Adam has worked with homeless people in Worksop for more than 10 years. He is a hugely popular member of staff who has helped countless people to address complex problems and move on with their lives. As he prepares to leave Framework for a new career, here, in his own words, Adam explains how a chance encounter at the Mansfield Probation Office helped him to leave his troubled past behind him.
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“There’s an old saying that ‘life begins at 40.’ Well for me that’s actually true! My life did begin at 40 and these last 11 years have been the happiest I have been – filled with laughter and friendship. To think I once ate pizza out of a bin and spent 11 years addicted to heroin and crack cocaine! Becoming a social worker and having a degree seems so surreal now.”
On December 1st 2008 I walked out the prison gates I had been driven through nearly four years before. I was wondering what the hell I was going to do now.
Funnily enough my life had been fairly stable before I ended up there – at least when you compare it to the years of chaotic drug abuse and homelessness that had gone before.
I went to live in Warsop for a fresh start with my sister, who I had only spoken to about 10 times in the last 9 years due to my substance misuse.
I was 39 years old and the way I saw it my life was a total mess. I had no home to call my own, and no children of my own, as every relationship in the last 15 years was as chaotic as my life itself and mainly centred around mutual substance misuse.
I settled into my sister’s spare bedroom, and I thought I had basically swapped one cell for another.
The only time I really went out was to go to Mansfield Probation twice a week. I applied for countless jobs (18 in the first 2 months) but every time I ticked that “criminal offence” box I knew I was wasting my time.
I started to think what is the point? Maybe I should I revert back to offending, at least I would have some money and something to get out of bed for.
A chance encounter with Framework
But one day at the probation office a chance conversation was to change all of that. My probation officer said that she knew of a charity called Framework that ran a course for people like me called WISE: Working into Sustainable Employment.
I did the course and surprised myself. I really enjoyed it. As part of the course I needed to find a volunteer position but I did not have a clue where and I still lacked the confidence to just turn up at places asking if they had any need for a volunteer, but my criminal justice worker said he knew of a temporary hostel in Worksop.
A week later we were sat in his car outside, with me refusing to get out and go in even though they were expecting me.
After more words of encouragement (about 20 minutes’ worth) I went in and had an interview. I started volunteering and I loved it. It not only gave me somewhere to go every day, but also a sense of purpose and a feeling that I had worth.
All the staff were amazing, answering all my questions (there were a lot of them) but most of all they made me feel welcome.
After a few months, I moved into my first flat in Mexbourgh with the help of the British Legion ( I had once been in the Army), and caught the train in every day to Worksop, I had an old garden cushion for a mattress and one chair but it was my own place.
Also if I hung around long enough at work I would get to eat with the residents having their tea. Something I had learned from being homeless was get it while it’s there!
I quickly developed a good relationship with the residents. I understood the life most of them were living. I get why homeless people take drugs or drink but I am in no position to judge, and neither I believe is anyone else.
I set up a gym club and organised trips to the cinema and activities, and I admit they were not totally selfless acts, as it meant I could do things that I could not afford to do on my JSA, so volunteering gave me some sort of social life.
Then 12 months and 11 days after leaving prison on the 14th of December 2009, Nick Pearson, manager of our Potter Street hostel, offered me a job as a support worker on a temporary three month contract. I gladly accepted because I really needed a new mattress and a bed as my back was killing me from sleeping on the floor!
The temporary contract kept getting renewed, I really enjoyed my work and every day was different.
The Framework family
One day I was informed that someone I worked with had been admitted to hospital suffering from end stage liver failure and was not going to survive the night, he had no family to speak of so I drove to Bassetlaw hospital and sat with him chatting and holding his hand, he peacefully passed away after 20 minutes of me being there at 10:30 at night. No one should die by themselves alone. But our care didn’t end there. We also arranged and paid for a decent funeral.
It made me realise how Framework is more than just an organisation that provides housing and support. To some people it’s more than just housing; it’s their family. In reality the last years of his life living with Framework were probably the best he ever had, where people actually cared about him. And that care and support did not stop when he died.
Framework also supported me to attend the local college, where I did my drug awareness courses. I knew the knowledge gained would prove very useful to the service.
I set up the Potter Street tuck shop on the back of a summer fate we had organised, by selling left over drinks and chocolate, Sometimes simple things like a bar of chocolate and a cup of tea in your room on an evening was all you needed for a small bit of happiness, we created the Potter Street escape committee, made up of the residents, planning and organising trips and fundraising ideas and profits made from the tuck shop would be invested into the committee to pay for trips and activities.
We started doing more things around fundraising for the escape committee, with some of the staff and residents running the Worksop half marathon, I ran it twice never again and the Sheffield 10 k run with two residents, Never again to either!
We did all sorts of social activities too: Pantomimes every Christmas, the air show at Lincoln three times, regular free trips to Alton Towers (curtesy of The Sun newspaper vouchers!), go karting, trips to art galleries and museums. It was great to see grown men and women release their inner child and actually enjoy themselves.
Going to university
During one of my appraisals I said I would like to go to university, but it was just a pipe dream at the time. People like me did’t do such things and besides…with my criminal record I assumed I would never get in.
I found a preparation to higher education course at Leeds University that was two nights per week and every 2nd Saturday. But I failed the entrance test because I struggled with my maths and English. But Nick (my manager) and Teresa (a colleague) persuaded me to give it another go, spending their lunchtimes teaching me maths and proof reading everything I had written. I resat the test and passed.
Halfway through the course, while carrying out the role of a work place supervisor for a mature social work student, I made the decision I wanted to become a social worker and enrolled at Bradford College, where I could continue to work part time at Framdework.
A new career
April the 29th will be my last day working for Framework as I am leaving to start work with Bradford Children’s Services in child protection, and even though it’s exciting, I will be leaving with a very heavy heart, because Framework has played such a massive part in my life, and the support I have received has been second to none, especially from the staff and the residents of Potter Street.
There’s an old saying that ‘life begins at 40.’ Well for me that’s actually true! My life did begin at 40 and these last 11 years have been the happiest I have been, and have been filled with laughter and friendship.
To think I once ate pizza out of a bin and spent 11 years addicted to heroin and crack cocaine! Becoming a social worker and having a degree, seems so surreal now.
But Framework showed me that a person should be defined by what they go onto achieve, not their past. It’s really because of who I was yesterday that made me the person I am today.
…in the words of James Cagney.
‘I MADE IT MA, TOP OF THE WORLD’
Thank you and goodbye.
*Learn more about Working for Framework.