Steve’s story

30 Apr 2021

The Wallich, Wise Project graduation ceremony takes place in Swansea, Wales, UK - Steve speaks about experience with addiction

Steve has been working with his support worker at our Swansea Prevention and Wellbeing Service (PAWS) for a few years

The service helps people with housing, budgeting, benefits, addiction, health and more to reduce the risk of homelessness.

Read Steve’s story

“I first met my support worker Anne years ago, when she worked for another organisation. I needed a tenant support worker at the time and she was great.

I didn’t need her again for a while but then I hit a time in my life where I needed her support again – this time with The Wallich and the Swansea PAWS project.

I was in a toxic relationship and I was struggling with addiction. Anne worked with me and other drug and alcohol agencies like WACADA, who have been brilliant.

We tried going in for detox. That failed, but when I came back out, we kept working – our way – on recovery with the other agencies.

Then I met my current partner, Gemma. She was having some problems with addiction as well. Sometimes that’s a recipe for disaster, but together, one day we just decided to just stop – cold turkey.

Recovery is still work, but I’m in a much better place now.

I was still working with Anne when Gem got pregnant. Because of our history with addiction, social services were involved. So, she supported us with that too, she went above and beyond to help us out.


As well as help with recovery and social services, Anne sorted out our benefits and housing.

When I went through rent arrears when I first moved in, Anne worked with my housing officer and made sure that got sorted as well.

She knew I had something, so she’s always gone above and beyond and she was always on the phone sorting something for us!

One day, social services had gone away and everything was fine. So, Anne suggested I sign up to The Wallich WISE [Working In Sustainable Employment] course.

On the first day, I was a bit like “Woah, what’s going on, what’s this?”. But when I came back after that first day, I told Gemma, “I think this is the one that’s gonna change things.”

I was doing really well with it. I started volunteering and I really started to see The Wallich as a family – the way they pull people out of nothing and really care about everyone.

I thought I was unemployable. I had a criminal record and I thought I’d always have to work in a bar or something. But when I volunteered down at The Wallich Croes Ffin accommodation in Barry I was pretty involved – in a way that was suitable. I started to see something different for me.

I graduated from WISE and then lockdown happened. So, it was hard to know what to do next.

Then Anne encouraged me to apply for a job with The Wallich. My first application in 25 years, was for a hostel in Cardiff.

I got it. I couldn’t believe it. I had some time to wait before I started but I couldn’t believe it until I got there.

This inspired Gem to get a job as well. She started a job in the care industry but didn’t like it that much. She saw how happy I was, going to work smiling, even after six months.

So, Gem put in an application for one of The Wallich hostels in Swansea. She got the job.

It’s funny how I always saw The Wallich as a family – and now we’re a family who works for The Wallich!

I liked the job I had in Cardiff but getting the train from Swansea for every shift wasn’t ideal.

So, when a job came up with The Wallich closer to home in Swansea, I applied. My manager in the Cardiff hostel supported me to apply because it would be a good move for me.

So now I work in a hostel in Swansea. I love The Wallich, I love the people.

I chat with guys on project and sometimes they say they’d rather speak to someone like me, who’s been there, done that, who’s been through it.

The clients identify with things I say to them. I haven’t read it all in a book. I’ve lived it.

The Wallich, Wise Project graduation ceremony takes place in Swansea, Wales, UK - Steve's story

An addict’s mind works different. I wake up every day and I’m still in recovery.

I’m just trying to get them to think differently – change your thinking, not your drinking, is what I say. We get on really well.

I know a lot of the homeless people in Swansea anyway through volunteering with the churches and the food banks, and when I see them come through the hostel it’s amazing. I’m always saying, “Oh hiya, god how are you?” and I’m really happy for them.

Anne saw something in me, that even I didn’t see. Now I want to do that for other people.

People at The Wallich really care about everyone, the staff, the volunteers, the clients, everybody.

Thinking about the future, the long-term retirement dream plan would be to have our own detox reflection centre out in the woods, where people could reflect, meditate and recover from addiction. Having been through recovery, I think that could really work for people.

For now though, I’ll telling the guys I support my story. It’s only been three and half years to go from where I was, to recover and get to where I am now – and during a pandemic!

I hope sharing my story helps someone like me move on with their life as well.”


Anne Capel, Senior Support Worker at The Wallich Swansea PAWS, said:

“Steve lacked confidence in the beginning and would deflect his success. It took Steve a while to accept positive feedback.

I always knew that he could beat his addiction and make an excellent support worker due to his lived experiences.

On a lighter note, I was probably the only worker who got away challenging his behaviour and we both laugh about this.”


The Wallich has a commitment to hire people with lived experience of homelessness, and the intersectional issues which contribute to homelessness. At time of writing, 19% of The Wallich’s staff identify as having lived experience.

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