Camden & Islington
Jim (not his real name) is a 54 year old man who was referred to FLIC in September 2014 by the homeless outreach team in Camden, as he has a history of rough sleeping going back around 30 years. Jim had declined to engage with most offers of support throughout this time; on a few occasions he had taken up the offer of moving off the streets in to a supported hostel, but these placements had quickly broken down, either due to Jim abandoning the accommodation or due to him exhibiting aggressive or challenging behaviour and quickly being evicted. Jim had a negative attitude towards support services and did not feel that anyone was able to help him. He had a long history intravenous heroin and crack use as well as heavy alcohol use, which he funded by shoplifting and therefore was regularly arrested and imprisoned. He has served more than fifty short custodial sentences over the course of his life. Jim was a soldier from the age of 16 until he left the army in his early 20s. Throughout his life he has suffered from depression, anger management issues and PTSD, though this was only diagnosed in recent years. Jim had never received support around managing his mental health issues, and due to suffering with these, in addition to his drug addiction and entrenched street homelessness, was not in a position to engage with support or treatment.
FLIC met Jim rough sleeping in late 2014, early one morning at Euston train station. We started to talk to him about what he wanted, and he immediately highlighted that all he had ever wanted was his own front door, without having to prove that he could manage this by jumping through lots of hoops. FLIC explained the housing first model to Jim and encouraged him to give us a chance to work with him to see if we could help him move forward. We met with Jim regularly on the streets and got to know him; he is a very intelligent man with a number of interests including politics, history, religion and animals, and by enabling him to set the agenda for conversation, he began to naturally open up about his needs and history. As the weather was very cold by this time, Jim agreed to move in to a hostel, on the agreement that FLIC would also be actively looking for independent accommodation for him. FLIC’s private rented sector officer identified a studio flat in North London and Jim moved in in March 2015. Jim has now been living in his accommodation since then – over a year. The dignity and security of having his own home has enabled him to reduce his class A drug use to the point where he is substance free. His goal is now to reduce his alcohol use and heavy smoking; he recently used some of his personal budget to buy an electric cigarette, as well as a bike so he can start exercising. Jim has not had a custodial sentence since he moved in to his flat and this is the first year of his life in 30 years that he has not been in prison.
Jim loves all animals especially dogs, and it is his long term goal to have his own dog. He has some ongoing health problems which he would like to address; since stopping using drugs he has noticed a lot of chronic pains which were previously masked by his drug use, and has now started to engage with physical health treatment with support of FLIC. He would like to reduce his alcohol use and feels that getting his dog, and being out and about all day with his companion, will help him to do this as he often drinks out of loneliness and boredom. Wayne is very eloquent and regularly offers his time to FLIC as part of our evaluation and publicity interviews, most recently taking part in a live BBC Facebook interview watched by 160,000 people. His views on what works, and what doesn’t, when supporting people like himself are really valuable and he is keen to keep feeding in to FLIC’s ongoing work.
Newcastle & Gateshead
Craig is a 26 year old male, who was referred to Fulfilling Lives in November 2014 from an inpatient psychiatric ward in Gateshead. Craig presented as homeless, suffering from poor mental health, with addiction problems and offending behaviour.
At the time of his referral Craig’s family relationships had become so unstable that he was no longer able to stay with his mother and he was left homeless. Craig was struggling to cope with his diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and as such was presenting with very chaotic behaviour. He made numerous suicide attempts whilst self-medicating with alcohol. Under the influence he was aggressive towards the mental health crisis team and as such was arrested and detained on multiple occasions. This resulted in repeated stays in mental health inpatient ward from which he was continuously discharged homeless with no fixed abode. Craig suffered from such low self-esteem that he tattooed his face and hands with derogatory words and believed he didn’t deserve support from services as he was “useless and a waste of time”.
Craig was referred to Fulfilling Lives following one of his psychiatric inpatient stays and from which he was going to be discharged with no fixed abode. Fulfilling Lives worked with Mental Health Concern and Craig to get him access to a mental health rehab in Gateshead, where for the first time he could start to look at, and understand, his diagnosis and address his alcohol use whilst being in a safe environment. When Craig left the rehab he stated he was feeling ‘fixed’ and moved back in with his mother. However this relationship again broke down and Craig was left homeless. He was eventually housed in supported accommodation however Craig was evicted from the property due to anti-social behaviour caused by his alcohol-use. This resulted in a period of chaotic behaviour with Craig attempting suicide, being detained in psychiatric wards, self-harming, offending and his engagement with services becoming sporadic.
Fulfilling Lives continued to work with Craig and maintain relationships with the services supporting him and with that continued support Craig began to realise the consequence of his actions and with access to MBT therapy becoming available to him he started to re-engage with support. With Craig starting to engage properly with services and having a better understanding of his mental health diagnosis through his therapy he began to start building relationships, addressing his alcohol and working towards getting his own tenancy.
18 months after he started working with Fulfilling Lives Craig has now secured his own social housing tenancy and is living with his girlfriend who he’s maintained a positive relationship with. Craig states that since he’s been with her he has never had a ‘bad day’. His relationship with his family has improved greatly, he is engaging with substance misuse team, his mental health team for intensive therapy, and is no longer on probation. He has started volunteering as a peer mentor with Gateshead Evolve and is involved in the Fulfilling Lives Expert by Experience group.
Craig now wants to become a drug and alcohol counsellor and says;
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Fulfilling Lives, because of the programme standing by, helping and supporting- from the start to now where I am in my own flat. Fulfilling Lives have even got me settled in the flat. Fulfilling Lives have always been with me, even when other services would have left. Fulfilling Lives is the only thing like it- there is nothing else like it. Fulfilling Lives got me in with Evolve and my MBT therapy and I wouldn’t have my new flat without them. They kept pushing and pestering the housing company. I would hope everyone who was in my situation would be able to have a service navigator, definitely.”