Probation helps John see new future

John lost his job and ended up homeless after being evicted for being unable to pay his rent, and then got in trouble with the law after a row got out of control.

The 55-year-old, from Birkenhead, was sentenced in November 2018 for assault and criminal damage to a 12-month Community Order, which he has now successfully completed. Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company (M CRC) probation case manager Julie Loughran supervised the order.

John’s disability allowance was reduced following changes to UK Government legislation, and he fell into arrears on his property. His alcohol consumption rose as he struggled to cope, and due to becoming homeless missed mental health support appointments and lost access to his finances.

John ended up sleeping in Birkenhead Park, a nearby multi-storey car park and finally a YMCA night shelter after being evicted in 2018. During that period, he got into a heated argument and lost his temper and was arrested by the police for committing criminal damage.

By the time he committed the offence he was drinking two and a half litres of cider a day.

He said: “I got into trouble because of the stress I was under. Being homeless is tough. I was sleeping where I could, and it was a terrible time.

“I’m sorry I did what I did, but it wouldn’t have happened if I’d have had a roof over my head. I was drinking heavily to help me cope with the stress and that was obviously making things worse.

“What is so depressing is I knew what was going to happen to me and I did everything I could to avoid it, but I couldn’t make the situation better. I’d gone in to speak to the council, but they told me to come back once I was homeless because they couldn’t do anything for me.”

M CRC helped John fill in applications to find suitable accommodation and helped tie him in with several organisations that provided him with a range of support. This included Intuitive Recovery, a charity that supports people to become substance free, and Wirral Mind which helped him with his mental health and anxiety.

He said: “Probation helped greatly. My probation officer was superb, she helped me and gave me clothes, guidance and advice. She made me feel normal and eventually she helped give me hope.

“Intuitive Recovery game me impetus and motivation to address my drinking problem and to improve my situation and feel engaged.”

John joined a group called User Voice, which links in with M CRC and gives a voice to the people in the criminal justice system (CJS) and supports them to drive improvements in the CJS.

John now also works with a social enterprise organisation aimed at supporting people with mental health and homelessness issues, and has visited parliament to raise awareness about homelessness and to advocate for changes to UK Government policy as part of a campaign by a social enterprise. He has even won awards for his photography, which is on show at Liverpool’s Moorfields Train Station.

Julie said: “The number of people who are street homeless and have an alcohol addiction who go on to make such a recovery are few and far between and that’s because it’s incredibly tough to take those steps.

“John deserves all the credit. He organised his accommodation at Rose Bray Hostel and that was the turning point for him. I was just there to help his confidence grow, to discuss ideas with him and to support him when he was down.

“His transformation has been remarkable. He is an incredibly intelligent man and I wish him well for the future.”

John, who has also won an award from User Voice in recognition of the work he does for the charity, added: “It was a trying and testing time, but gradually things have dropped into place for me and now I can see a positive future.”