22/01/14 Pay it Forward

Janice arranged for me to meet a young guy, in his 20’s. Let’s call him Peter.

At first glance he’s tall, quiet and unassuming….after several glances he’s tall, quiet….

As we sat with our cups of tea, his story slowly unfolded.

Peter told me he was currently doing an access course at his local college – he had toyed with the idea of becoming a social worker but he feels his skills lie more in a developmental direction. He wants to develop services, preferably in mental health, once he’s graduated.

He had experienced a challenging childhood – I don’t want to go into too many details here – but because of a combination of undiagnosed Aspergers and ADHD and a chaotic family life, Peter’s relationship with school was a little unpredictable.

Things deteriorated. He had to leave home. Statutory services couldn’t or wouldn’t work with him because he was deemed to be too high a risk.

He received his diagnoses after he left school, leaving him to feel angry, frustrated and let down.

He was homeless when the local police got in touch with Janice at the Safe Haven. The officer who spoke to her was quite clear – Peter had run out of alternatives and was about to plunge into the criminal justice system.

Peter gave me an ironic smile when he considered what might have happened to someone with his conditions should he end up in prison.

Safe Haven have an emergency flat for which they occasionally receive funding – Janice opened this up to him, to give him some kind of chance.

Peter began to grow – services began to engage with him – he was given a placement in accommodation that specialises in working with people with Aspergers. They gave him structure. They supported him to go through a fitness training course. He grew some more.

Peter had a problem with alcohol. This was a problem they were ultimately unable to meet at this particular placement and so, with great reluctance on both sides, Peter moved on.

He got himself on the 12 step programme with Alcoholics Anonymous and, with the help of his sponsor, Peter faced up to many of his demons.

He’s dry to this day.

Peter has a flat with an outside shed. One day he fell heir to a sofa that, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get into his house.

It fitted his shed though.

He was aware of a local homeless man who had intermittent problems with alcohol and a regular problem of getting beaten up.

Peter moved this man into his shed and supported him as well as he could.

I asked Peter what motivated him to help – he said something along the lines of, ‘This man was homeless – with a drink problem – getting beaten up all the time, why wouldn’t you?’

From Peter’s, this man has moved on. He now works as a live in carer for an older lady, ensuring she is looked after and supported.

Paying it forward.

Peter joined a local church. Being aware of the growing homelessness problem in his town, he decided to do something about it. He arranged for the church hall to be opened at night over the winter months, providing beds and bedding and somewhere warm for these homeless folk to sleep, oh, and something to eat. He’s looking to develop a soup kitchen as well.

Peter’s turnaround wasn’t sudden. In all it took him about 6 years to turn his life around – he knows he still faces challenges – but he’s clear as to what direction he’s pointed in.

The other thing he’s clear about is that he has no idea where he would have ended up had it not been for that lifeline, that first stepping stone, that Janice at Safe Haven gave him.

He’s my hero.

Walk a Mile


This entry was posted in economy, government, hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, social work, walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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