My name is John, I am 58 years old and come from Preston. I worked as a painter and decorator for many years, had a reasonable childhood, got married when I was 19 and had 3 children. Even after my marriage broke down I still felt very much part of a community in Preston, I regularly gave guidance to all my friends, was a keen golfer and built up a great reputation as the Quiz Master at my local pub.
My life began to change when my mother sadly passed away. Soon after I found myself in an unhealthy relationship with a woman I was really fond of, my drinking began to become a real problem and when the relationship ended I found myself living under a tram bridge. This was my first experience of sleeping on the streets and I really thought it would be my last; however alcohol had become a release button for me that made things seem easier.
One day I fell asleep on a train from Preston to Stockport and ended up in Euston Station, this is when my life in the South East began. After an initial few nights sleeping in a net hanging from some scaffolding I was taken in by an outreach programme and eventually housed in a really brilliant semi-detached house in Chatham. The place felt like home, my housemates were really friendly and I took up fishing on the Medway. Life had begun to feel more manageable until two of my housemates moved out and were replaced by people with severe drug problems. I found this change in circumstances really hard to cope with and I began to drink more until circumstances got the better of me and I cycled to Brighton to spend the summer on the streets there.
After sustaining a head injury in Brighton that really affected my memory, I decided to move back to London and was lucky enough to find Western Lodge via Camden Outreach centre. I felt so tired and emotionally drained and when Western Lodge took me in it immediately provided a sense of normality that I had been missing. I find the balance of freedom and boundaries a positive thing and the help from my support worker gives me clarity and a sense of progress. I still find life quite hard and I have good days and bad days with alcohol, but because of the support of kind people I find it shameful to fail and I am learning to be more positive about the good days and get through the bad days.
Looking forward I would love to get back to work and find a place of my own. I know Western Lodge will be a great stepping stone that will enable me to achieve this. I have a million and one stories to tell from my experiences of living rough, but I want them to remain stories of the past. I hope I will never go back.