Ben and Wendy have been associated with The Society of St James for a long time. Today, I had the opportunity to meet with them and learn about how SSJ has helped them reach the stable position they are in now.
Ben has struggled with ADHD and diabetes for a long-time. Wendy’s problems started when her dad died and her child was taken away from her in her mid-20s. Ben has spent time in prison and both have resorted to theft and drug dealing to fund their habits in the past. They met about 9 years ago and have been on separate journeys, but their paths crossed and aligned when they were both at their lowest points.
They were living on the streets, struggling with addiction and mental health issues when they moved into SSJ’s Southampton Street Hostel. Ben was known as the “battered husband” at that point and together they were funding a £100 a day habit.
Wendy told me that when someone is coming off the streets with an addiction, there isn’t much that can be done for them initially other than reducing harm. For example, by ensuring access to clean needles. At that stage, what is needed most is for people to listen and not look straight through you, to see you as a person and not judge. Eventually, trust begins to develop, and that’s when help can be accepted.
That trust was eventually placed in Steve Judd, an SSJ housing management Team Leader. Ben and Wendy referred to Steve as their knight in shining armour back then. Steve saw something in Ben and Wendy, recognised their potential and decided to give them a chance.
Steve supported Ben and Wendy out of Southampton Street and into separate SSJ accommodations, providing them with a safe and stable place to live for the first time in years. Eventually, Steve recognised that there was no keeping these two apart and moved Wendy into the same shared house as Ben. This arrangement allowed them to maintain their own safe spaces in case things took a downturn.
Having stable accommodation and stable neighbours in the shared house around them was a turning point for Ben and Wendy. It gave them the stability and motivation they needed to focus on their recovery. They were able to support each other in their recovery and access treatment and support services that helped them make significant progress.
Ben is now receiving much needed counselling, which is difficult but necessary for his sustained recovery. He is unlocking a lot of painful memories from his past, but he is facing them head-on with the support of his counsellor, his mental health worker and of course Steve and Wendy. Wendy helps Ben manage his diabetes, and they work together to master their addictions.
Ben and Wendy have been off the drugs for 2.5 years now and are proud to tell me that they also managed to give up smoking due to Wendy recently being rushed to the hospital with bronchial pneumonia.
Ben and Wendy eventually moved into their own SSJ move-on flat and are now looking towards the future with optimism. Wendy has started making bracelets for friends and family and has been offered volunteer work at the local drug and alcohol services provision. Ben attends College Keep for mental health support and is working on improving his fitness. Steve is still a big help to them both.
Their journey has not been easy, but they have come so far. They are immensely proud of where they are now but recognise that it has been a long journey. They credit the support of people like Steve, who believed in them and gave them a chance, as well as the stability of having a safe place to live, as key factors in their positive journey thus far.