Jimmy Healy is a name that many working within the context of multiple needs in Nottingham City will know, but perhaps not all will know his full journey.
Very difficult circumstances in his childhood and a spell in jail, saw Jimmy leave his native Glasgow in his early twenties for a ‘fresh start’ in Nottingham. However, alone and with little or no money, his life was to take a difficult route. Over a period of 40 years he would experience homelessness, substance misuse, hundreds of convictions and a significant amount of time in prison.
Jimmy was referred to Opportunity Nottingham in 2016 whilst completing a jail sentence. His impending release meant that he would be street homeless, and due to him suffering with poor physical health this put him at significant risk. As his PDC, I arranged emergency accommodation for him, but unfortunately Jimmy was back in prison just two days after release due to breaching his licence terms. This breach was fuelled by a high consumption of alcohol. When he was next released, I was waiting outside the prison to meet Jimmy and accompanied him to temporary accommodation arranged via Housing Aid. An eviction followed, and ultimately Jimmy took himself to hospital due to ill health. During this time, I was able to secure a bed for Jimmy at 40 Forest Road, housing specifically for people facing multiple and complex needs. Unfortunately Jimmy was unable to maintain this accommodation and a series of hospital stays followed, until he found himself street homeless in the summer. During this time Jimmy was not eating, but his drinking continued and he suffered numerous health issues as a result.
Finally as the weather deteriorated, Jimmy was accepted at London Road (a facility for people facing homelessness and experiencing multiple needs). At this stage he was able to maintain his bed for several months and tried to moderate his drinking, but this stay ended with Jimmy waking up in a prison cell due to a charge of Racial Abuse against London Road staff. Despite this, the London Road team accepted Jimmy back (this was his third stay at the facility) and after trying so hard to support him, it was also this team who tried to save his life by performing CPR when he had a fatal heart attack in a stairwell on a cold, rainy November morning.
If I had to put a conservative estimate on the accumulative costs of Jimmy Healy on the ‘public purse’ during his lifelong battle with multiple and complex needs, I would suggest millions of pounds. This includes decades of benefits, police call-outs, court room visits, barristers and lawyers, prison stays, Social Worker support, hostels stays, access to alcohol services, taxis and ambulances to hospital, stays in hospital, operating surgeries and finally, the cost of his funeral.
I composed a eulogy for Jimmy’s funeral. Jimmy was in chaos for most of his life, but when he dropped his guard, he could be a gentle, caring man, with warmth and a gratefulness that made it worthwhile. Perhaps if Opportunity Nottingham had been around at the time of his arrival in the city, he could have been helped sooner. And, Jimmy’s situation was not unique. We are currently working with many Beneficiaries at Opportunity Nottingham who are facing multiple and complex needs and the associated chaos in their lives. The question is how will their lives pan out, and will they live a more fulfilled life than Jimmy was ever able to?
Personal Development Coordinator
The Opportunity Nottingham project aims to empower those facing multiple and complex needs to live fulfilled lives. At the core of project delivery is the need for system change, so that people like Jimmy can get appropriate support when they need it, with a joined up approach across services throughout the city.