I’m a proud Scouser and adopted Geordie. I was actually born in a Hackney cab on the way to the hospital. My mum always said ‘if you come into the world in a rush you never stop being on the move’. That’s definitely been true for me.
Growing up in Liverpool was good, I lived with my mum and my brother. I wasn’t the most academic kid, but enjoyed art and languages, the rest just never sunk in. I always wanted to get out and work, make my own money and create a life for myself. So I left school early on and got into retail when I was about 16. It was here where I found what I was really good at, working in independent boutiques buying and selling high-end fashion. My dream was to own my own shop and luckily I had a great manager early on in my career who really took me under their wing and I was able to get more involved in the business side of things. I went on to open my first shop in Liverpool which I loved, but after a few years we ended up having to close due to the lack of customer flow in our location. This was a huge blow for me. I needed a change so along with a mate of mine, we packed up and moved to the North East.
Once I was set up in the North East I opened up a new shop selling high-end womenswear and accessories. We had a fantastic team of really lovely people and things were going well until our shop was raided and they took everything we had. This meant I had no choice but to close the business again and I was left with nothing. I gave up on my dream of running my own shop then and just worked in a few different retail jobs to get by. This is when my life really started to go downhill. I ended up being made redundant at the same time as my mum passed away which really affected my mental health. The last straw was when I experienced a very traumatic event in which I gave CPR to a three-year-old who was drowning and saved her life. This on top of everything else led to me having a nervous breakdown. I tried to take my own life.
I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I was at a very low point in my life and feeling extremely vulnerable and lonely. It was here where I met my now ex-wife and we moved in together straight out of the hospital. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the happy ending I thought. From then on is when the abuse started from my wife and her family. I was harassed and abused both physically and mentally every day. Even on my wedding day I was attacked and stood there with three broken ribs. The abuse got worse throughout the years but I felt so embarrassed and ashamed to say anything, especially as a man. It’s not often you hear of it being this way round. It was really when we had my beautiful daughter that I knew things had to change. I did all the caring for her as my wife couldn’t cope, but I was struggling too and my daughter ended up in care.
Without my daughter to look after I managed to escape and got out of the house, living and hiding out on the streets so I couldn’t be found by my wife or her family. Eventually, after being homeless I managed to get set up on a houseboat at a local marina. I enjoyed it there at the start and lived a humble life. I had no TV or anything. I still felt unsafe though, and quite isolated and lonely which really affected my mental health. After a few years of it, I found myself letting bills slide and struggling to cope. Getting on and off the boat was really difficult and the winters especially were getting too hard as I got older. I knew I couldn’t go on like this so I checked myself into a homeless shelter which is how I ended up at Tyne.
Moving into Byker Bridge House was the best thing I did. I was in a right mess when I first arrived and the staff there really looked after me, especially Norma who went out of her way to help me get back on my feet and feel more confident. I’ve since been supported to get my own home, still with Tyne Housing which I’m really glad about because I trust them and they’ve helped me feel safe. I’ll always remember the feeling of first coming into my new flat and sitting on my bed. I just couldn’t believe it was mine. It was the first time in years and years I felt safe and could see a positive future ahead of me. Since moving into my own flat, I’ve got a new support worker from Tyne who keeps in regular contact and has helped me to get sorted with my finances and my physical and mental health. They helped me in setting up doctors appointments with me and encouraging me to go to therapy which I’ve been doing regularly. I also want to mention the concierge team at Tyne Housing who are around through the nights, they have 24/7 CCTV and are always on call which has been a huge help in making me feel safe and being able to settle into living alone again.
More recently I’ve started taking part in art classes and woodwork sessions at the Tyne workshop and studio. It’s just round the corner from my flat and the staff are really friendly. Doing something different and creative has made a real difference. It’s getting me out of the house every day and helping me to switch off, it’s a form of escapism. At the minute I’m working with the carpenter David to carve my own flute. I’m taking my time to get it right, but really enjoying it. Doing these sessions is helping me feel more confident and make friends. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given by Tyne.
Looking to the future I just want to keep at what I’m doing, working on my health and focus on building a good relationship with my daughter. I have good days and bad days but I’m learning to accept my limitations and I don’t feel worthless anymore. I’m not alone, I know I’ve got people around me to call on if I need them and that makes all the difference.
Tyne supports hundreds of people every year, providing access to housing, healthcare, training and more. Many of the people we work with have experienced homelessness and other complex challenges that are often misunderstood.