Paddy turned his life around, going from homelessness and addiction to working for Shelter. This happened because of Shelter’s peer mentoring programme. Now we need your help to keep a good thing going, by supporting this programme so that more people can help themselves to get off the street.
Paddy was living on the streets of Birmingham for five years and had a serious addiction to heroin and alcohol. Now he works for Shelter helping people with the problems he has overcome.
His first-hand experience means he is uniquely suited to helping others. This remarkable change was only possible because Paddy was helped by Colette through Shelter’s peer mentoring programme. Colette had struggled with addiction herself, so she knew what Paddy was going through.
‘There’s still a chance for me.’
‘I was in a really bad way at that time, I was on crutches, I could hardly walk. Then she came around and saw me and I knew she’d got clean’, Paddy said. ‘I thought, ‘Well, if you’ve got clean and you’re doing what you’re doing, there’s still a chance for me.”
Colette was one of the team that set up our peer mentoring programme at Shelter in Birmingham. She went on to help Paddy so that he can now help other people. Across the country, peer mentors are one way that Shelter assists people who are street homeless. Paddy said that Colette’s story and the help she gave was a major factor in him turning his life around. ‘It really resonated with me, and she just stuck by me.’
Colette was able to get Paddy into rehab, and then helped find him somewhere to live. ‘She never gave up on me, yes, all the time, regular phone contact,’ Paddy said. Colette was able to give Paddy the support he needed to get through treatment and find a home because she had gone through it herself. ‘I was just happy to have a roof over my head and a safe environment,’ Paddy said.
Looking for a purpose
After Paddy was off drugs and off the streets he started volunteering ‘I went to Shelter and I started doing a little bit of voluntary work, you know, and it gave me a little bit of purpose.’ Paddy said. His line manager, Max, suggested that Paddy should put himself forward for a peer mentoring job. ‘It was a bit of a leap of faith because I was still homeless, you know, I was living in and out of supported accommodation.’
Fortunately Shelter saw the potential Paddy had to offer and how his experience of street homelessness meant that he could help other people in a similar position. ‘My life’s, kind of, turned around and now I’m doing what Colette used to do, so I’ve just come from Birmingham Magistrates Court to see someone in the cells, and it’s pretty much the same kind of chaos that I lived in,’ Paddy said.
‘I’ve got a lot of love for Shelter‘
Paddy now has a home, is off drugs, has a job, a partner, and a baby on the way. Just like Colette before him, his story shows people struggling with addiction and homelessness that they can turn their lives around. ‘20% of the guys I get in, I know them or they know me or I’ve either used with them or I’ve been homeless with them. So, I know a good percentage of the clients. So, I don’t know whether that helps, but a lot of them say, ‘I can’t believe you’ve done it, Paddy, I can’t believe it.’ I think they’re the same, they must think, ‘If you can do it,’ they I can do it.’
Paddy was living on the streets, but now he’s working to help the homeless. “Peer support workers, peer mentors … there’s a lot that they can do. They’re definitely called for,’ Paddy said. “I’ve got a lot of love for Shelter, I’ll be honest with you, I really have.”
‘Will you keep a good thing going?‘
Paddy is only able to help people because of the help Colette gave him through Shelter’s peer mentoring program and Colette was only able to help Paddy because peer mentoring had helped her. All of this was only possible because of Shelter, and support from people like you.
Please keep this chain of people helping each other out of homelessness going by giving a gift today.