Barry's Story

When his accommodation fell through, Barry came out of prison to find himself homeless. Here, he talks about how having support, and a place to call home, has made all the difference to his mental health...

I get anxiety and I panic. Now, like I can’t stop me legs – that’s a sign that I’m anxious but it’s not as bad as it was.

A lot of it comes from the fact that my mum just dropped dead from a massive heart attack. And I took it really bad, basically it all went wrong after that and I didn’t sober up for about three and a half years after that, every time I tried to sober up, I’d be overwhelmed by grief so I’d get drunk again.

It took about 18 months to get a place in rehab and that got me off the booze and then I ended up getting sentenced out of the blue. Maintained innocence for all it’s worth. When I was released from prison, I was told a load of lies. I thought I’d got a place [to live] but that fell through.

Once I walked out that gate on the day my sentence was up I had nothing. I don’t have to report to anyone, nothing. I went into probation, the guy let me use the phone there, but he wouldn’t engage with me to do anything for me because officially I wasn’t on probation.

I wouldn’t sleep some nights because I was afraid that I wouldn’t wake up.

You come out and you’re not prepared. My biggest fear at that time was getting run over, because I wasn’t looking properly … In prison, you don’t get cars. The most you can do is walk into a fence.

I ended up on the streets and I had no recourse, nowhere to go. In total, I was rough sleeping about two years.

I was living…it was a big industrial building and I was in one of the outbuildings next to it, it had half a roof. I came back one evening and someone had been there and just thrown my stuff all over the floor, walked on it with all the oil that was on the floor, urinated on it, just trashed my things basically. This happened repeatedly and these things don’t add to your sense of wellbeing.

It was that cold out there; they’d find people who’d died from the cold. No matter how many layers of clothing you put on. I wouldn’t sleep some nights because it was that bitterly cold I was afraid that if I did go to sleep I wouldn’t wake up.

I didn’t trust anybody. You know, I’d just been dumped on from a great height and it made me…I didn’t like nobody. Nobody in ‘officialdom’ of any kind; I didn’t really engage because my thoughts were, you’re going to let me down anyway.

Before if I had a problem, I didn’t follow it up. But that’s what P3 have done, persisted.

The things P3 did were above and beyond…little things they’d gone out of their way to do. It was only with hindsight that I realised. It was about calls Debby had made to different agencies, taken me for coffee, anything that you can think of to help a homeless guy. At the time I didn’t have access to a phone.

Persistence it was. Emails, then phone calls when they hadn’t heard back. I think the beauty of it was, Debby’s down to earth and I like that. Just say it as it is. For me, that’s what I needed.

Within two weeks, things started to happen. I got a hostel place, before I got into the place I’m in now.

It’s like a learning curve as well. I feel a bit of hope now, whereas I didn’t have that before, that things could progress. Before if I had a problem and it didn’t get addressed immediately, I didn’t follow it up. But that’s what P3 have done, persisted.

My mental health is a lot better since I got my housing. A base, somewhere to go.

And it rubbed off, because now I have this thing – I’ve got a pal who’s in a similar situation, who’s turned out to be a good friend. We have what I call ‘get ahead days’, so if we’re supposed to go to say, housing at the council, well, we will do everything in our power to make that happen. We plan, we make sure we’ve got phone credit, I’ve got a bus pass now, we make sure he’s got his bus fare. We support each other, we boot each other in the butt. We’ve found it’s working.

You used to have to have to contact each council to put your name on the list for housing. I am educated, believe it or not, but a lot of these guys aren’t and to apply to each of these councils with what’s going on with them, whether it be drink, drugs or mental health (issues) - that’s hard. If it was easier you’d see a lot more results.

I do have mental health issues but that’s a lot better since I got my housing. A base, somewhere to go. I’m starting to feel I’m coming out of it, I’m getting a life, going to the library, cause I love reading you know. If I need to put myself out of the way, I can literally turn my buzzer off. When you’re in a tent you can’t dictate who can come in or who can’t.

P3 help you where they see it, but then you have to help yourself as well. It’s standing on your two feet, seeing how far you’ve come. From your point of view, not much has changed. But these guys [at P3] see you week in, week out. And they see the change.


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*Names changed to protect anonymity.