Richard, 25, survived a childhood of abuse and violence, leaving him with serious mental health problems. Escaping violence at home, he slept rough and sofa-surfed until another charity directed him to Depaul UK. Now he’s living in stable accommodation and receiving weekly mental health counselling.
“I had a breakdown, due to my mental health, it made things difficult between me and my mum. She was unaware of what I was going through. I was unable to leave my room. Nine times out of 10, when I woke up, I didn’t want to leave my bed. I’d lie there and I’d just start crying, looking at the ceiling with tears streaming down my face. I wouldn’t have a clue why.
“The first time I ever seriously contemplated suicide, I was about 15. One of my mates caught me trying. They didn’t know. My mate came round the corner. She was like, “What you doing?” I went through so much violence in my teenage years. At the age of 11, I watched my stepdad get stabbed to death. Watched my mate have the back of his leg cut open. I’d had two real firearms pulled on me. All before the age of 16.
“All the way through my childhood, all of my mum’s boyfriends used to batter me and my mum. It made mine and my mum’s relationship stronger. I seen pretty much everything – all the beatings. Only one of her boyfriends really got violent towards me, giving me black eyes before I was seven. Pretty much all of her boyfriends got violent towards her.
“When I first moved out, I must have been about eight or nine. I moved in with my cousin for about a year or two. Then I went back to live with my mum and her boyfriend. I remember getting dragged out of my bed at three o’clock in the morning by this 35-year-old man with anger problems. When my Mum wasn’t there, he used to pick me up by the ears and bite my nose. I wasn’t allowed to leave the house like a normal kid. Whether I wanted to go out or not, that was drilled into me. I still have flashbacks.
“I’ve been homeless on and off for two, two and a half years. That would be like, sleeping rough, maybe a few nights, maybe get a night on my mate’s couch. Every day, see what happens.
“I left home properly in about 2015, early 20s. I moved in with my dad for a bit but he beat me, snapped brooms over my back and everything. So I moved out of there. I moved in with my girlfriend. I moved out when we broke up, sleeping rough ever since. I was sleeping in parks, in train stations, anywhere and everywhere. To get through, I used to be on a lot of drugs. Nothing hard. Just weed, Xanax [anti-anxiety medication], sleeping pills, antidepressants, downers, Diazepam [a muscle relaxant]. I’d get by, money-wise, by robbing houses.
“I can’t remember how, but another charity got me here [to Depaul UK]. And now I see a mental health advisor once a week. Every time I meet her it’s like a breath of fresh air. I can relax and just be myself because I’m not worried about her telling anyone anything. She’s just there. I love that.
“Depaul, they’ve done things. They’ve helped me get on courses. I will say, if you show dedication, they will help you. I want to get my head sorted, get these flashbacks gone. I want to move forward in life. What any young adult wants to do.”