Phil’s story

At the age of 63, Phil was released from prison. Unable to find his feet in a home town he no longer recognised, he became homeless.

Phil When Phil came to St Mungo’s hostel Hope Gardens last year, he told his key worker his greatest wish: “One day, I hope to have my own front door”.

“When I was younger I was always getting in trouble. I fell in with the wrong crowd and got involved in robberies and drug deals. I skipped school a lot too. Now, when I look back, it makes me so sad to think about all the time that I wasted.

Prison was not an easy place to be. Often you can’t even see the daylight outside – we were so completely cut off from the world.

In prison I learnt that, if you were suffering, it was best not to say anything. You had to keep quiet and act tough. So when I came out I had so much bottled up inside of me – I didn’t even realise that I was in pain.

When I was finally released, I was 63 years old. I couldn’t believe how much everything had changed while I was inside. It was like stepping out into a whole new world – everything had become digital.

When I went to prison I didn’t even know how to use a computer, let alone smartphones or apps. I felt completely out of my depth.

I spent two years in temporary accommodation with very little support. They expected you to just get on with it but I needed help.

Then, in October 2019, I arrived at Hope Gardens. The support I received there from Aimone, my Support Worker, was incredible. At our first meeting I told her that I wanted to have my own front door one day. She said that together, we would make that happen.

Prison was not an easy place to be. Often you can’t even see the daylight outside – we were so completely cut off from the world.

Gradually I let go of the ideas I adopted in prison about staying strong and silent.

I got involved in peer groups where I could talk about my experience in prison and help to motivate other people who are going through the same thing.

I have learnt to open up to people, to talk about my experiences and to get help.

When the pandemic began I found it really tough not being able to see my friends and family. I had to shield because of my health problems which was really difficult. But Aimone encouraged me to keep looking forward and focusing on the future. I don’t know what I would have done without Aimone helping me all the way, every day.

Then in August 2020, my greatest wish came true. I moved into my own home which is near the river where I grew up. After so long in prison, it’s the simple things that make your heart full – seeing friends and family; the freedom of being able to go for long walks along the river.”

I still can’t believe I’ve finally made it – I have my own front door.

“Throughout his time at Hope Gardens, Phil has had a huge positive impact on every single member of staff. Phil has never been anything but calm, patient and polite.

Before the pandemic, Phil used to help an elderly lady nearby who has agoraphobia. He did her gardening, her shopping, and would keep her company. Last winter, his friend had a problem with his boiler – Phil gathered up all the blankets and warm clothes he could find and took them to his friend’s house.

Above all, Phil is a deeply kind and caring person. I am so pleased that he is happy in his new home.” – Aimone, Phil’s Support Worker.

Enjoy reading this story? Read Metkel’s story next here.