with a cup of tea when I go to see him.
I thrive on challenges and have the tools and knowledge to deal with any situation that arises.
My life today is amazing. I live in Brighton. I have a flat with a secure tenancy and a huge network of people I can depend on. I work within substance misuse services helping people like me. Life is good.
When I first came into recovery I was promised a world beyond my wildest dreams. Most people would associate that with mansions, planes, Ferraris or money. That’s not me – I have peace of mind, a safe home, a pound in my pocket, food in the cupboard and good friends – that’s a world beyond my wildest dreams.
Don’t give up the fight. Do the right things and the right things happen!
How you can help people who are homeless
If you’re interested in the work we do to help our clients and want to do more, here’s how you can get involved:
Please visit our website for information on the St Mungo’s Apprenticeship Programme.
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