At the age of thirteen I began using cannabis and at fourteen I started experimenting with hard drugs(speed, LSD, etc), and by the age of fifteen these drug taking habits lead to my being kicked out of my family home. I was now homeless and began to mix with all the wrong crowd who got me into further
experimenting with heroin and crack cocaine. The journey from experimenting to becoming a regular user was a short one and very soon I was hooked. This meant that I was soon being sent to young offender’s institutes from the age of seventeen until I was twenty one. At the age of twenty one I graduated
to adult prison. The reason I was sent away on so many occasions was that I was constantly shoplifting to pay for my drug habits. During this period between the ages of seventeen and twenty three I had a total of fifty two convictions. For my last prison sentence I served a year and during that time
I began to search for a wider meaning to my life. I wanted a wider perspective on life and I wanted to know more about life and the opportunities that I had missed out on. When I came out of prison I begged my probation officer to find me some where to live so that I could begin to stabilise and start
the process of sorting my life out.
This was when I entered GROW. At that point I had a really bad attitude problem;
I was bad tempered, moody, rude, and I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, I don’t know why they put up with me. Then with the help of the hostel I started to learn how to cook for all the other residents and slowly it dawned on me that I needed to change my ways and my whole attitude or else I
would soon be kicked out of GROW and loose my bed which by now had become so important to me. With the help of the staff at GROW I learned to change and to grow into a more even tempered person. I began to realise that the staff were my friends and that I had much to learn from them. Even though I no
longer live at GROW I still consider all the staff to be my friends and I know that they are still there for me.
With the help of GROW I was able to achieve my dream of having my own flat. They found a flat, helped me to access the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, and even supplied me with a repayable bond so that I could move in. They arranged amazing help and support with a support worker from the Supporting People
Housing Support who was really helpful when I first moved in. I moved into my flat on the 15th September 2008, since when I have managed to completely repay my bond while also keeping myself and my flat in good order. I have managed to put on weight and I look so much healthier and feel much better
than I used to. I have not used hard drugs since I entered GROW and I am fully convinced that I will never use them again as long as I live.
I owe my present state and circumstances to GROW and I could never repay them for all that they have done for me, helped me with, and shown me. I thank all the staff at GROW from the bottom of my heart. I still return and visit but not so often now, and I always know that there is a warm welcome and a
Sunday roast lunch for me if I want or need it.
Finally, I have now developed a good relationship with my parents who now trust me implicitly even to the extent that they have recently given me my own front door key to the family home where I was kicked out all those years ago.
Among the residents at GROW is Marcus, 35, who has lived at the hostel since October. He was released from prison after a two-year sentence in April 2007, and after staying in Cheshunt either side of a spell back inside, he moved to a night shelter in St Albans before he was referred to Watford.
He said: “I’ve had my ups and downs but life is pretty good at the moment. I’m looking forward to going into detox and I want to do a plumber’s course, or painting and decorating.”
“It was strange here to start with but everyone’s friendly. It’s got a lot of camaraderie. It’s like having a house full of brothers. The staff are absolutely fantastic.”
Paul, 25, was asked to leave his mother’s home when his drinking, gambling and financial problems spiralled out of control. He stayed with friends for a while and slept on doormats and benches and in boarded up properties, until he found a place at a night shelter and then moved to GROW last month.
He has been dry since November last year and will start a building course at Cementaprise on Monday. He hopes one day to have a home where he can look after his two children, aged seven and three.
Paul said: “I’ve gone from sleeping rough to moving on to a serious course within a month.”
“Being homeless is freezing, cold, damp, scary, dark, gloomy. You never know what’s going to happen. I was really down then. I’ve been getting all the support I need here so I can get on with my life.”
Mark, 52, has been at GROW for 18 months. In quick succession he lost his job and flat and gained a drinking problem.
“I lost the plot,” he admitted.
Mark is now hoping to find work using his upholstery and French polishing qualifications, and is aiming to gain some free driving lessons by taking on a literacy and numeracy course.
He added: “I just want to get back to work and normality.”
I became homeless at the age of fifteen due to my drug taking habits. My mum asked me to leave because of my constant drug usage, I started living with different friends for about two years (sofa surfing). Then I became so heavily involved in drugs that I was no long welcomed to stay at their house any more either.
At the age of seventeen I started living on the streets and taking drugs every day.
I also was staying in a tent and on some canal boats sited between Kings Langley and Rickmansworth. I was now stealing to feed my habit, and because of this
I ended up being sent to prison several times (almost too many times to remember)
I lived like this up until my last prison sentence which I received at the age of twenty eight. This time my sentence was for 18 months. It was in prison on this occasion that I decided that I simply had to get myself off drugs for good as I could not go on living like this. I came out of prison on the 4th October
2008 and went to live in a tent until a bed became available at the Sanctuary night shelter. When I finally got a bed there I got on well with my key worker, and was regular in taking my prescription medication every day to help me stay away from drugs. I was only in the Sanctuary for a short time when my key
worker told me about GROW and the sort of support I would get from them. At first I was really very worried about sharing a room, but I was convinced by the manager at GROW to visit their hostel and see for myself what it would be like to share a room. Once I had actually visited GROW and realized that it was a
safe, stable and quiet environment and somewhere that I could settle and use as a good solid base to begin to rebuild my life from the trash that it had been, back to somewhere that I could be proud of myself. I made an interview with Jamie (manager) which went really well, and I moved in a few days later on the
9th February 2009. I feel that it was the right move for me says James. “I have already grown up since coming into GROW, and I have been able to start sorting my life out at a pace that I can cope with, and I am still drug free. I feel that with the ongoing support that I am getting from GROW and the help and
support that I will get in the future, that I would like to achieve a stable life style with a job and my own accommodation while continuing to live drug free. I am so grateful for all the help I have received.