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Starts at Home Day – Joe

Joe* is a former resident at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Victoria Road, a supported housing service in Hartlepool, which provides accommodation and personalised support for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. As part of Starts at Home Day 2021, he has shared his story.

A young man wearing a hoody sits in a sleeping bag against a brick wall

I haven’t had an easy life, that’s for sure. Things were okay for me when I was really young, because life seemed normal, but as I got older, I realised my parents weren’t like everyone else’s. My dad was away a lot, in and out of prison, but my mam is a good woman and she looked after us as best she could until drugs took over.

My dad and his mates introduced me to cannabis when I was 11 years old, and from there, I started trying other drugs. By 13 years old I was no longer going to school. When I was 16, my mam overdosed and was admitted to hospital. My dad was long gone, so social services wanted me to have a look around Victoria Road.

I felt like I had failed - everything was going wrong, and I had no one at all. I eventually agreed to look around Victoria Road and decided to move in. By this point I trusted nobody and I had never felt so alone in my whole life. I felt like everyone let me down, one way or another.

I eventually started working with the staff at Victoria Road. They were all really nice actually, even though I was probably full of attitude and hard to deal with. I had put up a wall and I wouldn’t let anyone in. Even though I was a nightmare, staff supported me to learn how to wash my own clothes, cook meals for myself and manage my money, and even how to clean my room, which was a first.

I slowly started to get used to the staff and after a while, I didn’t mind living at Victoria Road, and I was glad of the support the team gave me. I started to rely on them, as I knew they were there when I needed them most, and no-one had done that for me before. I knew they genuinely cared for me and supported me.

Staff referred me to HART, and I started working with them to reduce my drug taking, and I also started talking therapy at The Junction for my racing head and intrusive thoughts. They have both helped quite a lot. I did have a dip last year at Christmas time, because I was heartbroken not being with my family. I still hate Christmas and I’m not sure that will ever change, but the team encouraged me to spend time with them, so I didn’t feel so isolated.

I built some good relationships with both staff and other residents at Victoria Road. When I first moved in, I didn’t think I would be there very long, but I ended up staying there two years. I always said that as soon as I had my 18th birthday, I would be straight out of the door into my own flat, but do you know what? When the time came, I was quite scared. I didn’t even ask staff for any support to find a flat, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave.

I felt safe and secure at Victoria Road.

Joe*, former resident

I had become so used to being there and so comfortable with the staff, they became my extended family. I felt safe and secure at Victoria Road and wasn’t sure if I wanted to give this up. I have a great relationship with my keyworker Karen - she’s always had my back and fought my corner if I needed it. I had also been given a support worker from social services called Tina. She is lovely and is always there if I need her. It took quite a while for me to let her in, but she has never let me down and kept coming back every week even though I tried my best to get rid of her!

I eventually asked staff to help me register with the local Council to look at what flats were available. I wanted somewhere quiet and out of the way. They supported me to do this, and I went to view a flat locally in a nice quiet street and accepted it. I was supported to get all my furniture and sort out all my bills and paperwork. Tina took me shopping for all the things I needed, like pots and pans, and Karen helped me with everything else. I even moved out with my rent account in credit!

I’ve since moved into my new flat and I love it. I clean up everyday and even make my bed each morning. I still receive support from Tina and the staff at Victoria Road, and that will continue for as long as I need it. I have even bagged myself a job at a brake pad factory! This is the start of my new life, I no longer feel the way I did two years ago, I no longer feel dragged back by my past, I now look forward to my future.

*Name has been changed

Download a PDF version (148KB) of this story.

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