“you can stay on the sofa”

I was unemployed during lockdown, so I got a couple of agency jobs. I got offered a job in Nottingham and sofa-surfed with a friend. He’s a good lad, but he’s got alcohol problems. I’ve got mild autism, so I’m prone to be very, very impulsive. Staying with my friend didn’t work out so I walked here. It took 10 ½ hours… I beat Google’s estimate! They said 12 hours or something. I did it all the way down – but took a bit of a detour off the A6 as I didn’t fancy that on foot. I got here with massive blisters on my feet, but… I felt good. I’ve lived quite a nomadic lifestyle, so I’ll go wherever the work is. I’ll work 8-9 months, save up some money and take the rest of the year off and enjoy myself. It’s not very sustainable the older you get.

“When you’re sleeping rough, you’re always sleeping with one eye open and I made some poor choices.”

Fortunately for me, I don’t have the depth or complexity of the problems that a lot of the guys have. It would’ve been very easy to go straight to these people, but then you get back into that social circle. So, I made a conscious decision to not mix with anybody the first few weeks that I was here and not doing that, meant sleeping rough.  There’s a couple of key things like food, water, shelter, that when you’re homeless you just don’t have. So the important things are… having something that breaks the wind chill, rain is your number one enemy and certainly for me, hygiene. I made a mistake there by staying under some trees. I woke up with my jacket full of bird poo. That happened about 4 or 5 days in, so I knew I needed to get somewhere regular, somewhere steady. Somewhere that meets that criteria.

“For two months I was getting up at 5.15am just to get out before they come up to site…”

There’s a building site where I squeezed through the metal fencing and that provided a roof over my head. There was no wind chill because they’d put the windows in. For two months I was getting up at 5.15am just to get out before they come up to site and cleaning up just to be respectful. For me, once I’d settled in that place on the building site and for as long as I could get away with it, I’d just keep going there because it was fenced off, so I felt quite secure. There was a game plan there to keep myself relatively safe. But they’d gradually been getting closer to the house I’d been stopping in.

“If you’re hungry your mental health goes rapidly down-hill”

For me, coming to YASC was mostly about sustenance. I look after myself reasonably; exercising and stuff, but the nourishment YASC provide is fantastic. If you’re hungry your mental health goes rapidly down-hill. It’s kind of like a fortitude, it’s let me focus on the important things; getting a roof over my head and engaging with people. I also work with the mental health team here and they’re fantastic. They keep you on a level. I got diagnosed with mild autism in my mid-twenties after having problems in my childhood and I’ve dealt with it so far myself. This is the first time that I’ve reached out. I know now that if I’m starting to have a bit of a wobble, someone upsets me, or if I’m in a crowd, I fall to pieces and I can go there. I can’t praise them enough. They understand what I’m trying to do and they’ll help refocus me and so when I’m back at that positive level, it’s really, really good for me.

“I’ve spent a lot of time doing volunteer work myself”

I knew the supported accommodation I’ve now got, that all came about through the guys at YASC, came at exactly the right time. I’m also looking at work related stuff and I’ve already done a lot of applications and I’m doing things now that I never thought I’d do. I’ve started giving blood. I just feel like I need to give back. When I’ve not been working, I’ve spent a lot of time doing volunteer work myself, so I’ve got a good understanding of the guys who use the services. YASC know what they are doing, right down to the tiniest details. Some people will question why someone’s putting seven sugars in a tea. If they’ve got drug issues, I know why they do that, I know that they’re crashing and the guys at YASC are aware of that and it’s not questioned. The help that I get and I believe from what I see, the help other people get, it’s direct, it’s beneficial. It’s exactly what they need. They know what they’re talking about. Without that, I could be sofa surfing right now, I probably wouldn’t be working out like I am and I’d probably be eating rubbish and partying or reconsidering it.

“I can’t speak any higher of this place.”

If people are willing to engage, and people are willing to be honest about their situation, I’m confident enough to say that it can be looked at and problems can be addressed and that’s fantastic. I can’t speak any higher of this place. I can’t even find one weakness.