Our Outreach team have been supporting Igor, aged 33, who was found sleeping rough in Richmond. He says:
“I come from Ukraine, where I finished medical university to become a dentist, but I couldn’t find work and I didn’t have money. I came to England, where my extended family lived and for a better future. I found a room to rent and looked for work. I worked as a cleaner and then in construction. I was proud of myself. Then, one winter, I decided to move to London. I was always hopeful and positive, thinking that everything will be OK and that I’ll get by.
I worked as a painter decorator and was taught a lot of different skills. I liked life in London, working, paying rent, going out. I knew I wanted to stay in England and build a life here. I had a girlfriend, but my relationship broke and I started drinking; it was like something was broken in me. I drunk every day. I lost control and started drinking on the job. I couldn’t believe it. I was a strong person, but I just couldn’t come back. I lost my job, started running out of money, and ended up on the streets. On the streets I was so lost and I starting taking drugs. I was homeless, jobless and mindless.
I started to shoplift to survive and ended up in prison. Once out, I was back on the streets. An Outreach Worker offered me help and temporary accommodation and also support; an oyster card and food. The first time I met SPEAR, I found it hard to open and trust people, I didn’t know who they were. I started to trust them as they just held my hand, kept showing up and pushing me to get to my appointments, in a good way.
We started making a plan, with getting sober first through a detox programme. Step by step, I’m starting from the start again. I am on methadone prescription now, I have an ID, and accommodation with SPEAR. I feel happy now. When I got the keys to my room, I checked the hot water right away, showered and then slept for so long.
I won’t use drugs or drink anymore. I have a routine now and won’t go back to where I was. I started playing football again, I used to play professionally.
SPEAR saved me, I am good now. I am not as strong as I used to be, and I am scared sometimes, but I am making progress and I don’t lose control anymore.
If not for SPEAR, I don’t know where I would be”.