Sam’s Story

Turning Tides provided a platform for me to succeed. Without them, I don’t think I would be here. I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today.


I was around ten years old when my mum’s mental health began to impact our family life. As the oldest of four I took on the caregiver role as her health deteriorated; she began self-harming and her reliance on alcohol heightened. Along with my sister, it became day to day life for us to provide first aid or call an ambulance, but we would always try to shield our younger siblings from what was going on.

When I was 16, we went into foster care. Unfortunately, the timing of this really affected my final school years. I made an effort to hide what was happening from my peers, but what I didn’t realise was how my own mental health was beginning to suffer.

After finishing school, I began working in retail. Through my foster care organisation, around this time I was also given the opportunity to visit India and support children in foster care in that part of the world – an experience that really stuck with me and made me realise how important giving back is to me.

I continued to work in retail throughout my twenties. I was independent – I rented a flat and lived alone. However, although I tried to hide it from those around me, I was struggling with my mental health. I had depression and, similar to my mother, I was relying on alcohol to cope.

I began to isolate myself from everyone. Even when my friends, family and work tried to contact me, I didn’t respond. Over time, I found it harder and harder to pay my rent. I had hit rock bottom; I was sectioned and admitted to a mental health care centre. This was a long and difficult period of my life, and on discharge I had no home to go to – I was terrified. It was then that a social worker from the centre put me in touch with Turning Tides.

After an assessment, I moved into one of Turning Tides’ supported living services. I had no possessions, no confidence and I was scared about the future. It was a relief to be immediately assigned my keyworker, Alistair, who put me at ease. I was also introduced to Alex, a fellow resident, further along in his journey, which helped me feel welcome and not alone.

Alistair connected me to the charity’s mental health team to ensure I had the right support around me as I began my journey with Turning Tides. We worked together on managing my anxiety – firstly building my confidence to go out in the community as, although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, this simple task had become something that made me very anxious. We developed a daily routine for me to maintain; having this structure reduced my anxiety and depression. Alistair ensured this involved a variety of helpful activities such as keeping fit, cooking meals for the house and keeping my room clean.

There was a real sense of comradery; it wasn’t just the staff that wanted to see you succeed, but the other clients too.

And I enjoyed supporting my peers on their journeys as well. I was also lucky that my family – both biological and foster – were so supportive of my recovery.

After moving into a one of the studio flats in the supported living accommodation, which was the next step on my pathway to independent living, I continued to work with a keyworker, Charlotte. We had sessions in cognitive behavioural therapy – enabling me to recognise my triggers, improve my confidence and, vitally, help me with acceptance of who I am and what I had been through.

It doesn’t matter what your background is or who you are, finding yourself homeless can happen to anyone. Understanding that really helped me with my recovery.

From my own experiences, as well as the wonderful experience I had had volunteering as a teenager, I was keen to give back, so at this point I started volunteering at a local charity, picking up and delivering products for their charity shops. This led to me securing a Relief Manager position with them, providing cover at stores a few days a week. It felt great to be earning my own money again, and I was also happy to be working for a charity; giving back to the community was important to me.

Around this time, I moved into one of Turning Tides’ Move On properties. This type of accommodation is lower support – a final step for people before living completely independently. Here, I would see my keyworker around once a week rather than them being on site, although they were still always contactable.

I now felt ready to go back to work full-time and I was offered a position as a Store Manager at the charity I’d been working for a few days a week. Simultaneously, Turning Tides had spoken to the council and found me a property I could move into – and this was the perfect time for me to move into my own place – I was ready!

My keyworker was fantastic in supporting me with this transition, such as aiding me with my council tax and finding a grant for purchasing the appliances I needed. Even now, I can reach out to my keyworker if I ever need support or to chat.

The house needed work done but I was up for the challenge. I enjoy DIY and knew this would be a good project to keep me busy. I am still close to my family, so first up was the second bedroom. My sister and her partner have just had their first baby so I wanted the room ready so they can come and visit whenever they wish.

I’m proud of where I am now. I have the tools to manage my mental health and I’ve been sober two years. I love my job, I love being busy, and I love working for a charity.

Turning Tides provided a platform for me to succeed. Without them, I don’t think I would be here. I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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