Richard moved into Your Place during the start of the first lockdown and tells us how he has slowly rebuilt his life.
I first became homeless when I lost my partner a few years back to cancer. Prior to that I lived a normal life here in Newham where I was born and bred. I worked as cab driver for over 20 years, privately rented my own place and went to the odd West Ham game at the weekend. I’ve always worked and made my own way, but when my partner died I didn’t want to live. My world just collapsed totally and I ended up living on the streets outside a shop. On top of having to come to terms with my partner’s death, I also suffer from PTSD and often have flashbacks to childhood abuse I suffered growing up. I was a lost soul, and had just had enough of life.
Luckily I was picked up by the ‘No Second Night Out’ team and was transferred between night shelters. When I first arrived at Your Place, I didn’t think I could rebuild my life. But being somewhere safe and knowing I always had someone there to talk to kept me going.
Before Your Place, I had my first ever mental health assessment where they diagnosed me with complex PTSD. Despite being told I would be given counselling, I still haven’t heard anything from them after nine months. Once my keyworker at Your Place found out about it, I was put on to an in-house counselling course within three weeks. Slowly but surely, I started to reconstruct my life. The sessions were held weekly and gave me a new focus and it really felt like I was progressing into each session. It was like the weight was lifted off my shoulders every session and I gradually gained more confidence. My outlook on life has changed completely and it has saved my life without a shadow of a doubt. I feel like there is hope; a chance that I can rebuild my position in society.
My key worker has helped me so much and kept going the extra mile for me. During lockdown, she was working from home but she rang me at least twice a week so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Even when she’s wasn’t at Your Place, there’s always someone who’s got time to help you if you’ve got a problem that needs sorting.
I’ve now got a new one-bed flat in West Ham, which is amazing when I think back to where I was a year ago. One year I was on the streets sleeping rough, now I have my own permanent accommodation. Even though I am still signed off on sick leave with work, I am actually now looking forward to returning to work. This is a huge change in mind-set for me, as before there was no way that I could see myself overcoming my PTSD and anxiety.
I feel positive going forward. Every opportunity you get at Your Place, you take it, because it prepares you in some way. The more willing you show, the more you get back. As long as I’m moving forward then I feel extremely positive. I just want to be normal and fit in. I am genuinely grateful for the support of Your Place, as I really was a lost soul before.