We thank all the people who have given permission for us to share their stories. Names and some details have been changed to protect people's anonymity.
I'm delighted to bits for the chance to write this piece. Mainly because the support and help provided is first class. While life has its ups and downs kinda like the day and night, the staff at Julian Housing are on hand to help put you right.
Lily had been known to our staff at O'Hanlon House for several years when she accessed our Emergency Accommodation for the third time in June 2008. She had a long history of intravenous heroin use and sleeping rough, and had several criminal convictions, mainly for shoplifting offences. She had previously lived in many Oxford hostels, and left them all because of rent arrears or drug use.
“At first I did find the move from the hostel to Julian Housing difficult. A room in a house with five other people was different to a room in a hostel with fifty people. It gave me more freedom, which led to my drinking becoming a problem, exaggerating my anxiety and depression. I found myself becoming moody and sullen and at times very anti-Julian Housing. But with constant weekly meetings with my Key Worker, it became clear that things would have to change.”
A British citizen of Nigerian origin, Jim returned to Africa to arrange a permanent visa for his wife. Jim has bi-polar disorder, which he manages successfully through medication. However, he did not take enough medication to Nigeria, became depressed and stayed much longer than he had anticipated. Jim returned to Britain in August 2008 to find he had lost his job and his tenancy. His wife was still in Nigeria trying to organise her visa. He went to the police to ask for help and was referred to O'Hanlon House.
“It all started when I was 12 years old. My Dad was a very angry person. I got the brunt of it. This went on until I was 14 and I ran away to London. I felt very frightened of the thought of the big city. Living on the streets was hard so I started smoking cannabis. Cannabis stopped working so I went on to take speed. I lived a very angry life with begging and stealing. In the end I was sent to prison where I found heroin.”
I first became homeless in September 2006 - at this time I knew nothing about living on the streets in Oxford. I (with time) stumbled across the various services available to the homeless and began staying at O'Hanlon House. After a period of instability I began to make progress and was advanced to the Resettlement Floor, which basically means you are/have been making serious efforts to progress and change your life.