I am originally from Halifax, but I moved down to London when I was 21 years old. I started taking drugs when I was 19 and after a while I got in to a bit of trouble with some dealers. I came to London to get away from it and try and start a new life.
I’m not sure why I started taking drugs if I’m honest, maybe it was a bit of boredom or just curiosity, but I started on crack and heroin. I didn’t really like injecting, so I just smoked it for a long time, but after a while it didn’t really matter how I got the drugs into me - just as long as I got them.
I’ve spent the last 10-15 years in and out of prison or homeless, either on the streets or in one hostel or another. It was lots of petty crime really, shop lifting and stuff – anything to feed my habit. My last stretch in prison was my longest as I got put away for arson. I was off my head on drugs and didn’t know what I was doing. I’d also got seriously ill and nearly died, because of drugs, just before I was sentenced. I was 38 years old, in prison again and I just thought to myself - you’re going end up dead if you carry on like this.
Over the years I’d lost touch with my family, because of the drugs, but they’ve always stuck by me and wanted me to stop. I decided to use my time in prison to do just that. I got myself clean and then became a peer mentor in prison, helping other inmates do the same.
I was released from prison but didn’t have anywhere to go so I ended up sleeping rough in a carpark. I’d been clean for 18 months and didn’t want to go back down my usual route of drugs and petty crime so when the Safer Streets Team (SST) found me I decided to go to Camden Council and register as homeless. That’s how I ended at Conway House. I’m very grateful to Conway House as a lot of hostels would have refused me, because of my conviction for arson. After meeting with my probation officer they could see it was out of character for me, something I’d done when I was out of control, and I joined the service in September 2015.
I’ve been working with Zoe, my key worker, since I arrived and signed up for a lot of the training courses at the hostel. I help Gosia, at the Training Resource Centre (TRC), with the weekly breakfast club and I also recently took part in a six week Made in Hackney cooking and healthy eating course. I’m doing maths and English at the TRC and I meet with Sharon from CRI every Wednesday.
Zoe also told me about peer mentoring with Groundswell because I said how much I enjoyed mentoring in prison. We got in touch with them and I’ve been accepted on a six week training course (for three days a week.) At the end of the course I can do voluntary work with Groundswell, helping clients in the same way that people have helped me. I would love to be a full time mentor/project worker for people who have hit rock bottom, helping them rebuild their confidence and move away from homelessness.
I’m back in touch with my family and I want to make them proud of me again. I’ve recently met a lovely girl as well, her name is also Jodie and we’re planning our lives together. She is great and I want to make her as proud of me, as I am of her. This is the first time in years that I feel in control of my life. It’s why mentoring is so important - when you feel at your lowest and you speak to someone who has been through similar, it helps you believe in yourself and see that you deserve to change your life for the better.