Stephen was born in South London. He left school at 15 years old and hopped from job to job. Stephen met his wife when he was roughly 19 years old and ended up getting married in 1979, becoming a father to her five boys.
Stephen was very happily married, but unfortunately his wife was very ill for most of it and he was her carer. In 2001 he lost his mother and 11 months later sadly his wife passed away. Following these two major bereavements Stephen was unable to cope and day to day living became a challenge.
“Having looked after someone so intensely for such a long part of my life, all of a sudden the day my wife died I did not know what to do with myself. I became very depressed – that’s what it does to you. All I could do was to take it one day at a time and try and figure out what I needed to do.”
As a consequence of her death he had to relocate to a smaller council property where a young member of the family moved in with him. Due to two major bereavements Stephen was unable to see what was going on around him. The family member took advantage of Stephen’s trust and began to use the accommodation for drugs related activities. At the age of 56 and having never been in trouble before, this resulted in Stephen being found guilty as an accessory to drugs related offences and receiving a sentence of 14 years in prison.
“For someone that’s never been in trouble before, it was a culture shock. I had no-one to identify with as I was much older than most of the people there.”
Stephen served six years and is now out on license for the remainder of his sentence.
“Once I was released, it was incredibly overwhelming. Although I’d had a few home visits, I felt it was very hard to cope because the world had moved on outside. Modern society seemed to be lacking in courtesy and manners – nobody seemed to care. I felt I had become institutionalised. I found that when I came out of prison there was no support, no help whatsoever. I can understand why a lot of guys would want to go back in. I broke down completely when I came out.”
At the age of 62 Stephen found himself sofa surfing at friends’ homes – where ever he could get his head down. He was feeling desolate and very lonely and put on a brave face in front of his family.
Western Lodge has given him an opportunity to adjust to life outside of prison. He has been able to work on his bereavement issues and come to terms with what led him into prison in the first place. He has built a good network of friends and now feels he has settled down and is more at ease with himself – “having peace of mind”.
Whenever he is feeling low Stephen feels that staff are able to provide a different perspective on life, which lifts his mood. Steven now sees the light at the end of the tunnel and chooses to take one day at a time but he does believe that in the near future he could be re-housed in sheltered accommodation.