George came to Booth House in Swindon in 2016 with a serious alcohol addiction brought on by the break-up of his marriage, the loss of his home and the death of his mother.
“I was in other projects but couldn’t get the support I needed so my addiction continued and before I came here, I had two options - the streets or death. I was alone and scared and aware of Booth House but didn’t think that would take someone like me and was surprised that that accepted me."
"In my time here I have been accepted for who I am and encouraged to better myself on a daily basis.I still make mistakes in my daily life and week to week, month to month I’m constantly given guidance towards my future and having a fantastic life. There is so much potential in me and Booth House and the Salvation Army have seen this and are supporting me constantly to unlock that potential and are providing with the stepping stones to my future. Booth House has changed my life and I don’t think I would be alive today if I wasn’t for them.”
An ex-resident of the Lifehouse, Francis, originally from Co. Leitrim in Ireland. Francis has had a recurring battle with alcohol for several decades, he said he began drinking at the age of 26, as a social drinker. However, after two attempts at rehabilitation and drinking strong beer regularly, he was admitted to hospital with chest pains in 2015. The hospital consultant told Francis, “Your main problem is that you are a heavy drinker.” Years of drinking had affected his heart and lungs.
“I started my recovery in Willow House, I don’t drink today and I don’t want to drink tomorrow.”
“I had to get my act together, it was always in my mind to give up drink, I don’t know why I drank. After the experience in hospital, the doctor decided to keep me in for a detox. I decided that I didn’t want to drink again and I have been sober since 28 March 2015.”
After coming back to Willow House Lifehouse from hospital, Francis engaged in the rehabilitation programme called ‘IRIS’ (Integrating Recovery in Services). Francis moved on from the Lifehouse over two years ago and is now happily living in supported housing.
The Salvation Army works to provide a front-line service for people breaking away from the cycle of homelessness. The service in Birmingham enables residents to access primary health services at the centre, access to hair-dressers (collaborating with local vocational training providers), chaplaincy support, drug and alcohol recovery services, arts and social activities to help to build community and belonging, as well as providing support for those seeking to get back into work, through Crisis UK, Employment Plus Local and Business in the Community.
Jim has now found permanent accommodation after experiencing homelessness in January this year. Jim, from Scotland, had problems with a neighbour and became frightened for his life. So, he decided to leave his accommodation near Glasgow.
He came to The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse in Birmingham, where he was assessed and welcomed by staff. Jim was seen by a GP at the Health Xchange (a service based within the Lifehouse and run by the NHS, offering primary care services for people experiencing homelessness) and had his hair cut by students from nearby Halesowen College. The students have been going to the Lifehouse since autumn 2016 to offer free hairdressing to residents at the centre.
Jim said: “Everybody was so helpful and friendly to me. But the main thing I knew, I was safe”. Jim’s experiences with his former neighbour involved aggressive and threatening behaviour, which made him feel very vulnerable. Jim had past links with Coventry, so he left for The Midlands, seeking to make a new life, free from threats. He ended up at the Salvation Army Lifehouse in Birmingham, as his Coventry links were not current enough to receive support there.
Jim’s keyworker at the Birmingham Lifehouse helped him access the benefits he was entitled to and worked to identify a range of other support needs. The centre’s staff then helped Jim to get accommodation to suit his needs.
Jim now lives in the West Midlands in a housing association property for people who are retired. It is run by Anchor Housing. He said: “Living here is blissful, peaceful, everything I could want. It’s the best I’ve felt in decades… I’ve got my own place. I’m just so, so happy, thanks to The Salvation Army!”
Nicholas ended up experiencing homelessness after suffering from depression and anxiety. With the support of the Salvation Army he is now finding his feet again and building up his relationship with his family.
He came to the Salvation Army’s Wallace of Campsie Lifehouse in the spring of 2017. The centre in Glasgow provides emergency homelessness support and accommodation to up to 52 men.
Nicholas says: “The thought of becoming homeless had never crossed my mind before. Like many people, I had a perception of homelessness that was wrong.
“I have my own flat at Wallace, which is a learning curve because I’d never had to do anything remotely domestic. Everything was done for me. Now, with help from my support worker, I’m learning how to live on my own. The centre offers a range of programmes and support for people needing help with things like budgeting, cooking, and health.
“I hadn’t slept properly since 2008 but in the past few weeks I’m starting to get a full night’s sleep, which is amazing. I now have a more positive outlook on life and no longer feel constantly negative.
“My relationship with my family has also improved and I have started speaking to them again. They have commented on the positive changes they have noticed.
“I’d like to go back to college but at the moment I’m just focussed on building myself up.”
Alan lost his job as a lorry driver after being diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011. This also came at the time that he and his wife were divorcing. With nothing to keep him rooted in Leeds, he turned his back on his home town and took a train to Cardiff.
He said: “Obviously I had nowhere to live, but I wasn't bothered about that. At first it was alright, the drink was there for me.”
Through friends who were also rough sleeping he was introduced to The Salvation Army’s bus project in Cardiff, a mobile drop-in centre, which provides food and advice every night to people experiencing homelessness. The bus project helped him find accommodation at The Salvation Army’s residential centre for people who are homeless - Ty Gobaith Lifehouse. There he started the Bridge Programme – a scheme to help people recover from addiction.
Alan said: “It's all about progression and moving on. So you're learning to love yourself, you're coming off the drink in an environment where they're looking after you all the time.”
At first all went well and after completing the programme Alan moved into a flat on his own. But then Alan went back to sleeping rough, until one day a staff member at Ty Gobaith Lifehouse approached him in Cardiff.
“We were walking up the road and I remember [the] staff [member] came running after me that morning and just said ‘come back you're going to be alright’. Ever since that day I've never looked back.
“It was like a second chance which I've never had in life. You cannot put a price on that, to get a second chance like that, to turn your life around - and The Salvation Army were the people that did that for me,” added Alan.