Thirty-nine-year-old Sam had been homeless for much of his adult life. A troubled upbringing led to mental health problems and an eventual drug problem.
Living on the streets of Manchester, Sam sought refuge with others like him. His chaotic lifestyle and drug habit got him into trouble, and he served time in prison for a number of minor offences.
After years of rough sleeping, Sam had got to know the city centre very well. He knew the best places to beg and would often wait outside concert halls and theatres.
When the Manchester Arena bombing happened in 2017, Sam was in his usual spot outside one of the exits. When tragedy struck, he was one of a number of homeless people who rushed to help the victims.
Sam was hailed as a hero, and local people raised money to help him get a place of his own. Overwhelmed by the attention, Sam struggled to accept the money and, instead, funds went to a homeless charity in Manchester.
Greater Manchester Housing First support worker, Glyn Walsh, began working with Sam in February 2020.
Glyn says: “I took things slowly with Sam. He didn’t trust strangers so it was important to build a rapport with him first.
“I quickly learned that Sam reacted well to an honest, open approach. He often said: ‘stick with me’ and ‘talk straight to me’. Sam’s trusted CGL (Change Grow Live) support worker, who’s helped him for the last 10 years, also attended our meetings. This helped to keep Sam calm when we tackled difficult subjects.”
Since that first meeting, Glyn has helped Sam find a flat, access benefits, register with a GP, find a pharmacy and get additional support for his addiction. Glyn has also given Sam motivational support and signposted him to other agencies that can help him with his mental health.
Glyn says: “Sam has enjoyed furnishing and decorating his home. Through his own Personalisation Fund, he’s bought new carpets, a TV and other furniture. He’s put his own individual style into his home and that’s been a real boost to his mental wellbeing. Through video call, he proudly gave me a virtual tour of his newly-decorated home.”
Although Sam’s behaviour can be challenging at times, Glyn says that he’s taking more responsibility for his actions. “Throughout the pandemic, Sam has followed the rules around social distancing and has kept away from his street buddies. He’s also managing his household bills, cooking for himself, looking after his new dog and keeping his probation appointments.
“Just recently, for the first time since I’ve known him, he said he wants to be free of drugs. That’s a big step forward for him. He’s also more aware of his mental health issue and is open to having conversations about it.”
For now, Sam says he wants to focus on keeping his tenancy, staying out of trouble and re-building relationships with his family. He recently got in touch with his mum through social media after losing contact with her 14 years ago.
He said: “I’ve come a long way since engaging with Housing First. Glyn has helped me so much. He talks my language and I’ll need his support for a while yet. Looking ahead, I really want to get off methadone. I’m at stage where my drug use is under control rather than being out of hand.”
Talking about having a flat, Sam added: “I couldn’t believe how quickly it happened. Within weeks of meeting Glyn, I moved into my own place. It was just before Christmas so I bought my first Christmas tree in years. It was a brilliant feeling!”