In my previous post I had brought my portrait of Patrick up to a level where I could see my way quite clearly through to completion. Toning down the scarf, adjusting rest of the clothing and bringing in the hair were all straightforward tasks. Similarly, adjusting the flesh tones only required a few simple glazes. Patrick is a formidable character whose strength of will has underpinned a dramatic change in his fortunes since he first came into contact with St. Mungo’s. At a recent event in support of the charity he gave a remarkable speech (although he would prefer to call it a ‘little talk’), and he kindly agreed to let me publish it here:
“I am a member of Outside In, which is St. Mungo’s Broadway’s client involvement group. I joined Outside In to get active, learn new things, move away from isolation and hopefully inspire others with my own story of recovery. Outside In makes my former life and experience feel valuable, as St. Mungo’s Broadway consults me, as a result of my experience, on how projects should operate and how the organisation and its clients should move forward together. I was asked to speak today about the health and wellbeing of Homeless People. I thought the best thing I could do is share my story with you. When I became homeless I was in a very dark place due to a traumatic experience that remained untreated. I was very lucky to come across St. Mungo’s Broadway when I arrived at a residential project in Haringey. With a stable home St. Mungo’s Broadway has given me the opportunity to overcome past experiences that pushed me to end up homeless. That experience was eight years ago. I was kidnapped and subjected to torture over three days. This had a very negative effect on my wellbeing. I didn’t know who could help me and I developed a dependency on substances to deal with the anxiety, loss of self-esteem, loss of confidence, loss of dignity. All this ultimately led to the loss of my home. After finding accommodation in a St. Mungo’s Broadway hostel, I eventually felt able to share my experience with staff whom I trusted. After telling Outside In staff about this experience they offered t refer me to talking therapy with a psychotherapist, which I decided to try. I have found that this has started to help and given me a new way of dealing with my emotions. They also encouraged me to value my strengths and have helped me to develop my own photography course that I lead at St. Mungo’s Broadway Recovery College in Southwark. I am also now planning to lead some peer support groups in our residential projects. It is all these different opportunities that start to add up to feeling like I have a life of purpose in which I am happier.
“St. Mungo’s Broadway, together with Outside In, is now campaigning about the health and wellbeing of homeless people with Homeless Health Matters. Poor health is a fact of life for many people who are homeless. Almost twice as many people who use homelessness services have long-term physical health problems and mental health diagnoses compared to the general public. These shocking health inequalities have no place in our society. I would like to thank St. Mungo’s Broadway for believing in me, and for empowering me to make a stepping stone to change my life. I am now a more confident person who believes you can overcome bad situations with the right support.
“Thanks to everyone who came this evening. I would not be able to finish without mentioning Andy Williams who has been my main mentor and inspiration for making my life better.”