Antony used to rough sleep in Cardiff and received support from The Wallich when he accessed our Rough Sleepers Intervention Team in the city centre. He now has his own flat, gained experience as a volunteer with our Maintenance Team and is ready to get back to work.
Here’s Anthony’s story:
“My wife died of cancer five years ago and my life started to go downhill.
I had my own business fitting kitchens and bathrooms and was a labourer with my own house. I sold everything I had dirt cheap and had a bad cocaine addiction, I spent around £70k on it over a year. I lost contact with my daughter and son through taking cocaine and they moved away.
I went to live with my parents for about two years and got a new job and felt good but then it was my wedding anniversary – I’d been married over 20 years and, bang, I just went back on cocaine again. I eventually stopped and haven’t touched it for about four years, I’ve got no interest in it now.
I tried going to different places in England but everywhere I went it felt like a constant reminder of my wife and I was getting myself into trouble, in and out of prison for doing stupid things.
Moving to Cardiff
I went to Devon but they had no accessible services for homeless people. I was there for four months and decided I would go back home and live with my parents again but I got on the wrong train from Devon and ended up in Wales, Cardiff in 2014 and I’ve been here two and a half years now.
I slept rough in Cardiff city centre and I went to Housing Options but when using floor space, I had a bad experience and thought, ‘It’s not for me, I’m better on the streets’. A couple of weeks after coming to Cardiff I met Lesley Davies and her staff on the Breakfast Run and to me, it’s amazing what they do. I’ve always got on with Lesley, she’s amazing.
Cardiff is a good area to be homeless and I was lucky to have a relatively good experience of sleeping rough in the city. There’s so much to access, you can charge your phone, lock your belongings up and there’s churches and groups that help homeless people.
I believe homeless people need more access to things like showers so they can look after themselves.
The best move I ever made was coming to Cardiff, everyone in my family thinks so too.
I used to do voluntary work with the maintenance team at The Wallich for a few months because of my former experience, but I was living on the streets at the same time. I enjoyed it but it was tiring and eventually I stopped.
One day about a year ago, I bumped in to a group of women who were giving homeless people food every Tuesday and Thursday. I started volunteering with them, even though I was living on the street myself. They’ve become great friends and really supported me. I also volunteer with Grangetown Baptist Church and helped them over Christmas as they open their doors to become nightshelters during that period, it helps so many people.
I volunteer because I want to give something back, the people I’ve met gave me motivation to get my life back on track and find accommodation.
My own flat
I now have my own one-bedroom flat and I love it. I wouldn’t want to go back on the streets. I did try it again one night and I couldn’t cope, I sat in a doorway with a sleeping bag and thought I’d give it a go but I couldn’t do it. Something in my mind was telling me to try sleeping on the street again but I was panicking and just couldn’t do it.
I’ve had help from an organisation called Boomerang Cardiff to furnish my flat which is great.
On the streets I made a friend who actually lives in the flat above me now, he’s from Cardiff and we became best mates.
I’m still in contact with my parents and my daughter – she had a baby very recently and I’ve been to see them.
This year my aim is to go back to work. I’m hoping to eventually be employed with Boomerang Cardiff, a local charity that helps a range of people to get their lives back on track and look forward to helping them”.
There are lots of ways you can support us to deliver projects like the Breakfast Run around Wales.