Hi I’m Marky. My story started when I took a Council flat in a rough area of Cardiff. I moved in, settled, and kept mostly to myself. The block I was in had a reputation for drugs and other activities but I thought I could handle it. After months of verbal abuse, and even physical abuse because I refused to conform to the rules of ‘their turf’, I realized I had made a mistake.
I got the message. The choice was either to lose my mind, or be forced onto the street, so my choice was the latter. I thought that surely if I was on the street, somebody was bound to help me. How gullible I was. I ended up being robbed in the first week. All I had were the clothes I was standing up in, so I met a few people and formed a few friendships. We stuck together, whether finding a place to sleep, food, clobber, or the pure escapism that would almost be my downfall – alcohol!
One day I woke up soaking wet through, down a lane near The Wallich Nightshelter with a couple of my mates, and I thought – “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
The same morning I met a few people from the County Council City Centre Team. They gave me loads of advice on referrals to hostels, access to housing workers and such. I suddenly woke up and smelled the stale cider!
I couldn’t believe it when I got referred to the Wallich Nightshelter. I was desperate and needed help. The staff were so cool, they treated me like a person with a few problems – rather than like some people who look at you like you’ve dropped out of the sky! A few months went by and I kept hassling them for a place in more permanent housing. then someone mentioned Shoreline. I managed to set up an interview and was a bit shaky (from the booze). The Project Workers were great – told me all about the project and they put me at ease. I didn’t really get my hopes up because I knew how long housing lists were.
I started selling the Big Issue, which was a great decision, a great way to meet people, make money and feel almost normal. This gave me the confidence in myself to buy clothes, save money and amazingly, to drink less – creating a new person.
After just a month of finding my feet, I had a phone call from Shoreline saying I had a place in a house in Canton. I was so chuffed I got a taxi with all my stuff (2 bin liners!) and moved in the same day. Even when I was growing up, I have never lived in such a lovely house. What a relief, a place I could call home for the first time in years.
The first few months were the worst because I was used to being on the streets. I kept myself pretty much to myself – bit of nerves – but eventually I came out of my shell and started to meet some lovely people. I can honestly say I’ve met some lifelong friends – and sadly lost a couple along the way.
It felt great to be almost normal, I cut down on my drinking a lot, but I couldn’t seem to cross over that line to commit to giving up the booze altogether. Then every drinker’s nightmare came true. One week I felt really ill and had pains in my liver and kidneys and all over my lower back. So I had some tests and bingo, liver damage. Just what I’d been dreading. So I gave up drink straight away, and I kid you not, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.
I’ve made it through the worst I think. Still clearing my head, and finally thinking of the future. Six months of sobriety have really opened up avenues that I wouldn’t have looked at twice if I was still drinking.
I’ve been around the block a few times with different support services and homeless organisations, and the support I’ve received and the friendships I’ve made at The Wallich are second to none. Especially the staff, who are not only people I look up to in awe for putting up with me, but also people I can now call friends.
If I could aspire to be anything now, it would be to give a little bit back by going into the same line of work as those that helped me on a very rocky road that I never thought I would make the end of.”