I was homeless, I was you

I was homeless, I was you

I know what it is like to wake up on the streets.

I understand what you are going through as I started sleeping rough at the age of 17.

I didn’t have the best start in life. I grew up on a council estate in south Bristol, and we didn’t have a lot.

I left school at 13 without any qualifications, and got in with a bad crowd. It started with cannabis, but I soon moved on to crack and heroin. There were a lot of unhappy times.

At 17 I started sleeping rough and was addicted to drugs.

At that time all I had was my bedding, nothing else.

It is extremely stressful living on the streets, you are in a vulnerable situation and I saw a lot of bad things.

I used to look at people on their way to work and wonder “why can’t that be me?” 

But I felt I wasn’t good enough. Each day I would wake up and not know where I could go to wash, eat or get in from the cold. I was scared.

There were a lot of services trying to help me, but at that point, I wasn’t ready. 

On the streets I didn’t have any friends, but we did look out for each other when things got difficult. And people walking past and saying hello to me or asking how I was made a huge difference to my day. It made me realise that some people still saw me as a human being.

Thankfully people didn’t give up on me.

After 13 years on the streets I tackled my addiction and got into supported housing. 

It was a difficult period, as I finally had time to focus on where my life had gone wrong, but I was safe and supported and was given the space to work things out.

I spent two years in supported housing before getting my own council house. I was then able to start volunteering, and go back to college to get an education. I now work for a homeless charity.

I know what you are going through but if you take the support out there, you can turn your life around. You can have a roof over your head, take up hobbies and have fun.

I am living proof that there is a different life for you. You just need to be ready to reach out and take it.

Aged 47, Bedminster.