Chris' story - #StoriesFromTheStreet - 09/05/2019
Meet Chris – Sheffield born and bred. Working long hours as a security guard whilst the World Snooker Championships are on in the city centre and looking forward to a well-earned week off coming up. Lovely bloke, always willing to stop and chat and share a laugh with passers-by.
Just a few years ago he was homeless and sleeping rough on the city streets and life was pretty desperate, as Chris explains:
“Seriously, if you could have seen me 5 years ago, you wouldn’t have recognised me. I was at my lowest then. Had a real problem with drink. I was rock bottom. My relationship had broken down and I’d found myself with nowhere to live, so ended up at the Salvation Army hostel in town.
It was OK there, I got on well with everyone, but then I paid my rent late and was kicked out, so I was sleeping rough then. For about 6 months, from April till October. The snooker was on you see, that’s how I remember. I mainly slept in the doorway to Montgomery Hall but you can’t sleep there no more.
I lost 5 stone when I was sleeping rough, I wasted away. I always kept myself clean though, went to the Archer Project, showered, washed my clothes and everything. I remember a policeman woke me early one morning as he thought I wasn’t a rough sleeper because I was dressed too smartly. I used to carry my stuff in a rucksack, but because I looked normal, I managed to spend most of my days keeping warm, just sat in one of the pubs sipping water and watching the TV. I did the same in the evenings, so I wasn’t on the streets that’s much.
I never begged, not even once. I had my benefits you see, from using the Archer Project as my care of address, and I didn’t just spend it all as soon as I got it, I made it last. Always got my free breakfast there. They were great, the staff were brilliant.
It was Shelter who sorted me out with some accommodation up in Woodhouse at St Anne’s. Let me tell you, the staff there are amazing. Anna, the mental health worker and Amanda the substance misuse worker. Those 2, they sorted me right out. I was drinking about 170 units of alcohol a week at this point. They helped me get down to 14 units, and I’m so thankful for that.
About a year ago now I moved into my own flat. It was all going fine, but then I started drinking again and could feel things going backwards. I spoke to my worker and she helped me get back on track, and since that first wobble things have been fine, More than fine, my life has completely changed, and I love it!
I’m working now as a security guard, I’ve worked the past 22 days straight doing 13 hour days, so I’m tired. But it’s tired from a hard day’s work, not tired from sleeping rough. I’m proof that if you want it enough, if you set your mind to it, then anything’s possible. The help is there in the city, there’s so much help and support there, but you’ve got to want it. You’ve got to be ready to accept the help and leave the old stuff behind, whether its drugs or alcohol. I’ll chat to rough sleepers now and tell them my story. I’m not ashamed, it’s a positive story, and if I can help them see there’s a way out, then even better.
I volunteer now with Shelter to say thank you for the support they gave me when I was rock bottom. Without them, I just don’t know where I’d be. If I can help one person turn their life around, or help them out in any way, then it’s all been worthwhile.”
You can read more about Shelter’s work in Sheffield here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help/local_services/sheffield
Or donate to support the Archer Project here: https://www.archerproject.org.uk/
Alison Riggott, May 2019