Mooch is helping us with our Christmas appeal by sharing his story, so we can help others like him. Our new video shows how, with Step Together’s support, Mooch has turned his life around through community volunteering.
Keith Ashley, better known as Mooch, grew up in Longsight, an inner city area of Manchester, where he was surrounded by violence. He was only 15-years-old when he was first remanded in custody and served a prison sentence when he was just 17.
Trapped in a cycle of offending, Mooch has spent most of his life in and out of the prison system.
After his release in 2014, Mooch lived in supported accommodation. It was here that he first met Karen, Volunteering Project Manager at Step Together.
Karen began supporting Mooch and got him a place on a volunteering programme with a homelessness charity in Manchester.
“When I started at the homelessness charity, I felt a whole load of weight lift off me. I felt relaxed and immediately comfortable around the other volunteers. I was volunteering and enjoying myself. I didn’t think I could turn my life around this quick.”
Mooch went on to volunteer with two charities for over a year. Within this time, he also managed to secure a tenancy for his own home through a housing association.
Today Mooch is employed on a project aimed at reducing homelessness in Manchester. Having never worked before, Mooch takes a lot of pride in his new position and responsibilities. His social network of support is also growing and he has recently reconnected with his sister, Gail, who he hasn’t seen for 14 years.
“Karen has been there through everything. She has taken away my smirk and replaced it with a smile. I had so much aggression in me for 40 years but now I’m happy. I’ve learnt so much through my volunteering; it’s changed my views and my understanding of people.”
Karen said: “Mooch’s volunteer placement hugely boosted his confidence and gave him a greater awareness of the struggles others face. I’ve watched him grow in self-belief. He is determined and vocal about how to improve homelessness in the city and this has led him to now being employed within the sector.”
Almost half, 44%, of offending adults in the UK are reconvicted within one year of release from prison. For those serving sentences of less than one year the reoffending rate is 59.3% (Ministry of Justice, 2017).
Step Together is tackling this issue through intensive one-to-one support and facilitating participation in community volunteering. Volunteering enables individuals to be part of positive and purposeful activities, improving integration into the community, building a sense of belonging and learning new skills to take into the workplace.
To support more people like Mooch, please donate to our Christmas appeal. Every donation will help us provide this crucial support. Thank you.