Kevin slept rough for the first time when he came out of prison and had nowhere to go. He had struggled for years with mental health and substance use issues, which started after his mum died when Kevin was age 12. His story shows just how hard it is to move on from homelessness without a stable home and access to the right support.
“When you’re on the streets that environment becomes all you know, it almost becomes an addiction. It’s your community. The homeless community that I floated around with in the west end of London became like family.
“I got an emergency place in a St Mungo’s hostel. I’ll always be thankful for having that place. I had my own pillow to go home to. I stayed there for five months before moving to another hostel, where I stayed for a year. Then I got access to a rent deposit scheme.
There wasn’t any safety net
“That was my first ever flat that was basically mine. I came straight out of a supported environment which was, really, full support – I was quite high needs. When I got the rent deposit scheme flat, all that support stopped. I got into this flat and I just felt a little bit naked, emotionally, and things started spiralling really quickly. My mental health suffered and it became a downward cycle very quickly. And there wasn’t any safety net.”
Following a number of unsuccessful attempts at detox, Kevin attended a residential rehab which took a holistic approach to treatment. This was what triggered him to turn his life around and become clean for good. He took psychology courses, became a SMART recovery facilitator and got an apprenticeship with St Mungo’s.
“It went full circle – the people that initially helped me, I went and worked for them. Since then I’ve flown up the ladder. After the year-long apprenticeship I got a job with an alcohol support service as a group work practitioner on a CBT based recovery programme.”
Now Kevin heads up a socially inclusive community centre that, following a successful fundraising campaign, has recently opened a coffee shop.
“I work with people all the time now who are or have been homelessness, and this problem hasn’t got better, it’s got worse.
With people who are street homeless, it’s not as easy as just giving them a roof over their head.
“They need to realise that when you’re housing people, that doesn’t just solve the problem – it’s everything else that goes with it. The whole package. With people who are street homeless, it’s not as easy as just giving them a roof over their head.”
Kevin was able to access social housing and is now happy and settled in a housing association flat in north London.
It’s a flat forever, a home
“What I have in my current place is independence. It’s mine, you know – it’s mine. It’s a flat forever, a home.”
“I am one of the lucky few who has managed to get stability, I truly believe I am one of the lucky ones. Not everyone is going to end up like me, but it’s not that they don’t want to. There is capacity in everyone to turn their lives around.”
Kevin is championing the St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign, and has written to the Housing Secretary calling for change. Sign his open letter today.