Geoff’s story: “I’ve been on the streets on and off since I was 15 and I’m 49 now. And hopefully it’s stopped.”

Listen to Geoff’s story:

Geoff arrived at the shelter, which was operating at a local hotel, in August 2020 after a referral from the Street Outreach Team. It was here that he first met a member of our Wellbeing Support Team. He has been on and off the streets since the age of 15. He’s now 49.  

Geoff arrived in Nottingham with his parents when he was seven years old and was put into care shortly afterwards. He moved from one foster family to another and at 15 was out on the street. He moved around the country working on fruit farms and fairgrounds. Geoff has stayed in various hostels in Nottingham, the YMCA and had his own tenancy but found he was unable to cope with independent living.

“I didn’t have a good education. Growing up around family wasn’t very nice and I think that really got to me because I wasn’t accepted. I got pushed out and that really hurt and everything just went downhill from there. The more I try not to think about it the more it gets to you. I could have been a totally different person, if everything went okay, but unfortunately it didn’t.”

Geoff had been staying at the shelter for a week when Housing Aid moved him to a local hostel. After 6 weeks, his support worker could see a decline in his mental health. Geoff found the chaos, violence and constant noise frightening, so he left his bed there and went back to living on the streets. He said this was preferable to staying at the hostel.

His support worker saw him every day he was on the streets and made sure he had food, warm clothes and sleeping bags from Emmanuel House. Geoff came to Emmanuel House every day for a shower, staff gave him a hot drink and made sure he had sandwiches and crisps to take with him. After making another referral to Housing Aid, Geoff went back into the shelter in November after a further 6 weeks of rough sleeping.

We spoke to Geoff about his experience of rough sleeping:

“It’s not very nice. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Especially through the winter parts. And you’ve got to figure out where’s your next meal coming from, how can I get clothing and stuff like that to keep you warm. It really does affect your mental health. You just change into a different person, it changes you and it’s not very nice.”

 “It was frightening, scary, because I didn’t know anybody and the people I wanted to be around just didn’t want me to be around them, meaning my family and I felt scared. I didn’t know what to do at that age.”

“I’d just find a nice safe area to not get threatened or anything horrible happen to me. I just hid myself away. I slept beside the river, the canals, mainly graveyards, believe it or not because I thought it was the safest place with less people. It did feel uncomfortable but it felt alright.”

“You’re trapped on the streets because that’s your life and you’re used to that but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Especially the young ones. They wouldn’t survive.”

“Staying warm was hard, I didn’t have much sleep, a couple of hours here and there and you felt tired through the day, confused, didn’t know what do next.”

“I had people coming and urinating next to me, chucking water and beer. I’ve had all that like, but I’ve had no violence, believe it or not, because I stay away from all that. It’s not my scene. Even though I’m on the streets, I’ve just kept myself to myself.”

At Emmanuel House Support Centre, our benefits specialist Kevin was able to support Geoff with an application for Personal Independent Payments (PIP).

At this time Geoff was experiencing severe back pain and losing weight, which he put down to the cold and sleeping in the doorway of a closed pizza restaurant in town (his usual spot), so with support from Karen he was able to make and attend GP appointments.

Geoff was offered a place in other local hostels, but they weren’t appropriate because of the detrimental effect on his mental health. Eventually he had a viewing at an old converted property, but it was very shabby, too expensive and the area posed a risk due to old contacts. Unfortunately because he declined the property, he was not able to access any other options. Eventually his support worker was able to find a place at a more suitable hostel and just after Christmas, Geoff moved in.

Geoff has settled in well. He has been ill with long term health issues and is in a lot of pain. His support worker is supporting Geoff to access the critical medical care that he needs.

His support worker said: “Geoff’s anxiety means that he can only cope with one thing at a time, so we are taking things slowly. It is important that Geoff feels in control of the decisions affecting him so that wherever he lives he feels supported and able to manage his tenancy and his life.”

Whilst Geoff was staying at the hotel, we discovered his love of fishing and its positive impact on his mental health. Sadly he had lost all of his equipment, so we asked our supporters if they had anything to donate. Two wonderful volunteers provided him with fishing rods and fishing tackle. Now he is able to continue with an activity that he loves, which helps him to manage his anxiety and depression.

“I’ve been on the streets on and off since I was 15 and I’m 49 now. And hopefully it’s stopped.

 “Emmanuel House started the ball rolling. They put me in another place. I’m off the street now. Let’s hope it picks up from here.”

“You just go into the building and have a chat with the staff. Get a key worker and bond with them. Then you tell them about what you’ve been through and what you’d like to change. And you just take it from there. And it’s going okay.”

He told us about his support worker: “She listens, that’s the main thing … Not many people do listen when you’re on the street. They sort of judge you. And they look at you like you’re something else, which is wrong really. Even just talking to somebody, it just clears your head and takes you out that norm.”

What would you say to people that want to help?

“Just go for it and try and help others. There are some people out there who really need it and it will come in very handy.”

With no statutory funding for our core services, we rely on donations.