Martin’s Story

“I would like to work and fish in Norway, but that’s impossible – isn’t it?”

Everybody has dreams but when you are living on the streets dreams can seem only possible in your wildest imagination. For one man in Exeter his dreams are one step closer to becoming a reality.

In 2015 Paul and Teresa from the Assertive Outreach Team in Exeter met Martin.

Martin struggled with his mental health but did not want to take any medication to support his condition. He was a heavy drinker, had been issued an ABSO and been evicted from some of the very services who could help him. All of this fuelled his anger and frustrations about his life, not knowing what was going to happen next and when he would finally have a roof over his head.

Paul and Teresa started building a relationship with Martin. This was short regular contact at first, taking things at his pace to grow their relationship and trust. After 7 months Martin started to ask questions about support and help he could access. He knew he could trust them to provide the right advice for his needs. Martin became very comfortable in their company and opened up about moving into accommodation, how this brought on feelings of ‘being trapped’ in 4 walls, was terrified of the constraints and what this meant to him. Paul started to look at options to help Martin with his mental health.

Paul asked the question, ‘If we had a magic wand what would you like to do?’ Martin’s response was surprising; ‘like to work and fish in Norway, but that’s impossible isn’t it?’

With Pauls help and support, Martin started to volunteer as a labourer 4 days a week at Politmore House, a stately home in Exeter, with a renovation project where they encouraged volunteers from the local community to help, learn new skills and provided an opportunity for those who needed a ‘hand up’.

At the end of the project in 2017 Martin was enthused about life and open to opportunities. Paul showed him a website called WWOOF , World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The site provides opportunities across the UK for people to work on farms and other projects as a volunteer. Martin could gain valuable experience and skills with accommodation, food and all amenities provided. He could work up to 17 hours a week providing meaningful occupational therapy to help and support his mental health. This was the perfect next step for Martin and with Paul’s help they set about finding the initial opportunity for him to explore.

Over the last 3 years Martin has been on 9 different projects via the WWOOF website. When the first lockdown was announced, knowing it would put extra pressure on his life, Martin called Paul and said he needed to find a project for 6 months as he wanted to keep working.

Paul said ‘Martin is now a completely different person from the one I first met in 2015. He has made positive improvements on his mental health, is able to recognise his needs and comfortable to continue working on this through a therapeutic process. Martin has had the opportunity to take control of his life building his self-confidence. He has stopped smoking and has reduced his drinking to almost nothing. Martin is able to manage his own finances, has bought himself a bike to improve his physical and mental fitness, a phone to keep in contact with people and to make enquiries about volunteer opportunities. I think it is fair to say Martin has gained invaluable experience and he has improved his quality of life, social skills and had the opportunity to visit some amazing properties and projects across the UK.’

Martin has gained enough experience to start looking for employment and continues to receive support from Paul at Julian House. Martin is now able to look for opportunities to volunteer around the world and his dreams of fishing and working in Norway, once a distant dream is now much closer to becoming reality.

‘Martin is currently enjoying his lifestyle and looking forward to his future’.