2019 June 6 by Verity Jones
Bike Bank is a collaborative project between Exeter Community Initiative and Julian House based in the Exeter Bike Workshop. Bike Bank aims to increase skills and opportunities for meaningful activity through a sheltered workshop and at the same time to recycle bikes and increase the supply of affordable bikes to those who can’t readily afford to buy one.
John heard about Bike Bank through his support worker who knew of his interest in bikes and arranged for John to meet with the Bike Bank team leader to find out more information. Following the meeting John was keen to join the scheme and before he started he talked to the project worker and discussed how best to support him with managing his anxiety during the course. The outcome was to arrange for there to be a quiet area in the workshop should he need to take some time out. John started the following week.
During his training John said “I have really appreciated that there is someone there watching, teaching me and helping to build my confidence. There is no time pressure and that it is ‘OK’ if I make mistake as a part of learning these new skills”
When asked about the course John said he felt that the course had a positive impact on his mental health, wellbeing and his self-esteem. He liked the routine it provided and something practical for him to focus on to help break up his day. John feels it has also benefitted him socially by talking and interacting with others in the workshop.
John completed the 6 week course and extended to 12 weeks. After successfully completing the course John went on to volunteer in the Bike Workshop and has now moved on into employment.
2019 June 6 by Verity Jones
From its foundation over 30 years ago, Julian House has been striving to support and enable rough sleepers to move off the streets. For many, contact with Julian House is just the first step on a long road to recovery from homelessness. A dedicated team of outreach workers work with rough sleepers, gaining trust and helping them access vital services, including the emergency hostel in Manvers Street.
What’s the point of outreach and how often do you do it?
There are many reasons why we provide outreach to rough sleepers. It is important that we are able to identify rough sleepers in the area as quickly as possible so that we can start supporting them with their housing and other support needs. However, rough sleeping also poses massive risks. Our clients are vulnerable to being attacked, the weather conditions, poor emotional/physical health and the negative impact of substance misuse. We have a duty to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society and need to ensure that they have survived the night without a significant decline to their welfare.
Our outreach team conduct both planned and unplanned outreach sessions. We go out a minimum of four mornings a week, one evening, and one lunchtime; three of these sessions are attended by a member of staff from Developing Health and Independence who can support clients into drug and alcohol services and on a Friday we are joined by a Nurse from the Homeless Healthcare Team who are part of the Heart of Bath Partnership. We also have a mental health outreach worker who is employed by Avon and Wiltshire Partnership (AWP). Patrick is able to provide specialist mental health support to our clients and provides a vital link between the homeless community and mental health services.
Can you describe an average morning as an outreach worker?
We arrive at the hostel at 6.30am to make flasks of strong, sugary coffee (it is a favourite amongst our clients) and get some snacks together. We then head out into the city to locate as many people as possible. If we have received a report from the public and there is a rough sleeper in a certain location, we will follow this up. These reports come directly to the team via a website called Street Link. We have regular spots we will visit that we know are popular with rough sleepers, such as car parks, parks, and certain shop doorways. Once we meet someone, we wake them up as gently as possible, introduce ourselves and offer them a drink and something to eat. Sometimes people want to speak to us, and other times they might just like a coffee and to be left alone. We are very much guided by our clients, as it takes time to build up trust (and not everyone is a morning person!). If someone wants to talk, we will stay with them and talk about how they are coping, housing, their hopes and options for the future, any support they might need, or appointments we may need to make or attend with them. Twice a week, DHI offers a mobile needle exchange, which can also open up conversations about any drug related injuries, harm minimisation, and access to services.
What do you do if someone doesn’t want to engage with you?
We understand that sometimes people don’t want to engage with us but we still want to make sure that they are OK and will always continue to visit. Some people are very fearful and mistrusting, so it is important that we are consistent. We will always leave them with a coffee and something to eat, and continue to explain who we are, and what we do. Generally speaking, most people do eventually speak to us and then we can start getting to know them and support them at a pace that they are comfortable with and is more likely to mean a move away from the streets.
What are the obstacles you face when doing outreach?
We never know exactly what we are going to encounter on our outreach sessions. Sometimes we are talking with clients who have experienced significant trauma and need to share their thoughts and feelings immediately. There is no privacy on the street and breaking down in public can attract a lot of attention from passers-by. We will always work to protect our clients and try to go with them to a more private space so that they can talk things through. There are times when we can encounter some hostility from our clients as they mistrust our intentions and want to be left alone. This can happen for a range of reasons and it is important that we know when to back off to ensure the safety of the clients and ourselves. We are very fortunate that we have some very good services in BANES but, even with this in mind, supporting our clients from rough sleeping and into accommodation can take a very long time. In the current climate, services – in particular housing – is limited and the demand is high; this is one of the biggest obstacles we face.
What do you think are the main misconceptions around rough sleeping?
That people choose to live on the streets. I have worked in homelessness for well over a decade and I have never met anyone who chose to sleep rough. Some of the people we work with have experienced some of the most horrific things life has to offer. Many became homeless when they were young and have not had opportunities to recover from trauma and learn to live in independent accommodation. Some just lose hope altogether and believe that they will never get into accommodation or dare not to take the leap into housing because they are so fearful that it will go wrong and they would have failed – yet again. We also hear from people who believe that all rough sleepers are drug users or alcoholics. This is not the case at all. Rough sleepers come from all walks of life and we have seen how it could happen to anyone. There is a statistic that says something like, we are all only two pay cheques away from homelessness. I think this is true in a lot of cases.
Can you describe the impact of your outreach work. Why is it so important?
We provide a crucial link for rough sleepers to access support and accommodation. We do not expect people to come to us, we will go to them and we are guided by them and what they need. Many rough sleepers feel completely invisible so to approach someone, sit with them, and work out what they want and how best we can help is a really powerful thing. Outreach work is so important because it saves lives and it supports people away from something that can be incredibly harmful and dangerous. It gives hope for the future and it supports the underlying value that we should not have anyone sleeping out on our streets.
Can you give me a specific example of someone you’ve helped in the past. What are they doing now?
Last week, whilst at the back of the hostel, a car pulled up and the chap inside said hello to me. It turned out to be an ex client. He was homeless in Bath, sleeping in his car. He was supported to access support for his alcohol use and referred into Julian House supported housing. He moved into one of our projects and was quite challenging due to his alcohol use and trying to come to terms with previous trauma he had experienced. We did a lot of work with him and eventually broached the idea of rehab. He was a little reluctant but got the funding and went to a residential rehabilitation centre. He detoxed from alcohol and subutex, engaged with the programme they offered and has now been abstinent for 4 years. He has continued to live in the area he went to rehab in and has developed a keen interest in hiking. Since becoming abstinent he has been hiking on mountains in Turkey, Slovenia, Belgium, Holland, and Vietnam. He is trekking the Himalayas in a couple of weeks. He has also completed an Access course and plans to go to university in September to complete a degree in Construction Management. He is very thankful to Julian House for the support he received, although I did remind him that he did all the hard work! It was amazing to see how his life has completely transformed and he looked so happy.
2019 May 23 by Verity Jones
Barnaby grew up in Scotland where he did well at school and played football for his hometown team. At the age of 14 he became involved in a local gang and was expelled. He moved to an approved school where he started selling drugs. When Barnaby was 20 his dad died of a heart attack which really shook him. Barnaby was ‘controlling’ a housing estate through acts of violence, his best friend was murdered by a rival gang.
At the age of 52, Barnaby tells me that it is a miracle he is still alive: “I never thought I would live this long. People told me I’d never see 30.” He has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison and has served over 20 years in total. He first went to prison at 16 and he was 51 when he was last released from prison. “I was involved in crime and the criminal justice system for 37 years.” Now, Barnaby has completely turned his back on his past; even if he wanted to return to that lifestyle, he knows he is too old for it.
Barnaby describes his situation before he was accepted onto the Tenancy Ready Scheme as “hopelessness and despair.” He was living in a tiny private rented bedsit in Exeter. This was so small that it did not have room for a bed, and he had to stand his mattress against the wall to have any floor space during the day; “it was suffocating”. He felt very depressed to the point where he was contemplating suicide. It was as if he was back in a prison cell: “I felt like I’d been given a prison sentence and the walls were closing in on me.” The poor living conditions were also detrimental to his physical health and he was forced to stop his voluntary work.
Because of the seriousness of his situation, we moved Barnaby into one of BCHA’s second stage supported housing projects. He is now living in a shared house and his bedroom is nearly three times as big as his bedsit. There has been an almost immediate difference: he is feeling much happier now and has started volunteering again. “I’ve only moved about 100 yards, but it feels like I’ve moved 100 miles mentally. It’s like I’ve gone from minus half a star to five stars!” He has also started as a peer mentor for a charity that support people who are over 50 when they are released from prison. He believes that this move prevented him from returning to his previous lifestyle. He was planning on returning to Scotland and is certain that because of his reputation, would have either have ended up back in prison or been killed.
The story doesn’t end here for Barnaby. He is much happier now and appreciates the support where he is living, but there is still a feeling of being institutionalised because he has lived most of his life in ‘the system’. The next step will be moving him into a social housing flat. He can’t wait to “be able to walk out of my own front door”. He feels this is the last hurdle he needs to jump in order to fully regain his independence and have a secure home: “when I get my own place, it will be the last time I ever move.”
2019 May 14 by Verity Jones
During 2019, Nightstop Devon worked with three brothers aged between 17 and 21. They we referred to Nightstop after their family had to move from one property to another after their father lost his job, and was finally evicted from temporary accommodation.
The three brothers, who were all at college, had no resources to public funds. The Nightstop team worked with them over a number of months, supporting them with overnight accommodation whilst trying to find more permanent accommodation.
One brother’s has spoken about his Nightstop experience:
“At first, it felt surreal, I did not know what to expect on the day I got evicted. After talking with the Nightstop team I understood what was going to happen next and when I met with hosts, they were incredibly nice and supportive which in turn made me feel a lot at ease with the scenario I’ve been placed in. Over time, it was quite fascinating to meet all sorts of people with lovely personalities and lifestyles…it helped me tremendously. They provided amazing food, comfortable shelter and the hosts genuinely cared for my well being. “
“Without Nightstop I would not have had anywhere to stay other than sleeping on a friends sofa or perhaps ending up on the street every night. Things have moved forward for me and I am currently studying in my final year at college. I am trying to get a placement at the YMCA but in order to do that I would need income support and housing benefit. The YMCA, my college and Nightstop are doing what they can to support me to get these claims.”
“I definitely recommend this service to those who are going through hardship. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, Nightstop has been overwhelmingly supportive.”
All three brothers are now securely accommodated in supported accommodation or the private rented sector, and are in receipt of benefits because and working alongside studying.
2019 May 13 by Verity Jones
‘Dan’ is a man in his 40’s, who came to Weymouth as a rough sleeper in early 2018. He has no local connection but had spent many years moving from town to town, with his only known period in accommodation a brief spell in a hostel in Bournemouth 2012. Before coming to Weymouth he had been on the streets in Southampton. Dan said he had significant health problems but was not very specific about these or his housing history. He would engage in polite conversation but had no trust in services and would not accept offers of being linked in to the Homeless health team nurse for support around his physical needs. Although Dan did not present as under the influence of substances, his lifestyle, associates and street use, including persistent begging, suggested that he was likely to be using street drugs.
When SWEP was called in January this year, we offered Dan a place on the Bus, but he refused, saying he was fine on the street and used to cold weather. We were therefore slightly surprised when he turned up to Safe Sleep in its first week at St John’s. Although there were many of Dan’s daytime associates at the Safe Sleep, he kept himself politely aloof. It gave us the opportunity to initiate conversations that had not previously been possible. For example, one evening Dan was sat looking through a shelf of Christian books in the church, so I asked him whether he had any religious belief. This led to a deeper conversation about aspects of Dan’s childhood and his belief system, that promoted greater trust and understanding for both Dan and the worker. Shortly after he asked if we could help him make a Universal Credit claim, so we supported him to make the online application and went with him to the initial interview at the Jobcentre.
Through these conversations we also discovered that Dan’s physical health problems, including Grave’s disease, arthritis and angina, leave him with chronic pain. He disliked the medication he had been historically prescribed, and his opiate use was likely highly connected to this. He attended Reach and got a methadone script, something that he had also been previously avoiding. We liaised with Miriam, to ensure it was alright to overlook the local connection, given his health needs and the length of time in the area, and referred Dan to Melcombe House. After a few weeks Dan stopped using Safe Sleep, as he was starting to find the community overwhelming, but the weeks he did use it were sufficient to kick start a change, which we were then able to follow up on the street. When a bed did come up, we had to act quickly or lose it, so we went out repeatedly throughout the day until finally managing to get hold of Dan last thing on Friday afternoon and get him successfully booked in.
2019 May 8 by Verity Jones
The Devon and Cornwall Prison resettlement supported housing service is a partnership between Julian House and Devon and Cornwall Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC). It provides supported accommodation to offenders in Devon and Cornwall who are leaving prison and locally connected or subject to an agreed management transfer arrangement.
The service is for referrals from HMP Exeter and HMP Eastwood Park and is designed to be a short stay duration with identification and move on to suitable independent living accommodation within a 9 month period. During engagement service users are supported to develop independent living skills.
One client, Martin, was referred into the service from the National Probation Service. He was assessed whilst in prison and was informed of the decision to accept him into the Devon and Cornwall supported housing prison resettlement service. Martin was met on his day of release and was escorted to his specified shared supported housing accommodation in Exeter.
Martin has a history of ‘repeat offending’ with alcohol being the principle identified risk factor. Whilst in HMP Exeter he engaged well with the substance misuse team and is engaging with an alcohol support worker in the local community. In the two weeks Martin has been in service he has settle in well in the accommodation and is proving to be very stable as he engages with support and there have been no issues regarding housing management.
Martin is currently reflecting on his future now he has stable accommodation and has re-engaged contact with his partner. He confesses he feels more confident now and less anxious than he was in prison and is responding positively to a shared living environment. It has also been an opportunity for Martin to participate in daily domestic and living skills. We are working closely with the National Probation Service to develop a risk management plan to ensure there is support for Martin to continue the positive work he is doing regarding his previous alcohol dependancy issues.
Martin is now in a position to consider training courses in the construction industry and has said ‘I feel optimistic about what lies ahead’.
2019 May 2 by Verity Jones
Often it takes more than one agencies input to build a good support system around a client and help them on their journey to success.
We are currently doing a short piece of intervention work with a client on our floating service around debt management – we have inside a week secured £500 from a local charity to pay off some rent arrears – meaning he is avoiding homelessness. We have also managed to engage him with his local Citizens Advice Bureau to address the remainder of his debts.
We have met with this client twice with one more support session to engage with the local alcohol services and he will then move on from our support.
Using his words “Wow I can’t believe this- I have been feeling totally **** for months, tried to kill myself twice and thought the only realistic option was to go back to prison- I can see some light at the end of the tunnel now, Thanks!”
2019 May 2 by Verity Jones
Our Criminal Justice team have been working with a client who has used class A drugs since the age of 9 until he came to us in December 2018 at the age of 57.
By then he had been involved in County Lines, in & out of prison his whole adult life and his physical health had been bashed MASSIVELY . With Chronic COPD and arthritis we spent 2 months calling 999 for an ambulance almost weekly.
We applied for social housing due to his physical health and were told clearly by the social housing register for Somerset that he is banned due to his dreadful housing history.
We found a social housing provider that caters for older people who do not need full time care, but benefit from having an eye kept over them.
The client remains drug free six months on and is living an independent life in a lovely flat – using his words;
“Thanks to Julian House I can hold me ‘ead up and get on with life with a smile.”
2019 April 30 by Verity Jones
Reggy was referred to the Employment and Skills project by his Wellbeing and Work Coach, he had a diagnosed mental health condition and had an interest in bike maintenance.
Reggy presented as an enthusiastic individual with a desire to learn new skills and, in time re enter employment. He was swiftly offered a place on the Build-a-Bike course and soon became a positive role model for his peers by displaying excellent time keeping skills and a can-do attitude throughout the course. Reggy was also very keen to investigate other training opportunities so he attended a series of employment support sessions in which a plan of action was forged alongside the employment support staff.
On successful completion of the bicycle maintenance course, the staff suggested that progressing onto Level 1 Bicycle Maintenance training, with our partners at Lifecycle, could be a natural way to develop on newly found skills and knowledge. Reggy was enthused by the idea and the staff arranged a place for him on the next available course.
After completing the L1 training, Reggy was awarded the City and Guilds L1 certificate and this was promptly added to his CV during his next employment support session. The staff suggested some cycle training would be useful and Reggy has recently completed the 3 sessions with a trainer funded by Bristol City Council – he reported that ‘he really enjoyed the training and found it useful’.
A series of employment support sessions were scheduled in the weeks after Reggy completed the Build-a-Bike and in these the focus has been updating his CV and looking for suitable employment or training opportunities.
Happily, Reggie has recently undertaken some work trails to gain work-based experience and to get used to being in a work environment once more.
The next employment support session will be focused on putting together an application for a bursary to enable Reggy to undertake Level 2 City and Guilds training in order to further develop his knowledge of bicycle maintenance, which in turn, will hopefully improve his chances of gaining employment in the sector.
2019 April 25 by Verity Jones
Many of you may be aware of the Instagram savvy local hairdresser Eddie Ilic, founder of Eddie Street Cuts (ESC). His Instagram feed is full of photos of him on the streets of Bath cutting the hair of local homeless men and women.
It’s a social enterprise that’s recently won him a Bath Life Award but for Eddie, this isn’t just a project on the side. After suffering from a drug addiction for many years, Eddie sees it as a vehicle to not only give back but to offer a message of hope and self-worth to others facing similar challenges.
Alongside cutting peoples hair on the streets, the 24-year-old has also been coming into our Manvers Street Hostel to cut our clients hair for the past two years. It is a service which our clients greatly appreciate.
When asked what inspired him to do so, he responded: “Hairdressing is my passion, I love making people feel and look good in the salon. What inspired me to do this outside the salon was knowing that other people were doing the same thing across the world in different cities; they would take their scissors out on the streets and into hostels to do hair for the homeless. I think this is such a beautiful, simple thing, to be able to help make someone feel completely different and better within themselves.”
He added: “ESC likes to help make people feel comfortable and at ease. Such a simple thing like a haircut can change the way that a person sees themselves; for the clients it helps give them their dignity, self-worth and confidence. To be able to see this grow in the individual is such an amazing thing.”
Eddie describes his early life as happy. But a move to Spain at the age of nine was a bit of a wrench. Some of the Spanish children teased him about being a foreigner. Sometimes he was bullied. This in turn prompted him to try a bit too hard to be liked and be part of the gang. He started smoking, which led on to experimenting with weed and alcohol.
At the age of 15, he returned to England where he continued experimenting with drugs. Learning difficulties also held him back a year at school and he often got him into trouble for fighting. Eventually he was expelled.
But his interest in hairdressing eventually landed him a break with a salon. Things didn’t work out. He was judged to have not applied himself to the job and sometimes turned up for work under the influence. His drug use had become worse and he was stealing to fund his addiction. Mephedrone was his new favourite – a synthetic stimulant which is also known as MKAT. It made him unwell and adversely affected his behaviour, but the pull of his addiction was powerful. “My family had a stranger in the house. It was really hard for them.”
Next came cocaine.
Despite all this Eddie got another break with another salon. The combination of his family, his girlfriend and the job were the things that helped him survive. However, he readily admits that he abused them all.
It finally dawned on him that he had to do something to change the path he was on and the harm he was doing to others. His employer’s support even extended to them suspending him for two weeks, rather than sacking him for poor behaviour. It demonstrated their faith in him.
Eddie vividly remembers his mother telling him that he wasn’t well – a message which jarred with him. He too was “Sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
This prompted another attempt at recovery. This time it worked. He recalls the pleasure of being able to smell again and sleep properly. Simple things but things which had been missing in his life.
“I’ve been in recovery from drink and drugs myself for almost four years now. A huge part of that recovery is to be able to give back, because when you are in the grip of addiction you become selfish but when you are free from addiction you become selfless.”
When asked what’s next for ESC, he said: “It has always been my main ambition to grow ESC and we are delighted to announce we have just recruited four hairdressers to help achieve a better service. ESC would love to open an academy to teach the homeless hairdressing. We can all fall on hard times whether through addiction, mental health or just bad luck and by providing them with a skill, maybe we can change lives.”
If anything, “We want more understanding for people who are homeless. A simple act of kindness can change lives. They deserve our understanding not judgement. We could all have been there; that is a humbling thought and for me that is the message that ESC would like people to hear.”
As a charity, we just want to say a huge thanks to Eddie, Phil and the rest of the hairdressing team who come to our hostel to cut our clients’ hair. You all provide such a valued service that boosts confidence and self-worth and gives hope and purpose to our clients’ lives.
For more information and to support ESC, follow Eddie on Instagram and Twitter @eddiestreetcuts
2019 April 8 by Verity Jones
2017 was the most challenging year of my life so far. I was hit from all angles affecting each and every aspect of my life. Whilst it has been difficult for me to accept, I did have a difficult start to life, born into a complex whirlwind of drug addiction, crime and severe mental health issues. At 25 years old, it is quite miraculous that the challenges I have faced only truly hit me this late in life. Despite the disadvantages, I also had some luxuries throughout my life which I am eternally grateful for, this however is part of what made me struggle to accept help when I could not cope for the first time. I have always been a very strong minded and independent girl, I always forgave my mother for the hardships we faced together and often found myself defending her, some may say I have played the role of the parent for the vast majority of my life.
In 2017 I was back living at my mother’s house amongst a chaos of issues. I was exhausting myself trying to earn money, whilst in a toxic relationship which gave me an escape from the issues at home, and desperately trying to study a masters degree. I was struggling dramatically with mental health issues, I kept going back to the doctors to request talking therapies. Due to the lack of funding I was dismissed and told that “because I am not suicidal I am not a priority”… so the struggle continued. I was eventually referred to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with adult ADHD. Little did I know my life was soon to be turned upside down. I thought this would lead to talking therapies, but I was instead offered medication, amphetamines. I expressed my understanding that medications are only effective when used alongside talking therapies, to receive the answer “We will consider talking therapies when the drugs have an effect on you”. To cut a long story short, I was advised to travel to Egypt and up my dose of medication whilst there.
Due to the meds, I only slept for four or five hours each night which very quickly escalated into an extreme case of mania and paranoid psychosis. I was tied up with ropes, forced into an ambulance and taken to the local hospital, where they I was sedated up to my eye balls by strangers who did not speak English. I am very lucky to have many local friends who prevented the Egyptian authorities from sending me to an awful hospital to be sectioned, something I would have never recovered from. They contacted my mother and got her on a flight to rescue me within a few days. The reason for this trip was to conduct research for my dissertation, investigating the lives of Egyptian women in traditional farming communities, and the role working animals play in their daily livelihood. Luxor was my second home, my safe place where I lived, ate, slept and worked with the locals. I had dedicated the past four years of my life to this historical country…. And now I was no longer welcome. On return I was still unwell, both mentally and physically and this meant I could not continue with my masters. I had to reluctantly interrupt my studies. I had lost all sense of belonging and purpose in my life.
On my returned to the UK, the psychiatrist offered no help after all that had happened. I was living back at mums with severe paranoia and post-traumatic stress, which terrifyingly involved all aspects of my life. After a few weeks living amongst the difficult circumstances at mums, I called Exeter University as a last cry for help. One guild adviser who went on to support me over the next year, demanded that I came to see her in person. I jumped on a train to Exeter and found a friend I could stay with. Sarah brought me to realise that I needed to move to Exeter to access support, she made many phone calls declaring me homeless and fleeing domestic abuse. I was very resistant to all of this. I have always felt that there are others in more need than myself, that I should be grateful for all that I have, that I should work and am not worthy of benefits. Thankfully, Sarah had the courage to keep pushing me to seek help. We could not secure a property in time and I no longer had anywhere safe to stay, my only options involved drug abuse.
She sent me to the housing benefits office which led to me breaking down in tears, not knowing which direction to move with complications and questioning if I will be eligible or any benefits. This is where Nightstop came into the equation. I was given the address to meet a member of staff from Nightstop, I was greeted with a friendly reassuring smile from Pete, a night stop staff member. Scared and numb, but with a slight glimpse of faith that something was going to happen, within a couple of hours I was picked up and driven to my first host volunteer.
My experiences with Nightstop
Despite how lost and hopeless I felt something inside me knew I was on the right path as soon as I made eye contact with Pete. I have been told by many that I have a great ‘drive’ for life, so I kept this in mind that no matter what, I have to keep going. At the time I had no idea how Nightstop was about to dramatically impact and shine a positive new light in my life. Pete explained the process, the rules and how I would have a safe place each night but need to occupy myself during the day. I had three different host volunteers who had so kindly agreed to support me for the next few days. When I reached my first host I was shown my own bedroom, cooked a beautiful dinner, given a towel and a run a hot bath. She very kindly explained that this was my home for the evening and that I was welcome to join her on the sofa watching telly or if I preferred, I could stay alone in my room. I will never forget the moment I decided to join her on the sofa, we watched David Attenborough and chatted about life and my passion for working animals in North Africa and the Middle East. I had a safe place and a kind supportive heart who listened to me. I was so overwhelmed I simply wanted to cry due to relief. This was the best night sleep I had in months.
In the morning she had breakfast ready for me and some money to get me through the day and help travel to my next host the following evening. This day was tough as I was resisting contacting friends I knew I could meet with, but in my heart I knew that this would result in the use of drugs. I kept myself to myself walking around the beautiful city of Exeter, familiarising myself with what was going to be my new home. I went to the museum with my suit case as it was something free and out of the rain. When the evening came I knew the protocol with my new host, a very different home with lots of dogs! This was very welcoming to me with such a huge passion for animals. I felt at home! Again dinner on the table, a hot bath, some supportive chats and pocket money for the following day. I struggled to sleep this night with the feeling of what are my next steps, how can I push to secure a property and how will I support myself? Awake in bed I started scrolling on my phone through adverts for jobs I could apply for and rooms which I could view to rent. It was on this night that I experienced the return of my severe night terrors, but this time it was much easier to deal with, having woken up to a safe environment away from all worries, with breakfast on the table for me. I set out again for the day with my suitcase. I remember sitting around in the Nightstop building mainly to get out of the rain, but also to use the WIFI to make proactive forward movements. I wrote a CV and applied for lots of jobs, the same day I was offered a trial shift at a restaurant. I also found a property to rent, a beautiful, large en-suite room on the outskirts of the city. I arranged a viewing, secured the property with a deposit and first months’ rent through the housing benefits office.
After all of this I still had a safe place at night which took me back to my first host volunteer. This was incredibly reassuring when I met with a familiar face and after only two days I had some progress to share with her. I was experiencing a lot of chronic neck and back pain. I gained some fantastic advice from this host as she was a retired physiotherapist, she worked through some exercises and stretches with me, which to date I still practice on a daily basis. This generous lady had opened up her home just for me, treating me as her own family. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as we said goodbye, realising this was the last time I would see her. I desperately wanted to be able to give back to her, but this was the beginning of the process of me learning self-care, self-worth and self-compassion. I did deserve this support and I do not always need to give back in return.
3. How I got back on my feet.
It had been four days of being declared homeless. When I visited the Nightstop offices on this day I was beaming with excitement, I had a property secured and a trail shift at a restaurant. I could not wait to tell Pete and get out of their hands, allowing them to help other vulnerable young adults who needed a safe place. I remember the shocked look in his eyes when I blurted out this news, in a concerned manner he suggested that I took a little more time for myself. Me being the determined being I am, I explained how I needed a purpose and something to work towards. I immediately moved into my new home where 14 months later, I now find myself contently sat at my desk writing this reflective blog. The first time I have had my own safe place to call home. I remember Pete’s last words to me, expressing how impressed he was with my efforts in such a short period of time and to please keep in contact. He said that I am very articulate and asked if I was willing to write a blog piece on how Nightstop supported me!
So what happened between then and now? It has been quite a journey of ups and downs. The most important thing is that through those ups and downs, each day I woke up in a safe place that was my own space, free from others negative energy! Two month after this support from Nightstop I returned to my studies and completed the first year of my masters degree. I wrote the best essays I have ever produced. I proved to myself that the problem was not in my lack of ability, but in fact, it was the environment my present mind had been consumed by. Words cannot express my depth of gratitude for Nightstop in guiding me to understand this important aspect of my life, those four days were part of the most pivotal point in my life. Without Nightstop I could never imagine where I may have ended up, or how many opportunities I may have missed out on.
For the first six months in my new home I was in receipt of housing benefits, I was not eligible for any other benefits, due to being restricted to 16 hours of work each week. I was struggling to manage my health, mental state, bills, rent, university work load etc. Through support of food bank vouchers and my faith that this degree would bring me close to achieving my goals, I powered through. I discovered free yoga sessions at the university advertised through mental health awareness, this was another pivotal life changing development, that without, I could never imagine being where I am today.
Fast forward to September 2018, it had been a whole year since my breakdown, episode, spiritual awakening (whatever you may call it) in Egypt and it was time to enrol into my second and final year of my masters. The pressure was intense. I came to realise that I had neglected my own self-development, focusing so much on my education and supporting others. Working and studying became too much, I was extremely fatigued, with depression and a whole bunch of other stuff. Whilst working with a counsellor who helped me to eventually accept that I needed to have a break again, it arose to the surface that I needed a job role that gave me job satisfaction. Bar and catering work was not fulfilling enough for me. Friends and professionals suggested that supported housing would be a rewarding role that I would flourish in, so my first thought was NIGHTSTOP! I dropped in one day firstly to thank them for their support and how far I had come in a year, we chatted for over an hour about options available in supported housing and the industry itself from Pete’s experiences. I came away with three A4 pages of notes he so kindly advised me on.
From those notes I found the perfect organisation, initially I enquired about volunteering but it all worked in my favour and I now find myself with a job as a support worker for 16-25 year old’s. Alongside this I am plotting my return to the Middle East next year to carry out my dissertation research. Thank you Nightstop and all that you did to get me to this position!
If there is anything I could say to others out there going through similar struggles, it is that you may not know what opportunities are out there, but trust in your instinct and ask for help in places you have not asked before. There are some incredibly beautiful humans out there hiding amongst the fog, all it takes is one step in a different direction and you can find one of them to support you through finding yourself!!
2019 January 30 by Verity Jones
During 22 years of drug and alcohol addiction Keith spent his life trapped between sleeping rough on the streets and prison. Hit by a family breakdown and the death of his daughter, his road to recovery was tough. But with the help of local homeless and addiction recovery charities, today Keith is four years clean and in full time employment. Working as an outreach worker at Julian House, he now uses his own experiences daily to help those around him.
That’s not all. This year he’s also taking part in Julian House’s Big Bath Sleep-Out 2019. He’s determined to help raise much needed funds for the charity and to raise awareness about the complexity of homelessness.
Since the age of 15, Keith was in and out of prison. Growing up on a one of the toughest council estates in Bristol, he saw his descent into crime, alcohol and drugs as inevitable. People close to him became a victim of his addition. At points, his family were forced to call the police and even take out a restraining order. For years he was completely absorbed by a life of crime and drugs.
But with the help of St. Mungo’s in Bristol, Keith was moved into a Dry House where he was able to detox and for 17 months he remained clean. But after his partner lost their unborn daughter he relapsed, and the vicious cycle began again.
A year later he returned to recovery. Keith says that he finally acknowledged that it wouldn’t be the drugs that killed him but his pride, guilt and shame.
“I’ve now been clean for four years, since the 20th December 2014,” Keith says proudly. It’s a date that never leaves you.
Eager to give back, Keith began volunteering and working at St. Mungo’s during his time in recovery. Keen to work outside of Bristol, he was then offered a job at Julian House in December 2017, and now works as a full-time outreach worker in Bath. Since joining the charity, he’s used his own experiences to help and support many people in a situation like his own.
“It’s about taking responsibility for my own actions. I joined Julian House to make amends.”
If that wasn’t enough, this year, Keith has decided to join his colleagues to take part in Julian House’s Big Bath Sleep-Out 2019. Happening on 8 March, the annual event consists of participants being sponsored to sleep out for one night in Alice Park.
Everything raised goes towards helping people, like Keith, transform their lives.
Organiser Cathy Adcock explains the idea around the event: “Of course no-one is under any illusion that spending one cold night in Alice Park could possibly come close to the stark reality of being homeless and sleeping on the streets.
But taking part in the Sleep-Out gives members of the public the chance to empathise with those who are forced to sleep on the streets as well as raising much needed awareness
about a big problem right on our doorstep. The sponsorship they raise will also provide much needed income to help and support homeless men and women in Bath and the underlying issues which drive men and women into this desperate situation.”
The event is popular with people of all ages. Families, groups from schools, churches, the community and corporates have all signed up to make a difference. Julian House is now calling on you to join them on the 8 March.
Pre-registration is essential, and all details can be found here, by emailing Jessica Gay on firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07939055432.
Registration forms are also available from Julian House charity shops in Walcot St and Shaftesbury Road as well as Alice Park café.
2018 December 20 by Verity Jones
Barney was sleeping rough in West Dorset for 2 years and drinking heavily for much of this time. The outreach team in Dorset got to know him over this period and were able to build up some trust – Barney has had extremely traumatic incidents in his life and finds it difficult to put his scepticism to one side.
In March 2017 he moved into local authority temporary accommodation with the support of the outreach team and they have continued to go beyond their remit to provide support. Barney finds dealing with the ‘system’ – be that the local authority or DWP (department for work and pensions) – extremely stressful and starts to entertain thoughts of going back to his tent when he feels he can’t cope. When he is relaxed and happy, Barney has an incredibly extensive repertoire of slightly bad taste (and some very bad taste) jokes which he can deliver in the manner of a stand up routine – or just off the cuff to embarrass the team.
Barney relayed his own story through his outreach worker: “I was sleeping in a tent in Bridport for 2 years after splitting up with my wife. I was using alcohol to make life bearable on the street. It also helped me deal with losing my two sons – one in childhood and the other tortured and murdered as an adult. I finally realised that I didn’t want to drink anymore and managed to quit whilst still rough sleeping.
I became ill with bell’s palsy and went for respite at Pilsdon Manor. The Pilsdon Community helped me back on my feet, but I returned to the tent. The outreach team would come out first thing in the morning with coffee, they set up an assessment with the Housing Team at the local council and drove me over there. I was placed in temporary accommodation in Dorchester. I was referred to another organisation for support but didn’t build up the trust I had with the outreach team, so they continued to support me into my long term accommodation in sheltered housing. I wish I could say it has all been plain sailing, but I had to go on to Universal Credit when I moved and problems with that have caused me massive amounts of stress. On the plus side, I have been able to set up aquariums in my flat and I am a keen fisherman.
2018 December 10 by Verity Jones
After nearly 30 years of drug abuse Phil turned his life around – now he has a full-time job at Julian House and says every day is a reminder of how far he’s come.
“My parents divorced when I was 13. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking and smoking dope. Before I knew it, things got out of control and I’d moved on to heroin and crack cocaine.”
The first of Phil’s three sons was born when he was just 19. “I was barely more than a child myself. I lived a double life for years; holding down jobs as a painter/decorator to support my family – in between spells in prison for burglary, theft, fighting and dealing to support my drug habit.”
In 2012 Phil was locked up for another four years – and he finally decided enough’s enough. “I was sick of going to prison. Sick of being estranged from everyone I cared about.” Especially his boys who he’d not seen for years. “So I enrolled in a drug free wing. It was easy to stay clean in prison – but I knew the test would come when I was back on the street.”
And that’s when Julian House stepped in; Phil applied to See Change – one of our addiction recovery houses. “I thought I’d give myself a fighting chance, and I haven’t looked back. See Change is a safe environment – from 1-2-1 counselling sessions, to peer support groups, a dedicated keyworker to encouragement on tap – I can’t blow their trumpet enough.”
After a few months Phil started volunteering, which turned into a part time position with a local social enterprise. “I wanted to get back on my feet – buy a car so I could start rebuilding my relationship with my family in Cambridge.” And when Julian House offered him a full-time position as a maintenance man he jumped at the chance.
“I really like the ethos of working for a charity, and the variety of what I do on a day to day basis; One week I can be fitting a new kitchen, gardening the next. But the best thing about my position at Julian House is the reminder of the life I don’t want to go back to.”
Until six years ago Phil hadn’t lived more than three consecutive days as an adult man without substance misuse. “Drugs cuddled me when I was down, and celebrated with me when I was up. I thought I couldn’t cope without them. What I didn’t realise back then is that I was just existing…. today I live.”
Phil admits he has lots of regrets, but after years of not feeling at home in his six-foot skin he’s finally happy. “I just take it one day at a time, talk to people rather than trying to undo all the knots myself, and don’t look for escapism anymore. I’m grateful for everything I have – job, house, car, partner, kids, grandkids.”
“And now when people ask me to tell them about myself, I’m not Phil the ex-criminal, or Phil or ex-drug addict anymore – I’m just Phil.
2018 December 6 by Verity Jones
Before we met Ben he was living with his mother but unfortunately their relationship broke down due to his mental health issues and behaviour. He was diagnosed with Rage Disorder after becoming verbally aggressive and breaking objects in her home. The police had been called after incidents leading to him receiving a restraining order and having to attend probation. He could not live at the family home and became homeless.
Ben sofa surfed with friends and family, and even stayed with his mother against the restraining order which put him at risk of prosecution, until his options ran out. He got in contact with his father which led him to leaving his county and moving to Exeter. However, he had no options of having a safe place to stay and was at serious risk of becoming street homeless. Ben had started to become low of mood and was concerned his behaviour would become problematic.
After completing a risk assessment of Ben, we placed him with experienced hosts where he behaved and interacted with hosts well. Hosts stated they did not experience any of the diagnosis given to Ben as he was polite and conscientious. The feedback was important as it meant hosts with less experience and unsure about higher risk issues could host him, giving him more options of different hosts to stay with.
As time went on, we helped Ben apply for different supported accommodation but also had concerns about his mental health issues. Nightstop was able to give him a reference and show the diagnosis was in the context of his mother’s home. Before he could be accepted, his girlfriend from his original county came to Exeter and asked to stay with Nightstop. However, she was too high risk to stay with hosts and Ben choose to stay in a tent with her as felt he needed to look after her.
Ben continued to engage with Nightstop staff and he could still stay with hosts in supported accommodation but chose to stay in the tent with his girlfriend.
He turned up one morning with cuts and bruises after being bitten and hit with a hammer after an argument with his girlfriend. We were able to place him with a host that night and support him to engage with the police whist charges were being pressed. Ben was extremely vulnerable with hosts able to provide emotional support and appropriate advice.
Ben eventually moved into temporary accommodation provided by the council. However, this only lasted until the threat of violence ended, his ex-girlfriend left the area, and Ben sofa surfed with a friend until he came back to Nightstop.
He applied to move into the supported housing and was accepted, Ben has lived in the flat since July 18 and engaged with staff well. He has completed the Outcome Star, a coaching tool that helps young people recognise issues in a structured method. He has applied for a music production course and wants to start his old hobbies again. Also, Ben has supported Nightstop at promotional events and he stated could never have been able to talk to people he did not know and felt staying with people he did not know helped his confidence.
Find out more about Nightstop here.
2018 November 26 by Verity Jones
The following was written by a client from one of our supported housing projects.
My whole life has been based around alcohol, drugs and violence, I never knew what emotions were like or experienced any in my drinking days. I knew if I carried on living like this, I would end up in prison or dead, prison got to me first.
Going to prison was the start to changing my life and making me the man I am today. While my time in prison was horrible not knowing when my cell door would open and when it did, was it a prison officer or another prisoner come to beat me up. I decided to look for opportunities to better myself. I completed all the courses I could and became a classroom helper in the health and wellbeing course, Naomi the teacher taught me that it’s OK to talk about things rather than let them overload your mind with bad thoughts. I also completed all the alcohol and drug groups which taught me to relax without having to use alcohol and the best way of dealing with situations and emotions.
When I was released from prison, I moved into a Julian house project which is a dry house, I was nervous to start with, then I met Sarah my key worker and felt at ease. Sarah is always there to listen to you and help you with any situations. Julian house has kept me sober, I still think about alcohol but knowing I am in a dry house helps to keep me sober. My target every day is not to drink.
I now have a loving partner, stepdaughter, daughter and granddaughter who are in my life, I know I am not alone, I can jump on a bus to see my family when I like which is a good feeling. My thinking is changing to how I see my life in the future.
I use my time wisely and like to keep myself busy. There is a gym in the dry house that I can use 24/7. I have decorated rooms in the house and have been keeping the garden and house clean and tidy.
My main targets are setting goals to better myself, I am volunteering at the Julian house bike workshop which I love and have met some good friends there. I have also completed a first aid course with Julian house and met some of the other residents from other houses while at the course who were friendly.
I have realised in the past I made every day hard work and thought things were impossible to change. Now I write a daily plan, set achievable goals. I’ve learnt how to compromise so everyone is happy, I find a balance in every situation an example of this is the windows in the house, when I was in prison, I was in a box 8ft by 10ft with no option to open a window I didn’t realise how good fresh air feels until it was taken away, I would like the window always open but know that others in the house don’t, I compromised using times when and when not, to have them open while I am living in a shared house.
Thank you to everybody that has helped me to come this far, I will continue to make my daily plans and set achievable goals.
2018 November 15 by Verity Jones
Darren came to Exeter from Newton Abbot at the end 2015. When the team first encountered him on the streets they offered him the chance to return to Newton Abbot but he declined because he was fleeing drug debts.
From that moment onwards he engaged minimally with the team and rarely accepted a hot drink on morning outreach.
He was allocated a support worker who tried to engage with Darren to do a housing assessment form, but had no luck because Darren was always begging to fund an expensive heroin addiction. His worker asked Darren what he wanted, which turned out to be getting on a methadone script, not housing. They made a referral to RISE, a drug and alcohol support service, but Darren was still using heavily so was busy begging at the time of his appointments, which he missed.
His support worker, Matt, felt like he was getting nowhere with Darren but encouraged him to re-refer himself to RISE. Again, Darren missed several appointments but finally made it to one despite suffering from heroin withdrawal. He continued to keep his appointments with his RISE worker and saw a GP from a local Surgery – the first time he had accessed healthcare in over a year.
Once Darren was managing his heroin addiction, Matt accompanied him to Exeter City Council to make a homeless application. He was found non-priority but Matt rang the Housing Advice team every day for a week until there was a vacancy for him to be housed.
This was the first time Darren had accessed housing for almost two years. It took him a while to engage with his new support worker but he stayed on top of paying his rent with little prompting. Now that he was feeling more settled, he had time to meet Matt and play pool on several occasions.
2018 October 16 by Verity Jones
In May this year the Dorset homeless outreach team met Dave, he was sleeping in a tent on Chesil beach and living off whatever he managed to fish. Supported by Julian House, Wise Ability and The Lantern, Dave has found himself in rented accommodation, and has just started up-cycling second hand furniture.
He creates beautiful, individual pieces to a very high standard and has managed to find space to use as a workshop. Over the next few months he hopes to turn his talent into a business and sell his bespoke furniture to the public.
2018 August 20 by Verity Jones
We love seeing the successes of our clients when they start to turn their lives around.
This is one of our Bristol recovery clients, for years he worked Covent Garden until he fell into addiction. He’s now running workshops at the PRSC (Peoples republic of Stokes Croft) in Bristol and enjoying performing his Punch and Judy shows again!
2018 April 19 by Verity Jones
Our Supported Housing services work to not only provide accommodation, but also to support clients in all elements of their lives to help them gain confidence and skills to move on positively and independently.
Recently the Somerset Positive Lives Service worked with a client who wouldn’t leave the house, wash or cook for himself, and felt suicidal on a daily basis. With learning difficulties and limited mobility, he felt unable to progress with his life.
Through determination and close partnership working, however, the client has improved significantly. His plans for this week, for example, include spending a day with his mentor, attending an appointment at MIND (part of a 6 week treatment plan he now has in place), visiting the opticians, catching the bus for a day trip to Wells and cooking himself a roast at the weekend. This is a really positive change for him towards a successful move-on in the future.
These positive steps in his life have also empowered him to feel confidant enough to make other changes; some as small as being able to have a conversation with an elderly lady on a bus, and feeling so positive that he was able to speak to a stranger.
Other bigger steps include feeling able to attend an interview to start volunteering at a Breakfast Club.
Supported housing services provide people with accommodation and this often then empowers them to start making changes in other areas of their lives.
2018 April 18 by Verity Jones
Our Somerset Positive Lives Accommodation Service have recently been supporting a client who was keen to return to work; the only thing holding him back was a lack of a driving licence.
Our volunteer and peer mentor was able to find a grant from the Somerset Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders ‘SACRO’ that could support this. We applied for £300 to support the client to take lessons; the grant was to cover both his theory and practical test and a licence in the event he passed.
Well he put his heart and soul into this; he sat his theory test within a week of receiving the grant- and passed. He then took 2 driving lessons and was able to pass his practical test first time!
His driving licence allowed him to secure full time work with a vehicle as part of the employment, with this new found freedom he then felt more able to move onto independent accommodation. He continues to thrive in his new job and accomodation and to date has not re-offended for 4 months, which is a first for 12 years.
The staff working with this client also noted an improvement in his ability to listen and work ‘around’ what he considered were unfair restrictions imposed by other agencies and he certainly seemed to learn to react in a more constructive manner.
2017 January 19 by Matthew Roberts
Phil, 45 years old. Previously a St Vincent’s resident, he is now full time Gardening Team Leader at Aspire.
“Before St Vincent’s I was languishing in a cycle of drink, drugs, crime, prison and my life was pretty much going nowhere.”
“I came to St Vincent’s because I was serving a prison sentence and I had to do something different with my life.”
“A few of the people I was associated with in prison had come to St Vincent’s and championed the cause and so in pursuit of the new life I craved I guess it was a logical choice.”
“I’d worked large parts of my life but a lot of those jobs had fell by the wayside because of my substance misuse and then the 5 years before my latest prison sentence, the one before I came to St Vincent’s, it was a case of I didn’t really want to work and I was happy in my oblivion. I didn’t think that I was worthy of anything more than I had become so I didn’t even try to get work.”
“Realistically if I hadn’t got a place in any 2nd stage dry house, maybe I’d still be taking drugs, committing crime, going to prison, possibly dead, that’s as black and white as it was quite honestly.”
“Aspire, because they come under the umbrella of a social enterprise they are much more understanding of the issues associated with coming out the other side of substance misuse, for instance I’ve had quite a few hospital appointments and illnesses of late and they haven’t been anything other than supportive. I think it’s amazingly encouraging for me.”
“What I’m learning more than anything at Aspire first and foremost is working with other people and leading other people. Some of the people there don’t have as much on hand experience as I have, so it’s kind of nice to teach and help other people.”
“My immediate goals are to find my own place and then work full time for Aspire, because I like the job, I like the people and the ethos of the company.”
“To anyone thinking about St Vincent’s, it has helped my immeasurably in turning what was a pretty bleak outlook for my life into something which today I have genuine aspirations and hope for the future.”
“Aspire do great things for people that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily have got a chance. I would absolutely champion the cause of both.”
2016 September 8 by Matthew Roberts
Volunteering is a great way to help to make life better for homeless and vulnerable people in your local community. You also get to meet people, learn new skills & expand your horizons.
Jacqui, one of our volunteers, spoke to us and gave her top 10 reasons why she loves giving some of her time:
- I always come away with a smile on my face
- The events are great fun and very well organised
- There’s always a fantastic atmosphere on the day
- I know I’m supporting an extremely worthy cause
- The roles on the day are really varied so there’s something for everyone
- I know my time is appreciated whether I can offer 1 hour or 5 hours
- I get to meet lots of new people
- I see the commitment from the staff and other volunteers to help vulnerable people firsthand
- I have a birds eye view of some wonderful activities and events that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen
- I’ve learnt that homelessness can happen to anyone and through the support of Julian House many vulnerable people are given the guidance and support to get their lives back on track.
2016 August 23 by Matthew Roberts
Motivated by wanting to be the best mum she could, Mary moved into Julian House in 2014 to get specialist help to overcome her addiction to alcohol and rebuilt a life for herself and her son. “My son is staying with his dad while I’m at Julian House and I know I am in the right place to get the help I need.
I look forward to us spending normal quality time together, like helping him with his homework, eating pancakes for breakfast like we used to, watching The Simpsons or Dr Who, seeing him asleep, him telling me about cadet camp face to face, and dare he broach it those difficult things called girls.
I’m building trust with him again…I’ve been sober 14 months and he knows I am, and that I’m working hard for us to be a family again”
Mary left Julian House in having benefited from key working, counselling and specialist help to address her problematic drinking. She left us confident she could rebuild her life, and the life that she and her son wanted together.
2016 August 23 by Matthew Roberts
I came to Julian House after three months in treatment. I’d heard about the support Julian House provides through others that had left treatment and had done well with their recovery and I was accepted in August.
The staff at Julian House offer lots of support, I know I can call the support workers whenever I need them and they will be there for me.
I heard about the Julian House Bike Workshop while I was doing my initial 12 week treatment programme, so once I finished this my 12 week programme my support worker suggested work experience to me.
I started volunteering in February doing 1 day a week. After a month I increased this to 2 days a week, and I am now considering extending this to 3 days.
I find volunteering there really therapeutic as well as learning a lot about cycle maintenance. Having a ‘rust bucket’, refurbishing and selling it is so satisfying.
Quite often I finish working on a bike and it goes up for sale and the next time I come back in, it’s sold. I know that that has been down to me and the money goes back to the charity- it’s great job satisfaction.
The project is helping me with my recovery and I’m learning transferrable skills. The people are good for me to be around and I’m getting great work experience.
There was a time I was agoraphobic because of my addiction. I was too afraid to leave the house and go outside. I’m now really enjoying the project and highly recommend the Bike Workshop, it’s helping me to get my confidence back and rejoin the community.
2016 August 23 by Matthew Roberts
I’d worked large parts of my life but a lot of those jobs had fell by the wayside because of my substance misuse, it became a case of I didn’t really want to work and I was living in my oblivion. I didn’t think I was worthy of anything more than I had become so I didn’t even try to get work.
Realistically if I hadn’t got a place in Julian House, maybe I’d still be taking drugs, possibly dead, that’s as black and white as it was quite honestly.
Now I’m working in one of the Julian House social enterprises, they are much more understanding of the issues associated with coming out the other side of substance misuse.
I worked on my own for several years, self employed so I’m getting used to working with other people, leading other people somewhat because some of the people there don’t have as much on hand experience as I have. So it’s kind of nice to teach and help other people.
My immediate goals are to find my own place and then work full time for Julian House, because I like the job, I like the people and the ethos of the company.
Julian House has helped my immeasurably in turning what was a pretty bleak outlook for my life into something which today I have genuine aspirations and hope for the future. Julian House do great things for people like me who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily have got a chance.”
2016 August 23 by Matthew Roberts
Daniel is 41. He left his home city of London 3 years ago and came to Bath with his girlfriend and their dog. Away from the fast-paced city, they looked forward to finding a more relaxed lifestyle.
Finding work in Bath proved to be difficult and Daniel took to labouring on building sites. Whilst this work looked promising, it turned out to be irregular and short-term. This situation added to other relationship tensions, which continued to mount until he broke up with his girlfriend.
The break up involved Daniel moving out of the home that the couple shared. As a short-term solution, he moved in with an acquaintance, sleeping on his sofa. The place was unclean and unstable: Alcohol often caused his host to become aggressive.
Suffering from these set-backs and running out of options, Daniel started drinking more and sleeping rough to get away from the anti-social behaviour.
Looking back, Daniel said ‘I was beginning to wallow in self-pity. This feeling only got worse and worse when I drank. I thought, “What’s happening to me?”’
Needing to find a safe place where he could get himself together, Daniel visited Julian House’s Hostel in Bath and was soon able to move into one of the private ‘pods’. This was a big step taking control of his situation, but there were still risks.
With reinforcement from Julian House staff, Daniel began to take more pride in himself. He came to see his experiences as a run of bad luck that almost spiralled out of control. He says, ‘If the hostel wasn’t there, I would have been stuffed.’
Daniel is now living at one of our supported accommodation projects, and loving the return to the normality of cooking and household chores.
‘I don’t want to give up. I want to help people and make a difference. The experience has opened my eyes to how helpful support work is, so in the next year, my ambition is to get into this line of work.’
He is a caring and aspirational guy who came on hard times, but found the help he needed to stay on his feet.
2015 September 16 by Matthew Roberts
Over the past few months the Gypsy Traveller & Boater Outreach team, Connie and Sam, have made some good progress working with one of their contacts, N.
N is a long-term heroin user and domestic abuse survivor, suffering from high anxiety levels and depression. She struggles to navigate the housing benefit system, resulting in mounting arrears to Elim Housing. Over the last few months our staff, Connie and Sam have gained N’s trust enough to have an honest conversation about her history of abuse and her ongoing drug-use, something she was previously reluctant to do. N has agreed to consider support with her addiction and feels ready to access the Freedom Programme where she will be supported through attendance at those critical first appointments. Support was also given with housing benefit and Elim Housing where a problem was found and solved preventing N’s tenancy being at risk.
Health is a vital issue that Sam and Connie work with. For N it was possible, with support, to move from unplanned regular emergency visits to A&E to planned visits to a GP surgery where she is now signed up. A subtle but powerful sign of change is getting contact again from her sister, a relationship which had strayed. She has made an incredible transition from existing in almost complete isolation with no functioning support network, to living in a supportive community, being in-touch with her family and making plans for her future. N told Connie and Sam that without the positive changes they supported her in making over the last few months she would never have expected to see her family again, and has since been much happier.
2015 July 22 by Matthew Roberts
It’s easy to imagine it could never happen to you, but if the rug was pulled out from under you, would you be able to find the support you need?
When Dave was made redundant from his factory job at the age of 50, his life changed suddenly. The redundancy payment didn’t last long, and when he was offered a chance to work, it seemed like a step in the right direction.
“A guy came up to me in the street in Bath and offered me work for £20 a day plus room and board, and I was desperate enough to take it. It was mainly tarmacing and concreting, and that was ok if you had the work, but other days we’d have to go round door knocking in all kinds of weather.”
He was treated well by the family he was with, but not everyone was so friendly.
“The younger lads treated us worse than dogs sometimes, throwing down litter in the street and expecting us to pick it up. They weren’t violent as such, but they did things like throwing fireworks through my window. They threatened that if I ever left they would find me and beat me.”
Dave went to Bath police station to report the threats, but after 13 months living with his employer he had nowhere to stay. The police put him in contact with Julian House.
He had to stay in Bath for 6 months before he could get fully into the system, but the Julian house staff made sure he wasn’t on the streets. At first they gave him a bed in the Manvers street night shelter, and then, once he had been assessed, they moved him into one of their local properties.
“They could see I was low risk so they moved me through the system quite quickly. I was given a key worker who I’ve still got now, and I go back to the night shelter once a week to volunteer in the kitchen.
Dave feels that his contact with the charity has had a positive impact on his life, and certainly he has been empowered to do things he would never have otherwise tried. He’s been involved with lots of different projects, and the skills he has gained have opened up a wide range of employment opportunities.
“I belong to 50 Strong, a project that runs meaningful activities. Through them I’ve done lots of courses – food hygiene, IT, resilience, and they put me through my DBS check which means I can work with disabled people. I also work front of house at one of their social enterprises, Julian House Bike Workshop, so I’ve got experience of dealing with customers. I’d only ever done factory work before.”
In the future, Dave hopes he will be able to work with marginalised or vulnerable people himself. He would like to put something back into the system that gave him so much support.
“I’m a caring person and I try to help people who have got issues. I’d like to work for the charity, but it would be hard as I’m still in the system. Maybe I’ll do a similar job somewhere else one day though. I’m hoping it will all fall into place.”
Even though he went through some difficult times, Dave says that he wouldn’t change what happened.
“It’s also made me realise how close everyone is to being homeless, so I’ve learned not to judge people just because I see them on the street. Everyone’s got their own strengths and everyone goes through their own stuff. We’ve all got issues.”
“I’m starting life afresh really, that sums it up. It’s given me a new outlook and a new start.”
2014 September 12 by Matthew Roberts
The Supported Housing team at Julian House recently achieved a great result after 18 months supporting one of their service users at Peter House. It’s a perfect example of how Julian House works closely with it partners to support its service users and the credit goes to everyone who’s been involved with this case.
Guy was referred to Julian House through the criminal justice system. He was heavily involved in drug use and had a history of drug-related crime; stealing to feed his habit.
Suffering from anxiety and poor self-esteem, Guy didn’t immediately engage with the support services. His drug use continued because he did have the motivation to quit.
To their credit, this didn’t daunt the staff at Peter House and they continued to provide him with the best support that they could. By working closely with drug misuse agencies and continuing to engage with Guy, they started to make some ground. After 12 months with the supported housing team, Guy began engaging with Meaningful Occupation activities; going to creative writing classes and learning cookery skills. He continued taking part in these activities, picking up computer skills, improving his punctuality and generally showing much more motivation.
Feeling the momentum that he’d built up, Guy was shaping up for real progress. Working with the Job Centre, the Supported Housing team and Guy arranged a job interview for a position with the gas board in London. All Guy’s hard work paid off and he got the job!
Guy left Peter House in May and successfully relocated to London. He has now been working for the gas board for four months, meaning that he has passed his probationary period and been awarded a five-year contract. Guy came back to Bath in August to thank the team for their work, which has helped him to move on and start a new chapter in his life.
It was good of Guy to come back and visit because it adds a personal level of appreciation to his move-on. Congratulations to the Supported Housing team, Job Centre and the substance misuse agencies involved in this great piece of work.
(To protect his identity, the name of this service user has been changed.)
2014 August 19 by Matthew Roberts
The Supported Housing team at Julian House is the source of a constant stream of inspiring outcomes for service users. Recently, after two years of committed work supporting one female service user, they have achieved yet another moving result.
Fiona was referred to Julian House through the criminal justice system. Having served a seven-year sentence and lost connection with her family, she was thought to be at risk of homelessness and in urgent need of ongoing support to prevent a relapse into offending behavior.
The Supported Housing team was able to help Fiona with accommodation, so that she had the immediate security of a roof to sleep under. From there, Fiona was encouraged to take part in the wide range of supported activities that Julian House offers to help it’s service users establish a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Along with other female service users who were in similar difficult situations, she took part in discussion groups to build her confidence and in cookery classes, learning to make regular healthy meals and cakes to bake as a treat. For the first time, she also learned to confidently read and write.
For a long time, Fiona had been suffering from ill health and had been unable to access treatment. Understanding that this lack of medical intervention was slowing her recovery, the Supported Housing team worked with Fiona, primary care providers and the NHS to understand the nature of her illness. Fiona has now been diagnosed with a chronic condition and is receiving the appropriate treatment, meaning that her symptoms and her discomfort are both reduced.
After two years of support, Fiona has completed her license conditions, meaning that she has not re-offended for two years and is now free from the watch of probation services. She has been awarded Personal Independence Payments, meaning that she can move into independent housing and regain increasing control over life. Perhaps most importantly, she has reconnected with her children and begun rebuilding the family connections that she had lost.
This achievement would not have been possible without close cooperation between Julian House and it’s partners: probation services, benefits agencies, primary carers and the NHS. Thanks go out to all the people who have contributed to this story and best of luck goes to Fiona as she takes her next steps forwards.
(To protect her identity, the name of this service user has been changed)