Tony[i] has always felt homeless. At a very young age his parents moved to the UK for a better life, and left Tony with relatives and in charge of his younger siblings. Tony was neglected, abused and shown very little love by these relatives, alone and abandoned he longed to be reunited with his parents. Then came the day when Tony was to join his parents in the UK. Even though it was several years since he last saw his parents he was excited at the prospect of finally being loved and cared for.
Tony’s impressions of the UK mirrored the reception he received by his parents: “it was cold, hostile and unfamiliar”. He was immediately put to work, in charge of other siblings he had never met: “no-one showed me love”. Tony’s relationship with his father, in particular, deteriorated. Physically and emotionally abused by his father, Tony felt that he had no other option but to run away: “I remember my first night on the streets, I was naive, totally unaware of the dangers, it was very frightening.”
Tony survived street life by drinking and taking drugs. He eventually found accommodation through having relationships with women. “I was very angry, I could not sustain any relationship” and each time a relationship failed Tony was made homeless. This endless cycle of abandonment, rejection, self-neglect and addiction eventually took its toll. Tony developed severe depression and anxiety and eventually spoke with a member of staff from St. Mungo’s Street Homeless Team. He started sessions with St Mungo’s Lifeworks Psychotherapy Service in August 2016.
“Due to the care and concern from the staff they assisted me in getting me off the streets. I was advised that therapy might help my mental health. I initially rejected the offer but because of their urgings I agreed to having sessions which has become very rewarding to my wellbeing. The therapy sessions has benefited me in many ways and has made me aware of how to cope with issues from my past allaying some of my fears and doubts but more importantly it has help to build my confidence and self-esteem. I can also say it has given me the belief to move forward with my life, therapy has been very life changing and I would recommend it to others. I hope to continue in therapy if it was available to help me through the next chapter of my life, which is having a home of my own.”
Tony is now alcohol and drug free, has managed to sustain a hostel tenancy and has recently been offered more permanent accommodation due to his recovery. “I feel ready for this, I feel I have the tools to make my life work,” he says. Tony now plans to get involved in volunteering and attending courses at St. Mungo’s recovery college. Tony will continue to have individual therapy whilst he transitions from hostel life to independent living. He may also progress to Lifeworks’ therapy group whereupon he will have the opportunity to meet recovered individuals and gain continued support.
[i] Tony has asked us not to use his real name when sharing his story.