Jo found SASH after living through many years of domestic violence and drugs, combined with living on the streets and having her son taken away from her.
Jo told me she first got involved with drugs around the age of 16–17.
“I was about 16-17 and started going clubbing, out to parties and festivals and the like. I used to go to Glastonbury and get the train up to Liverpool to the nightclubs. It started with just popping pills and speed etc, then I met my ex-partner and he bought in other stuff like black and Mamba and I got addicted to it.”
Unfortunately, Jo’s ex-partner was also violent and the relationship was a spiral of abuse and addiction.
“I fell pregnant to him and my son was taken away when he was 6 years old. I couldn’t look after him because of the drug addiction. I lost my home and spent 7-8 years living on the street. It wasn’t until my ex-partner was caught being abusive to me on camera that I had the chance to access rehabilitation and begin the journey to recovery. He was sent to jail and I was put into detox and then to London for rehabilitation.”
It was the rehabilitation centre in London that found the services SASH offered and applied for Jo to move there.
When I came out of rehab, I thought I was going back on the streets. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know there was another service that would help me, and house me. I caught the train from London and met Paul in Craven Arms and he showed me around the property. It was lovely. They took me in and gave me a roof over my head, they gave me a bed, and they gave me … security… does that make sense?
Absolutely. Jo went on to tell me how amazing the service had been and what a difference it made to her life. She says it made her feel secure and it was somewhere she could finally call home. She says the atmosphere was brilliant, full of like-minded people who she now calls her close network of friends. People she can both call on in times of need, and who she can support in return.
I had a little room of my own. And I made it my own, if that makes sense. I know, there was only a single bed in there, and a cabinet, but it was mine and I made it my room, my own space. And it was great – there were some lovely people there in the house. I met friends and made a really good network of friends. I was able to work through stuff and save my money and stay away from addiction – which was the main thing. I’ve now been clear for four years.
Jo stayed with SASH for just over two years. With the money she managed to save, she was supported to find a private rental property near to where her son lived with her mother, and was able to begin rebuilding her relationship with him.
It was amazing being near to my son so I could spend time near him and be part of his life. He’s my priority and I’m working so hard to turn my life around. I’m so glad to be free of the chaos that my previously life had been.
Jo is now studying. She is hungry for knowledge and has undertaken numerous training courses so she might now give something back. Having lost numerous friends to addiction she recognises the knife edge she has walked and wants to help those in still in the community she was once part of.
She told me: “I’ve lost so many friends to addiction that I want to give back to those who are in a similar situation and need help. I want to help the community I was once part of. If I can turn around and say I helped someone, I will feel better in myself. I’ve gone from sleeping under cardboard and having my belongings stolen to where I am now. I went to jail for shop lifting and I’ve had £10,000 fine for begging. And I’m paying it all back out of my benefits. I’m working to get everything back on track and to make good all the past history that I’ve been through.
Without SASH I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve now learnt to take care of myself. I’ve moved closer to my son and been able to spend time with him and that’s just been amazing. I’m still getting support and I’m on lots of medication for bipolar, schizophrenia, epilepsy and PTSD
Places like SASH need to be kept open. They give you support to help you turn your life around when you need it. They are a lifeline and I’m so grateful for all the help I was given.
Jo, I hope you know how amazing you are, and how much inspiration you will give to those going through similarly tough times and considering the road ahead.
Keep breathing and doing what you’re doing. You’re doing amazing. We wish you all the very best!