Tyne Stories, Chapter 5: Steven’s Story
“I was born in Newcastle but moved to Peterlee when I was just a baby. My childhood was pretty awful. I have two sisters and one stepbrother, but I always felt like the black sheep of the family. My dad was very abusive towards me which meant I was in and out of care homes most of my childhood. School was hell too, I was bullied by the other kids because of my speech and learning difficulties, so I just tried to not go. I did really like PE though, I was actually the captain of the school football team at one point.
When I was 15 I came back home to stay with my family and found my dad was beating on my mam, I was so angry and hit him. That’s when my mam kicked me out and told me to leave the house and not come back. I moved to Newcastle then, living in supported housing for the first time. It was here when I met my wife for the first time, we got married pretty quickly when I was just 18 and moved in together. I remember this being the first time I felt actually happy, we had a real home together and had a baby on the way.
My baby girl was born, and then things started to go really wrong. When she was just two weeks old she died of cot death. At first I was blamed for her death, and it wasn’t until the postmortem came back that proved otherwise. After a while we tried again and my wife got pregnant with my twin boys, but things were already difficult. I came back from work one day to find her with my best friend. This is when I stopped being able to manage, I felt so hopeless and like there wasn’t any future for me.
My mental health was really bad. I got divorced and was sleeping out on the streets. I turned to drink, and drugs, because it felt like the only way for me to forget. I started out using spice because it was legal and I could buy it in the shops, when that changed I moved on to heroin as it was easier to get. During this time was when I found out that my two twin boys had been killed in a car crash, they were just five months old. This was the lowest point in my life, I remember thinking about suicide often, trying to find a way to get out of the spiral of depression, drink and drugs I felt so stuck in.
I went on like this for ages until I finally decided I had hit rock bottom and needed help. I got involved with Plummer Court and got support for my drug addictions. It was a difficult time and I was on a script eight times in between relapses, but I was determined to pack the heroin in for good. I started to feel happier again and met a new partner, we moved in together really quickly and we had two children together. We weren’t ready though, we were still using some drugs and drinking a lot. Social Services ended up getting involved and my two kids were taken into care. I remember the social worker asking me how I felt about my children being adopted. Although it was the hardest decision I ever made, I knew we couldn’t give them the safe and healthy life they deserved, so it was the right thing to do.
I continued to struggle with my mental health and addictions, at one point I ended up in hospital after a fight which has left me with a long term brain injury. It was after I came out of hospital that I moved into a supported house with Tyne Housing. When I first arrived I was back to using spice a lot and was really underweight. I couldn’t manage basic things like keeping myself and my room clean. It was like I was in a trance, just going through the motions without really knowing what was going on. My support worker kept at me, and that really did make a difference. Over time we built a good relationship and it was the first time I felt really listened to, it helped me to be able to think and focus on the changes I wanted to make.
We started by working on small targets like taking my rubbish out daily and washing my bedding once a week. I also wanted to reduce my drug use, so I could access more mental health support. My support worker helped me to make this manageable, starting out by going from using spice three times a day to two, and then decreasing from there. One thing I think really helped in all of this, is my support worker made me feel like I had a say and a voice in what happened to me. All decisions and referrals were made by us both together. All this work helped to bring back my motivation, and I started to see that I could have a future again.
I managed to pack in the drugs completely and my support worker helped to get me referred to mental health services, where I was offered my own flat with the Richmond Fellowship. I was really nervous about the changes and moving, but excited at the same time. I’ve been in my own flat for six months now, and although I still have struggles with my anxiety I have the right support and all the skills I’ve learned to help me get through it.
I’m proud of myself to have got through what I have and be where I am. I know this is just the start of a new journey, but I feel like I’m in a better position than I ever have been to deal with it all. I might never be able to work because of my health, but one thing that keeps me going is the thought that one day my bairns may come looking for me and I want to be here for that. Healthy, happy and in a good place.”
At Tyne, we believe in putting people first. Our supported housing offer is all about building relationships with those we support. We help people like Steven to identify their strengths and goals for the future and have their voice heard in order to take control and move forward with their lives.
Steven’s story demonstrates how it’s not just about having a roof, but it’s about having the right support in place. Providing a joined-up approach across housing, mental health support, family & relationship support and drug and alcohol services is vital. At Tyne, we’re committed to working closely with specialist partners to ensure these support services are accessible and readily available to those who need it, working together in partnership we can ensure we’re able to help people like Steven earlier on in their journey.
About Tyne Stories
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.
Our Tyne stories initiative has been set up to act as a tool to help us demonstrate the impact of the work we do and advocate for the change we all want to see. Telling a person’s true story in a way that’s authentic to them will help us to engage policymakers and improve opportunities and services that may be otherwise out of our reach.