Neil’s story

My drug problem began when I was nine years old, and for 24 years I battled with addiction. During that time I was in and out of prison and homeless. I class myself as lucky because often people in my shoes – homeless with an addiction – have their mental health overlooked.

13 years ago whilst I was in prison, I’d been seeing the medical team to help me with my addictions during which the doctor began to notice my symptoms were more than just the side effect of drugs. I’ve always suffered with my mental health and as a child I was diagnosed with ADHD. After being assessed I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar and was moved to a hospital for the remainder of my sentence.

I continued to struggle with my addiction, mental health, and being homeless until 2016. There was a homelessness shelter in Oxfordshire that I used to visit. One day they referred me to Emmaus Oxford.

I went along to the community but unfortunately there were no spare rooms, but they called me up to tell me that they had a place for me at Emmaus Gloucestershire. I was thrilled. The feeling of waking up in a warm bed to a breakfast and hot shower on the first morning will stay with me for a long time.

As soon as I joined I was surrounded by doctors, counsellors and mental health support workers. Everyone at Emmaus is treated as an equal. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to Emmaus for the support they have provided me with.

With bipolar you are prone to suffering from manic depression. When I was homeless it’d be happening nearly every day which was scary. I wasn’t only a risk to myself, but also to others. Now I’m proud to say that it happens only about once a month.

After eight months at Emmaus Gloucestershire I moved to Emmaus Dover. I love everything here; there are different characters but it’s a really good team spirit. My support worker at Emmaus Dover has been brilliant. If I’m ever having a really bad day I can just give her a call.

My plans for the future are to carry on working at Emmaus. I want to do more solidarity projects and possibly visit Bosnia and Romania to help out at Emmaus communities there. I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of helping others.

It’s great to see things like Mental Health Awareness Week, but more needs to be done. I’m a firm believer that homelessness, mental health problems and addiction are all linked. I just hope that more support can be put in place to help homeless people with their mental health.

Emmaus is my life; it’s that simple. They’ve always been there for me. In my eyes I’ll always be indebted to Emmaus for the support that they’ve provided me. They’ve helped me deal with my bipolar and to thrive in the community.

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