Homelessness – *Wesley's story

“Just Ask for Help!” That is the message Wesley wants to send to anyone who finds themselves in similar circumstances to those he found himself in last year. He was homeless. He had hit rock bottom!

Wesley considers his childhood an excellent one. He grew up in the 90s in a large extended family in Kent. He played outdoors year-round, had enough to eat, and had great friends to run around with. Those were the days when children could be left on their own to play in the park and get themselves home. His parents separated when he was 14, and he lived with his mother with no problems.

He first became homeless early in 2022 but was not street homeless for very long. But thinks that any time you have to spend homeless is enough.

Alcohol led Wesley to homelessness. Regardless of all of the options he was given by family and friends, he chose alcohol over all of them.

Wesley lived with his mum and then his dad after he was asked to leave the family home last year. He had a family and mortgage, a partner, and children but lost it all. He lost his home and children after being arrested in October 2021 and spent a night in the cells, charged with bodily harm and criminal damage (on his own property). The assault charges were later dropped.

In 2007, Wesley suffered a significant head injury, and his progress and recovery was slow with the help of neurologists. He achieved academically and had a job and was doing well. Then in 2017, he started to drink. He was living with his terminally ill grandmother as her Carer, and when she passed away, dealing with calling for the ambulance and everything surrounding this led to things snowballing out of control. He was working flat out after that. He did not drink during working hours, but after work, he would hit the bottle. He was a functioning alcoholic at that point. This led to him losing his job as he became unreliable. He was then in and out of work for some time.

In October 2021, Wesley lost total control of his drinking, and his family did not want to help anymore as he had pushed them too far. “Alcohol’s sole intention is to isolate you from everyone so it can control you.” He said. Before then, he thought he had it all. Alcohol seemed to be just the way to function. He couldn’t deal with ‘life’ unless he was drinking.  This was his normal, so if he wasn’t drinking, he did not feel like he could function.

Getting arrested was a wake-up call. The next day, his mother picked him up from the police station, which was very uncomfortable. After many heated arguments with her and her partner, he left to stay with his father. He was drinking secretly, disguising alcohol in other drinks.

Wesley had been kicked out by his partner, his mother, then his father. The family tried to help but lost patience and refused to help anymore.

Once he hit rock bottom, Wesley knew he could no longer cope. So, he went into the Medway council offices and told them that he really needed help. He was referred to Medway Rough Sleepers, who referred him to SIG Pathways to Independence.

When he first started to attend Pathways, their intention was to try to get him settled. He first lived in one of their group homes, Hammond House, where there were people who went out to drink and ‘do other things,’ and there was no sense that they were trying to change. Even though there is a lot of security, the residents go out on the street and do what they need to. He was glad he didn’t have to stay there long because he didn’t want to become a part of that world. In order to move from the house, he had to meet certain criteria such as attending house meetings on time, take part in activities, keep his room tidy, volunteer etc. to prove he was ready for the next step.

Wesley now lives in a shared house with the intention for him to be permanently housed. He volunteers and is in touch with Turning Point and Open Road and has started adult education classes. He has much better contact with his children and extended family, who now understand his alcoholism is a disease.

Wesley’s case workers from Pathways, Sasha and Sam, and everyone he’s worked with at Pathways, have been extremely helpful.  He is able to contact them anytime for help, and this access to support is reassuring even though he has not had a crisis for some time.

Wesley said: “When you find yourself alone even though there are others around you, with nowhere to go, that’s what rock bottom means to me. I am grateful that I am in contact with my family again. Which took a lot of hard work to build trust again. It’s the fear factor of knowing that I have a lot to lose that keeps me going.

I’ve never been able to get along with the AA 12 step, so I am succeeding, knowing I am getting stronger being around my family. I found it easy to get help because I am stubborn and physically took myself to the council to ask for help. They then referred me on. I think that I am lucky to have the mindset that I do and was able to ask for help. I am tremendously grateful to Pathways.

I am living just for today. I have to make the right choice. Save up and show commitment.

My message to anyone who found themselves in similar circumstances is to ask for help. Whether it’s a policeman on the street or people like Medway Rough Sleepers, who walk up and down the high street and know all the hot spots where people are sleeping.

Pathways are always looking for rough sleepers as well and pointing them in the right direction.

I would be in a hell of a lot worse situation if it wasn’t for Pathways.” Wesley

*Wesley’s name has been changed to protect his identity