Tyne Stories, Chapter 1: Paddy’s Story
Our first Tyne story is one of 60-year-old Paddy, who recently moved into a Tyne property after being homeless on and off for over fifty years.
“I was born in Scotswood and was one of six kids. My stepdad sold fruit and veg and he’d make us all work for him when we were just little, knocking on the neighbours’ doors. I’d sell loads because I was only about five or something, so they’d buy it because they felt sorry for me. I hated that, knowing people didn’t even want it but just felt bad for me.
I started sleeping out on the streets from when I was six because of troubles at home. I didn’t get on with my stepdad and hated going to school so I just didn’t go. Nobody did nothing about it really, it was different back then.
I’m 60 now and getting older so I had to think about changes. I’ve been sleeping in a tent by the Central Motorway in the town for the past seven years and was happy being under the radar. I had to get a proper home because people kept knicking my stuff and I’d been in the hospital for an operation. It’s been different moving in here, I can’t really get used to it yet. Sometimes I wake up in the night sobbing because of all the change.
Being on the streets you learn to look after yourself, but you also get help from people. That’s why Newcastle is so good, people are always wanting to help. I’ve been going to the Joseph Cowen [Centre] for 20/30 years, it’s class, they give you a cuppa and somewhere to have a bath and get clean. They also had a doctor there I could see and I get my post delivered because I didn’t have an address. Jenny who worked there used to always try and get me help to get somewhere to live, but I said ‘nah’ I don’t want it. I know being here now is a good thing, but it’s hard getting used to it. I’ve had loads of forms and letters being sent to me which I don’t understand because I can’t read, that’s why it’s good being in this type of place [Supported Accomodation] because people will help me get sorted and tell me what’s what.
I’ve still got stuff to do in the flat to get it nice. The sofas and that came from the other people that live in here [the block of flats], they’ve been really good helping with getting me set up. I got this big TV from them as well, but I don’t watch it that much, I’ve never been used to watching telly. When I was on the streets I got this radio from Joseph Cowen and I’ve had it for years, every night I’d listen to Smooth on it and it helped me get to sleep, I still do it now I’m in here and it helps me feel safe.”
We’re incredibly grateful that Paddy felt able to share his story with us, and we’re so pleased that he’s working alongside his Tyne support team to transition into this next stage of his life. Paddy’s story demonstrates the complexities that come with being homeless for so long and highlights how important early intervention can be to break the cycle of homelessness. It’s not as simple as providing a house, it’s about putting the support in place to create a home.
In 2018 the Office For National Statistics published findings showing that deaths of people who were homeless had seen the highest year-to-year increase since records began in 2013. Men aged 45+ were identified as most at risk, and the number of drug-related deaths of people categorised as ‘homeless’ has increased by 55% since 2017. We want to see an end to all preventable deaths for those who are homeless, and like Paddy, we want to provide the opportunity for people to find support, safety and security in a way that’s right for them.*