Gary* was 18 when he was sectioned. He spent eight years living in a psychiatric hospital and a further seven living in supported accommodation for people with mental health issues.

He was living at a hostel when he was evicted just before last Christmas for fighting.

Rough sleeping became his only option, but in January of this year he came to Basis@Sunderland looking for help. Over the next few weeks he would visit the drop-in sporadically. Gary refused to live in a hostel again and would often leave the drop-in if it got too busy.

Other people made him nervous but the team tried to help wherever they could – with food, tea and a shower – if he would stay long enough. The team tried to put together a referral for accommodation but Gary would often leave before it was finished as his mental health and anxiety overwhelmed him.

The pattern continued and, when the pandemic struck, Gary began to sleep in some trees as he could not cope with being around other people. When the drop-in could reopen, Gary returned and asked for a tent and sleeping bag, but the team kept hoping to find him a home; so they paid for a birth certificate as proof of identity, which allowed Jude from Housing Options to get the ball rolling.

As well as supporting Gary with his housing, the team helped Gary with his PIP re-assessment, aided by Ross Bennett from the Welfare Rights Service. He was persuaded to engage with a couple of nurses from the Freeman Hospital, who were visiting Basis and carrying out Hepatitis B and C tests.

Finally, a breakthrough came and Gary agreed to try emergency accommodation. Days later he was evicted for erratic behaviour. A short time later Gary told the team he was sick of the cycle he was in – binge drinking, running out of money and selling his phone for alcohol – and wanted to consider rehab.

Gary’s situation was discussed at the next Rough Sleeper Action Group and Kay, the Rough Sleeper Coordinator, asked if the team could carry out an Alcohol Use Disorders ID Test with him to assess his alcohol consumption. Gary agreed to the questionnaire being done and was very open with his answers.

As a result of the meeting Scott, the Changing Lives Outreach Worker, said there was a possibility of a single property for Gary. Diane from Housing Options made the referral, but at the last moment Gary wavered. After thinking it through he agreed to sign the paperwork and nine months after he started sleeping rough, he had his own place again.

After his first weekend in his new home, Gary said he wanted help to end his alcohol addiction and the team put him in touch with Wear Recovery.

Could this be the start of a new life for Gary? He is now out of the woods and living in his own home. Let’s hope he can now get the help he needs to become sober.

*names have been changed