My Life – Paul

I feel compelled to talk about the invaluable care and support I received from Turning Tides when I needed it most.

I am unable to share much of my experiences of homelessness. I still feel incredibly anxious now recalling that time in my life – particularly my state of mind, the way I was treated and the awful experiences I had living on the street, constantly feeling afraid and alone. However I do feel compelled to talk about the invaluable care and support I received from Turning Tides when I needed it most.

I had been street homeless on and off for around two years, with short stays on a campsite, in hospitals and bed and in breakfast accommodation. But back in the winter of 2016, I became street homeless again. Afraid for my safety in the town where I lived, I was forced to flee to Worthing. Struggling enormously with addiction, homelessness and emotionally, I was in very great distress and I needed help urgently.

During the Christmas period, I visited St Clare’s – Worthing Community Hub, every day for around six weeks. Being homeless feels all the more distressing over Christmas as it should be a time for family. I was given a lot of practical support – hot showers, hot breakfasts and clean clothes – things that kept me going.

What stands out the most for me, is the kind assistance and care I received from a particular member of staff. Although I was profoundly distressed, she took the trouble to sit, look after and talk to me. She was full of understanding of what I was going through – not the ‘understanding’ of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional with their tick-box diagnosis, but a true understanding of what I was actually going through as a human being.

On one occasion, it was nearly time for the Hub to close, but this kind lady insisted on taking me in a taxi to Worthing Hospital, and she made absolutely sure that hospital staff understood the severity of my condition. She waited with me until I was in the hands of a doctor. She was an absolute model of selfless compassion and judicious action. Yet I can’t limit my appreciation to this one lady. I must have outwardly appeared very disturbed, rocking back and forth and muttering to myself.

I also recall the reassurance and understanding offered by other service users who were also suffering in their own ways and had every reason to find my highly audible distress intolerable.

So often feeling despised, avoided or even abused by members of the public, any small act of kindness or human warmth – a kind word or a smile – is perhaps ultimately the most valuable form of sustenance to a suffering person who is homeless.

These memories still move me today at a time when I’m so relived to say, my life is in good shape – I am securely housed and happy. Turning Tides was there for me when it mattered most and helped me turn my life around. Today I am free from illicit drugs and mental health medication. I intend to volunteer with gardening and tree planting, to exercise and to lead a healthy and happy social life.

The value of the services that Turning Tides offers is truly immeasurable. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the staff, volunteers and the community of supporters whose donations enable the charity to do its lifesaving work every day.

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