I’d always been rough sleeping from the age of about 15 until recently, but my firsqt encounter with the Rough Sleeper Team came about two years ago.
I had a fear of the team until I met Natalie (outreach worker). She appeared one day energetic, bubbly and I told her to go and f off basically. She told me she wasn’t going anywhere and made me a cup of coffee.
She said there, asked how I felt, and just asked how I was as a person. She gave me the time of day where most people wouldn’t. That sort of triggered something in my head.
I then started engaging with the team. From that first encounter with Natalie, I started to trust them. Not completely trust straight away, but I had an open mind, and I’ve had excellent service since.
I was treated, by Natalie, as an actual person. Instead of coming over to me and treating me like a rough sleeper, she spoke to me as if I was just somebody else. A normal, everyday, average person.
I wasn’t made to feel intimidated. If I wanted her to go away, she’d quite happily walk away. But the way she approached me just felt comforting. It wasn’t threatening, it wasn’t stern, I didn’t feel like I had to oblige by anything she said.
They got me my first accommodation, which wasn’t suitable for me anyway, which we all knew but we gave it a go. After that, I’m now accommodated with a mental health team.
I’ve had services throughout the country try and help me out. No-one has ever succeeded. But, this time, the Rough Sleeper Team have dug that hard with me and they’ve got me the right accommodation for the first time.
Thanks to them, I’m off the streets, and I’m drug free.
Before I met the team again over the last couple of years, my confidence was so low, that I wouldn’t be able to sit in a car now with you doing this interview. For the team to bring out my confidence again, I can only say thank you to them. I’ve just been in a McDonald’s - which would have been a no last year because of my anxiety.
It’s brought me out to be a human again. I’m able to talk to someone civilised and they’re able to talk to me back. I don’t know how to say thank you to them more.
I’m extremely proud of myself, but it’s been difficult to know how to be proud of myself. Because, it’s been that many years of just dragging myself down looking at the floor, I’ve had no pride in myself. Now, I am quite happy with where I’ve got.
It’s all good having it in front of you but unless you can put your foot in the door, it’ll always just be on the mirror.
The Rough Sleeper Team in Stoke-on-Trent are an outstanding team.
I know my future is bright now, I know it is. I’ve even told the workers I would like to work in the future with rough sleepers. I feel like I’ve got my life back.