Steve’s* Barnabus story starts when he went through a very traumatic ending of his marriage. He moved away from his home to Manchester and soon found work, hoping to start afresh. However, his employer treated him poorly and was clearly overworking him. This, combined with the stress of leaving his family, lead to him suddenly drinking heavily and eventually having a mental breakdown.

After being admitted into a mental health ward, where he received care and recovery support, Steve was placed in poor-quality shared housing where intimidating residents would regularly encourage him to take drugs. His mental health began to spiral again, and he chose to leave the house.

For the first time in his life, Steve found himself sleeping on the streets – a scary and traumatic reality to face. He heard about Barnabus from another person sleeping rough, and decided to pay us a visit…


Service referrals and practical necessities

Steve was initially very timid and wary. It was clear to our staff that he was suffering from severe mental health problems and was incredibly scared about his situation and the prospect of another night on the streets. The housing and homelessness charity Shelter was able to quickly help Steve into temporary council accommodation, but it became obvious that Steve still needed further support.

Due to the lack of on-site support at Steve’s accommodation, we were at first focusing on the practical issues: supplying him with toiletries, food parcels and other necessities. This helped gain Steve’s trust, and he began to open up to our team about the deeper issues he struggled with.

We were then able to slowly connect Steve to the right services and help him attend appointments. He was still really struggling with his mental health, so through liaising with the mental health team, we were able to secure home visits to relieve some of the stress of accessing support. Steve also wanted to address his drinking, so we made a referral to Change Grow Live, Manchester’s drug and alcohol service.


Priority-setting and flat-hunting

Living in temporary accommodation surrounded by lots of people who were behaving chaotically and using drugs, Steve quickly became overwhelmed once more. He also found it increasingly difficult to stay on top of all his appointments. Our team saw this and wanted to act fast to prevent him having a second mental breakdown.

We discussed with Steve what he wanted to focus on, leaving the other forms of support on the back burner to prevent it from becoming too much. His priorities were his mental health and finding better accommodation – somewhere calmer and more permanent, where he could start to settle down, begin to overcome his addiction, find employment, and rebuild his life.

Because of the market’s aversion to renters who claim Universal Credit, securing private rented accommodation was a long process. A lot of emotional support was needed to help Steve process his anxious and depressive feelings throughout. But, after a few months of trying, we managed to help Steve find a flat and apply for a welfare benefits package for furniture. Our resettlement team also supported him with his council tax, bills and budgeting.


Independent living and steps in the right direction

Though he now had a place to call his own, Steve was finding it hard to live independently for the first time since his mental health breakdown. With the chaotic temporary accommodation, the subsequent move, and the fact he was starting to deal with the traumatic events that led up to this moment, he had begun drinking again.

Steve now felt that he had to address these issues head-on. We referred him to the NHS mental health team so that he could receive face-to-face support again. His doctor also referred him to the drug and alcohol service Achieve.

While Steve still needs ongoing practical and emotional support, he’s making progress with his drinking. He’s also engaging well with Achieve and other support organisations, and he’s speaking to the mental health team often. We’re confident that he’ll be able to build a new life away from the streets and the mental anguish that drove him there.


A journey that any one of us could find themselves on

Steve has come on a long journey – through mental health crises and rough sleeping to living in his own flat and making decisions to improve his health and wellbeing. He exemplifies just how strong our friends’ drive and desire is to improve their lives, get off the streets, get back into work, and get a home – as well as how vulnerable we all can be while struggling to rebuild a life after it has broken down.

To support our work and more people just like Steve, consider making an online donation today. We’re incredibly grateful for any help you can give.

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