After years of uncertainty and little hope for change, Dylan has decided to go back into higher education this year and has reflected on how, with Step Together’s support, he has been able to take positive steps towards a better future. This is his story:
I was sat in a cold, damp, smelly doorway just off Deansgate in Manchester one January morning contemplating life. Alcohol and substance misuse was all I had at the time. That and a concrete mattress.
I was a frequent visitor to A&E and was tagged as a person with ‘multiple complex needs’; mental health issues, substance misuse, offending behaviour and homelessness had all contributed to the situation I was in.
I met Karen from Step Together at the residential rehabilitation facility I moved to. I had seen flyers on the wall and liked what I heard from staff and other residents she had supported. To be honest I was and still am sceptical when meeting new people, always questioning if they have a hidden agenda. But all these paranoid fears were blown out of the water when I met Karen. She was genuine, honest, open and not condescending.
Within a year I had passed my Health and Social Care level 1 and 2 but still felt I didn’t have enough confidence to put into practice what I had learnt. With Karen’s support, I was offered a place on Bridging the Gap, a pre-employment course.
During this time I finally cleared my housing arrears and moved out of the rehabilitation facility and into my own rented house. This was the first stable roof over my head in ten years. I felt I was starting to get my life back.
After graduating from Bridging the Gap, Karen gave me advice on interviews and helped me prepare. I started volunteering as a Mentor at a different rehabilitation facility and absolutely loved it! Who would have thought I would be running around administering tests, taking residents to appointments and helping to organise activities and day trips.
As well as this, I also volunteered with The Core Group at Inspiring Change Manchester, a group of people with lived experience of complex needs, who advocate for change within services. Through this I have told my story at conferences, provided input to training packages and participated in workshops at universities. My confidence has grown in leaps and bounds.
In the last five years, my life has completely changed. I’ve got myself on a more stable footing financially and maintained secure accommodation. I take pride in paying my bills and I’m even ahead with my council tax! I’ve also recently been in touch with my parents, after 10 years of no contact.
Karen has been there through thick and thin, always having faith in me even when I have lost faith in myself. Her support and guidance have been constant throughout this journey. With Step Together’s help, I can now look forward to moving on positively. In February 2017, I will be starting my Social Sciences degree with Open University.
'Concrete Mattress' - artwork created by Dylan during his recovery.