Trapped in the "hamster wheel of homelessness"
I'd had a difficult time for quite a few years which ended up with a short period in prison. I knew I would be homeless when I came out, but I didn't get any help. The screws were all too busy dealing with the day to day business of the prison to help with accommodation.
So, on release I spent 17 weeks on the street. At this time, I had no income. I couldn't get benefits as I was waiting for a medical. I kept on going to my local council – which was Gedling – for help with housing. But in the past due to the difficulties in my life I had built up £2,000 rent arrears. So, I couldn't get help with housing until I had paid these off – but how was I to do this with no income? I'd had issues with my family and getting help from them was not really an option for me. True I was close to my Grandad – but sadly he had passed away the year before (this had added to the trauma I was facing).
"I am homeless" I told the Council – but because I was sleeping rough in Nottingham city centre, the council in Gedling told me I had to apply there. So, I went to Housing Aid in Nottingham – but they said with no family in the city, I had no local connection and that I should go back to Gedling Borough Council. This seemed to be getting me nowhere and by this time my mental health was also really suffering again. So, I gave up on trying to get housing and got back into drugs. I just thought there was no escape from the streets – all my motivation had been destroyed. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel – going round and round – but getting nowhere and no way to get off.
My drug use got worse and then I did eventually think I needed to do something, so I was able to get a support worker through Recovery in Nottingham. He helped me a lot and also tried to help me get housed and so he got in touch with Gedling Borough Council but still they wouldn't offer any help.
My support worker had also helped me get clean enough to get off the streets and into accommodation in a local hostel. I thought this would end my nightmare. I was mistaken. There was a lot of drugs in the hostel and some residents kind of controlled the place. If you're vulnerable you get bullied. Staying away from drugs was impossible. I started reusing and picked up a "mamba" habit. I couldn't take it anymore – it may seem strange, but homelessness seemed like a better option.
For a few months I was "sofa surfing" before ending up rough sleeping again. Back to square one – facing the same stresses – destroying my mental health and using "mamba" seeming to be the only way to get some temporary escape from my situation. At this point the Street Outreach Team found me and offered some hotel accommodation on an emergency basis. I did also try Gedling Borough Council again, but all they said they could do was offer advice about private renting – (basically sort yourself out). With support from the Street Outreach Team I did eventually get some help from Housing Aid, who arranged for me to go into another hostel in the city. I lasted about three weeks in there, the drug situation was just too bad.
A further period of rough sleeping followed, and I again became pretty chaotic, but then I was placed in a hotel under the No Second Night Out scheme and at this point referred to Opportunity Nottingham. My Coordinator at Opportunity Nottingham was really good. He listened to me, understood what I needed. It doesn't sound much but it was mainly having my own place – my own front door, my own key. When you've got other issues going on like drugs and mental health – hostels aren't really good places to be – they can make things worse. But through Opportunity Nottingham I was able to get off the streets. They paid the deposit on a flat and I got support from the Multiple Needs Tenancy Support service – which are also part of Opportunity Nottingham. The support they give has meant I have kept the flat even through some difficult periods. With their help I've got my motivation back, I've got my self-esteem back. I am not going onto the streets again.