Nathaniel is a former client and a member of our Client Involvement Working Group. Here, he shares his experiences of homelessness at Christmas and the message he wants people to know.
I was adopted from birth and grew up with my family in Bounds Green, North London. I used to spend Christmas at home and celebrate with my mother and our extended family but since I became homeless I’m on my own.
I became homeless after I started to experience voices in my head which was mentally and physically debilitating. I was in dire straits and my mum didn’t understand what was happening and couldn’t look after me.
I spent my first Christmas in supported accommodation and it was very lonely. We didn’t have any festivities and, at the time, I was experiencing negative voices which also caused me pain and physical manifestations. It really affected my mental health and I was physically and mentally debilitated. I couldn’t do anything so I spend Christmas day alone in bed drinking soup, trying to fight my way out of something that was really dark and difficult to get out of. It was a really tough time.
Since then I’ve taken part in a lot of client involvement projects with St Mungo’s and I volunteered at the StreetLink service. At StreetLink they were really supportive and gave me my role responsibilities in stages, to make sure I had jobs that I felt comfortable in doing. My first role was inputting information into the computer and then, as my confidence grew, I worked up to taking phone calls and assisting people in that way. I felt happy, content and valued for the work I was doing and I felt that I was part of the team.
I also joined the Outside In network and started to get involved in some client involvement projects. The work I’ve been doing has definitely been life changing for me. Being able to do things and support with activities has definitely helped me keep my mind free and I’ve been able to talk to other people who have experienced homelessness and hear their stories which has been really educational.
This Christmas I would like people to open their hearts and minds and be able to connect to others and to the issues and plights of people around them. Homelessness is something that is so common that we don’t really see it anymore. Homelessness has been around since recorded history and I want to encourage people to educate themselves about homelessness and to open up the dialog that will bring about action, understanding, and education and will hopefully inspire people to change the systems and policies in place. Homelessness is something that together, in unity with organisations, the public and policy makers we need to eradicate.