Trigger warning: contains some reference to drug abuse and suicide  

John*, a man who had suffered a lifetime of abuse and been in and out of custody his entire life, left Manchester a few years ago to start afresh. But, despite his hopes, he returned to the city and found himself homeless.

Things started to spiral rapidly, and John found himself in some pretty sticky situations. He had been drug-free for 10 years, but becoming homeless had caused him to relapse into some occasional drug use. He had been coming to see us for about a month without engaging with our offers of support, and then, just as we were closing for the day, he came to our door extremely worried for his safety.

Here, Barnabus Support Worker Jenna explains what happened next…

Our door is always open

John told me he had made a plan to repay some debts, but it didn’t go as he’d hoped. Now he didn’t know what to do, or who to trust. We had already closed for the day, but as staff were still around, we invited John in to safeguard him while I helped arrange a way for him to move safely from Barnabus to somewhere he could stay.

After John left, I gave him my number and said he could contact me while we were closed over Christmas (other services were open on Christmas this year, so we had decided to open during New Year’s instead as there were much fewer forms of support available). John didn’t have any support in Manchester and was completely alone. He was rough sleeping, laying low, and his mental health was deteriorating massively with a high risk of self-harm. 

I didn’t have all the answers John needed, but I told him that I was there to listen to him. Sometimes a friendly ear is all you need to help clear your thoughts and think rationally about a tricky situation. I spoke with him each day to encourage him not to give up. 

A massive inspiration

John believed and in fact said that he was “just not supposed to be happy or have a good life”. I validated his feelings by acknowledging all the trauma, exploitation and extremely distressing events he’d encountered in his life. But I reminded him that he is still here, still fighting, and deserves to be happy just as much as anyone else. I reminded him that he is a massive inspiration to others who are in similar situations, and could be the proof they need that you can survive such traumatic events. 

Over the festive period, I was able to link in with staff from another service so that they could go and see John on the streets. He only agreed to meet the two workers because of the trust we’d developed. I was also able to remotely help him get access to his benefits and receive payments and emergency accommodation.

Fast forward to now, and the problems John was encountering that made him scared for his safety have all been dealt with. Now, he is safe. Towards the end of January, I was even able to help him relocate out of Manchester again to reconnect with his son. What’s more, he’s also planning to start work in early February. He said he feels like he has dodged a bullet and is so lucky to get out of Manchester addiction-free after everything that he had been through. 

Looking forward

John texted me to wish me a merry Christmas and said that I will never truly realise what I did for him. He said that there was no doubt in his mind that he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t a matter of if he would commit suicide, it was where and when.  

I do genuinely believe John could have been at serious risk of harm from others, or himself. That’s why I kept in contact over Christmas, and that’s why I continue to do the work that I do.

Speaking to John now, it is clear he is doing a lot better. He feels like he has another chance at life again. He still texts and rings to keep me posted on how he’s doing, and it serves as a constant reminder that the support we offer here at Barnabus is so valuable.

*Name has been changed to protect our friend’s identity