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Greg's story. 'If you’d met me six years ago you wouldn’t believe how much I’ve changed.'

02.11.2018 797 XX

“I never met my dad. He left when I was born. I only had my mum really. I was also a bit of nightmare when I was younger. I used to steal stuff from my mum when I was drinking. Terrible things like that. Then I got kicked out when I was sixteen. There’s no excuses, but I do look at other people and think that maybe if I’d had a dad at that age thinks would have been different, but I didn’t talk about anything. I just kept it all in. I used blame everything and everyone other than myself. I spent a lot of my life not knowing what to do, and just finding drink and drugs instead.  

I got married when I was twenty-three, and I’ve never regretted marrying her, even though it turned out bad. She cheated on me and left me for someone else. I knew it was going on, but I stuck with her. I was a wreck by the end of it. Two and a half years later. I was a postman while we were married, but I nearly had a breakdown and was off sick for a year. I was drinking and crying constantly.

I had a difficult period of unemployment and living in different shared houses after that. My mental health was still really bad, and I was still drinking, but eventually I got a job as an assistant manager in a games shop and things started to get better. I got housed and off benefits. I was looking forward to going to work. I was happy. I really loved my job, but then I got made redundant, and it really knocked the stuffing out of me again. I went to the job centre and I got offered a part time job at the Co-Op, but it was only sixteen hours a week. I would lose all my benefits and I’d be worse off, but they said I had to take it. There was no choice. Six months later I was evicted because I couldn’t afford my rent or my bills anymore. 

When I first got evicted from my flat, I was sofa surfing with friends or I would sleep rough, and I was getting really down. I was constantly drinking or taking drugs. I was hardly eating. Eighty cans of lager a weekend sometimes. One day I’d had enough. I was going to kill myself. I was going hang myself in the woods. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I didn’t go through with it. I also decided to stop everything - and I did. I didn’t drink or take drugs from that night onwards. I literally just stopped. That was six years ago now. 

I’d tried to kill myself once before when I was nineteen. I took an overdose. My brother died of cot death when I was six and I think the memory of that played a part in me stopping. You don’t really understand that kind of thing when you’re six, but I just always remember my mum crying for months and months and months. It tore her to shreds, and I couldn’t put her through that again. That night I realised I had to take responsibility. There were extenuating circumstances, but at the end of the day it was me that was doing the drink and drugs. It was me that wasn’t paying the bills. It was tough for the first few months. I didn’t go to rehab or anything like that. I just went cold turkey. 

Even though I was off the drink, my mental health was still bad. All that time I was drinking and taking drugs I hadn’t dealt with my depression. I was also still homeless. Either sleeping on the streets, sofa surfing, or staying with my mum. I’ve been street homeless on and off for the past six years before coming to Coventry a year ago. To be honest, sometimes sleeping rough was a relief from other people. I’d stay out of town centres, and I’d never beg, but I got attacked. I was spat at. I was shouted at. I had beer thrown over me. I started staying in parks under bushes. I’ve had to eat out of garbage. For me not being able to brush my teeth, have a wash or shave was the worst. If it hadn’t been for other homeless people telling about where to get free food sometimes, I don’t know what I would have done. 

When I came to Crisis. It was just so nice to have someone not judge you. They just let me talk and moan about stuff. It was a release. Two weeks later they helped me get proper mental health support. I’ve never had that kind of help before. I didn’t even know it was available. Then they helped me get into a Cyrenians hostel. I’ve got my own flat now and I love it. Just one bed in a tower block. I love the view. It’s the first place I’ve ever decorated myself because nowhere else has felt like home before. I get by, and I’m paying my bills. Dealing with debts I’ve built up. It’s a struggle but it’s the first time I’m really taking responsibility. 

I start a new part time job football coaching 18-30 year olds next week. I’ve been volunteering at Coventry City girls FC, but this is the first paid employment for a while. I want to work teaching football in schools, maybe in America or China, but I need my FA level 2 to do that which I start in November. Crisis have supported me all through that. They even got me a tracksuit because I didn’t have any sports clothes.

My counsellor is going to stick with me still to see how I get on. I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but for the first time, there’s optimism. I’m stable. Mentally I can deal with things. I’ve got things in place to help me. My counsellor advised me to write my anxious thoughts or fears on a piece of paper and put them in a draw rather than worrying about them. It sounds simple, but it really worked for me. Last week I was cleaning my flat and the draw was totally full of them. When I looked at them, I couldn’t see what I was even worried about. If only I’d had that support earlier in my life, things could have been different.

If you’d met me six years ago you wouldn’t believe how much I’ve changed. I think that’s my advice to anyone. As much as you go through in life, you can change. It’s not easy. All my life I quit on things. It’s only this last year I haven’t. I hadn’t felt part of society for a while. Coming to Crisis and going to the classes was great. Art, plastering and tiling, well-being. They start to get you back into society because you meet people that understand. It’s that gradual little process of you coming back into the world. Then your outlook starts changing. Little by little it builds. 

I had friends round for dinner last week and I cooked for them. I’ve not done that before. It was amazing. We had desert and watched some films. It was just a really nice, normal thing to do in my own house. I felt like I was back. My relationship with my mum has improved a lot in the last year too. I hadn’t made her proud of me before this, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. Three weeks ago I passed my PETALS teaching course, and my mum phoned me up and said, I’m really proud of you. That got me.”

Greg, Coventry 

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