For over 30 years Garry has been in and out of prison with drugs playing a major role in this. Striving to get free from drugs while in prison but then relapsing after his release was an all too familiar pattern for Garry that led to feelings of hopelessness and despair. However, his final release from prison in 2018 would see things take a drastic turn; this time round there was no accommodation waiting for him. His previous accommodation was no longer available and probation could not put him in a hostel. “It’s not like that,” he said. “They give you a number and they say ‛do it yourself.’”
While Garry did find somewhere to stay for a few nights he soon realised that to access certain homeless support services, you literally have to be sleeping on the streets. “I thought I could stay somewhere and they could just get me but it doesn’t work like that,” Garry told us. “They [the street outreach team] have to come and get me off the street.”
Garry had no choice but to find somewhere outside to stay and wait for the outreach team to pick him up. With thick snow covering the country, Garry managed to stay in the stairwell of a tower block. “It was a bad experience,” he said. “That is when it hit me about homelessness.” Garry stayed in that tower block for two nights before he was picked up. “It nearly broke me!”
After the outreach team had collected Garry, Providence Row then referred him to GrowTH. Reflecting on his first time at the shelter he said, “It was amazing … it was like a godsend.” Speaking of the volunteers he said, “I thought, wow, all these nice people around … there are people out there who want to help … they opened their arms to every single one of us.” Of the support he received while at GrowTH Garry said, “GrowTH had a domino effect … if you knew you couldn’t do something, you put me onto someone else and that worked out great for me … you don’t just leave us there.”
It was only at the very end of Garry’s 28 nights in the shelter that he got an appointment with the council who very quickly moved him into a temporary B&B.
It doesn’t end there though…
After Garry moved into the B&B he was intent on changing his lifestyle. While this had usually been short-lived, for Garry, this time was different. Thanks to the various drug support services he is engaging with, Garry can say, “I haven’t been like this since 1993 … I’ve been clean 3 months.”
This, for Garry, is a huge achievement as it is the longest time he has remained clean outside of prison. Garry has also been engaging consistently with the Christian faith and has loved attending East End Church, the Alpha course, and spending time with the community who have lovingly welcomed him. “I thoroughly enjoy going. Naomi has been an angel and is always there for me.”
To top off everything, Garry has most recently moved into a studio flat through the help of Crisis Skylight which he is delighted with!