EXCLUSIVE: Spitalfields Crypt Trust’s Ex-Homeless Resident and Substance Abuse Survivor

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Meet Rob, an ex-resident of Spitalfields Crypt Trust’s Acorn House, now a New Hanbury student living in Stratford. He has also worked for social enterprise business YourTime as a Councillor. Here I got the opportunity to speak with him and hear his unique story – the first in a series of lives the charity has touched. This is to celebrate SCT’s 50 years anniversary of helping the homeless suffering battles with addiction and substance abuse, to get the help they deserve as well as providing them with the practical skills they have missed out on, to get back the lives they once knew.

T&F: Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you first ended up on the streets?

R: Yeah, yeah, sure…I’m from Southend, my mum she passed away getting on for 20 years ago this year, no actually make that 18 years ago (she died of sclerosis of the liver), and after that I went off on a mad binge drink, and was caught up in a vicious cycle on the streets for…well 10 years after that.

T&F: And how did you end up in London?

R: I had family in London and people I knew of so I just ended up floating here and there to be honest – but there was nothing for me in Southend – no help, there was nothing at all…but to tell you the truth I don’t really remember much of that time, as I took a whole cocktail of substances (let’s say!). My family did try to help me, but at a distance…they knew about my problems, but instead of letting me stay with them, they’d throw money at me…which just made the situation even worse really.

T&F: So how did you manage to get off the streets?

R: A founder from a hostel literally just came to me, then picked me up and dropped me off at a hostel…it was very overcrowded in all the 8 hostels I stayed at. I was in and out of them, until one of the day centres offered me a place in Acorn House. They introduced to Brent from SCT, who’s a lovely guy and offered me some volunteer work doing maintenance on the church grounds then after a year I was put on the payroll on a weekly basis. That was when I got my NVQ, on Horticulture Gardening. I also did some counselling for other residents with addictions.

T&F: How did you find out about SCT, and how did they give you the help you needed?

R: When I first went to the day centre, they talked about recovery, to be honest I was just happy to have a roof over my head, so I just went there to see what it was all about first of all, but then I got it….but some people, they don’t get it unfortunately. I was lucky.   

T&F: You are now a student at New Hanbury is that correct?

R: Well I used to be, right now I’m being helped with applying for a literary course as unfortunately I left school really early, getting caught up with the wrong lot…and I never got to learn to read or write. It makes it really hard to get regular work still, because I can drive (I do love my motorbikes) but I can’t apply for a licence or be considered for any driving jobs. But I’m training up in the near future I hope.

Can you tell me about your work with the social enterprise business, would you recommend the experience to others that are currently in the situation you were once in?

Dave Carol (who ran Acorn House), said to me “give me 6 months of your life, and I’ll give you it back.’’ You see that stuck with me, and he did. I’d be dead if it wasn’t for Acorn House (or at best I would be seriously, seriously in trouble). I’m completely clean now and hope to stay that way (touch wood) for good. It was a blessing to get clean and to live a normal life. He is helping people with that guidance. Definitely, it’s worth it. We’d like to say a massive thanks to Rob for taking part in this interview.

If you would like to contact Spitalfields Crypt Trust regarding volunteer or fundraising opportunities please contact: Communications@sct.org.uk

Words and photos by Natalie Wardle.

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