Former rough sleeper Dean (not his real name) has managed to turn his life around by helping other homeless people across Manchester. Since working as a volunteer for a local homelessness charity, Dean says he’s been given the purpose in life he’s been looking for.
Just two years ago, things were very different. Dean was trapped in a cycle of homelessness, addiction and prison sentences.
After being released from his first stay in prison, Dean had to attend regular probation appointments, which he often missed. This put him in breach of his licence conditions and he’d be sent back to prison for weeks at a time.
Dean had been given support a number of times. Whenever he was placed in temporary accommodation, he was asked to leave because of his drug taking or for not paying his rent.
When he was referred to Greater Manchester Housing First in August 2020, he was once again living in temporary accommodation. This time though, he was determined to put his life back together. He’d already started volunteering for the charity, helping others like him. And this had changed his outlook on life.
His GMHF support worker, Daniel, said: “Dean was ready to make a change when we first met. He’d decided that he didn’t want to go back to prison or live on the streets anymore.
“He had a routine but he needed more stability and that meant getting him a home of his own. A flat came up in an area that suited him so I helped him to apply for it. It was a housing association property and at first they were concerned about Dean’s criminal record. But, by working with his probation officer and a team at the housing association, I helped him to secure the tenancy.”
Dean moved into his new home in October 2020 and has settled in well. As part of his GMHF support package, Dean has access to a personalisation fund which he can use to pay for furniture and other items he might need.
Enthusing about his new home, Dean said: “It’s great to have my own flat and I enjoy keeping it tidy. I didn’t want lots of furniture; I like to keep things simple. I’m managing to pay my bills on time and take responsibility for looking after my home.”
Dean used some of his personalisation fund to buy a bike – which he says has helped to improve his physical and mental health.
“The bike has been a life saver,” says Dean. “Not only is it helping to keep me fit, it saves me money getting to and from work.”
Dean has a history of substance abuse but, with support from Daniel, he’s cut back on his drinking and drug taking.
“I realised that the drink and drugs were the cause of my problems and I’m trying to stay clean. I do relapse sometimes but it doesn’t stop me trying again and I feel positive about the future,” says Dean.
The charity he’s been volunteering for have been so impressed with Dean that they recently offered him a fully-paid job.
“I’m so happy to be working again," he added. "I feel like I’m part of an inspiring community and a valuable member of the team. The job helped me get through last Christmas when I couldn’t see my family because of the pandemic. I was still able to work and give support to homeless people at a time when they needed it the most.
“The job has changed my life. I get satisfaction out of helping others and this has had a positive impact my relationship with my family. I used to feel like I’d let them down, especially my mum. But now I’m doing something worthwhile, I can hold my head a bit higher – and that’s such a good feeling!”