Simon's Story

Simon's Story

Since Alabaré Place was officially opened in April 2012 by HRH The Countess of  Wessex, our team has welcomed hundreds of homeless and vulnerable people.  They have included Simon, a former university teacher who spent 18 months with us in 2015. He says;

“I was lucky. I mean, I found Alabaré or Alabaré found me…..My early days at Alabaré were all about recovery, but gradually as recovery became quite embedded, I developed a life of that. And, and it’s, you know, it’s a good life now…my son’s back with me and thriving…”.

You can listen to our interview with Simon by following the link in this image, or by reading in full below.

 

 

Simon came into the office to tell me about the time that he spent with Alabaré, how he came to be a resident at Alabaré Place, our home for homeless adults, and how his life has changed since.  In his own words.

The Past

First of all, thank you for inviting me. I consider that to be a privilege. I'm 54 years old and a long, long time ago I was a university teacher. I then fell into a bottle of wine for about 30 years and as you can imagine things went downhill from there. In the second half of 2015, I had to say goodbye to my little boy, who was driven a hundred miles away from me and I became street homeless. And the saddest part of that is my addiction was so deeply embedded in me that as he was being driven away from me by a social worker, to go and live with my mother, I felt relieved because it meant I could go back to the pub. That's how spiritually impoverished I had become.

From 2015 to 2017 was the period I formed a relationship with Alabaré, which was the best thing that ever happened to me, but the worst thing that could have happened to him. So, in some ways, I'm grateful for all that whilst at the same time being deeply ashamed of it.

In August 2017, my son came back to live with me and that wouldn't have been possible without the support of you guys, so thank you.

Coming to Alabaré

Initially, I was street homeless, sleeping on benches around Warminster. That November was particularly cold and I was taken in by a hostel in Bath for a few weeks. Then I found a move on flat in Melksham and I was supposed to be bidding on homes for Wiltshire, but I was still drinking and they eventually booted me out.  Alabaré had given me an interview and they said I could come and stay on the No Second Night Out scheme. Then they found me a place in Alabaré Place. After about six weeks they moved me into one of the move-on flats. I think I was lucky.  You asked how I found Alabaré. Well, I think that Alabaré found me in a way, and it provided me a safe space in which to get well again. And that's the main thing I say Alabaré did for me. And I did meet some wonderful people, not just staff and volunteers who I can't speak highly enough of, but I also made some friendships with others who were using the facilities, some of which I still maintain.

So, several things happened to me at the same time. I was lucky. I mean, I found Alabaré or Alabaré found me, I started to go again to Alcoholics Anonymous and I accessed Turning Point. My son stayed within the family. I found God again. I was lucky that people tolerated me.

My early days at Alabaré were basically all about recovery, but as recovery became embedded, I developed a life outside of that. And, and it's, you know, it's a good life now. I do some freelance writing, my son's back with me and thriving and my main thought now when I wake up in the morning is, well it's never drink, it's normally God and gratitude. And I don't think I'd have come back to God if it hadn't been for Alabaré either and I'm just so, so grateful for everything that you did for me.

Alabaré Help

I was with Alabaré for around 18 months. First of all, as I say it was a safe space. I don't remember a single time when a volunteer or a staff member spoke out of turn to a single client, which I was grateful for. Obviously, there's a very strong Christian ethos within Alabaré, not that it's forced on you, but that's just kind of the culture of the organization and the first thing you see when you walk into Alabaré Place, as you probably know, is a quotation from John’s gospel. Then I think kindness, I mean, I think there's a culture of kindness in Alabaré Place and Alabaré generally, which is not to say that everything's tolerated. But I didn't see anyone, even people who had to be asked to leave, I didn't see them being treated with anything other than respect. 

Rock Bottom

I stopped drinking two or three days before I moved into Alabaré Place. I hit rock bottom the day my son was driven away from me, but I stayed at rock bottom for a bit and then started to recover very gradually.

Messages of Hope

Never give up and if you need to be in recovery, don't think you can do it by yourself, and you're going to have to work hard. There's always hope. It can be difficult. I mean, I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for this charity, I could have been dead. Also, always be prepared to ask for help. And whilst you can regret the situation you're in and rue the choices you've made, never think of yourself as worthless because there's a lot of people out there that think of homeless people as worthless. I've seen people step across homeless people to walk into church because there's a culture of selfishness out there and an intolerance and unwillingness to see Christ in other people. There is also an interesting culture around being homeless, especially street homeless. It has its own language, its own protocols. So I can look back not with fondness, but not all the memories are bad.

Views on Homelessness

In my case, it was my fault. Yeah. It's important to say that if you're an alcoholic you’re ill but it doesn't mean you shouldn't take responsibility and responsibility for your recovery as well. But there are a lot of people I knew, especially in this county ex-service people, who were homeless through absolutely no fault of their own. Soldiers come back and are discharged, the system spits them out, people who just have some bad luck, unemployment, mental illness, all sorts of reasons. One of the things I like about the Big Issue project is that when you buy a copy of the Big Issue from someone who's in the homelessness system it's not just the money, you're giving them. It's the fact that for 30 seconds, you're inhabiting the same moral space, you're involved in a transaction. And I think there's a spiritual dimension to that.

Can I tell you a story? Two or three Christmases ago a friend of mine gave my then eight-year-old five pounds. This was about a week before Christmas. I told him to buy himself something for Christmas. We were walking down the street and there was someone who was begging, street homeless. My son said to me, ‘I'm going to give that homeless person the five pounds, Dad.’ Initially, I was going to say, ‘Don't.’ Then I thought, ‘What, what are you thinking? Why are you of all people trying to interfere with the charitable impulse of an eight-year-old boy?’ So, he gave this guy his five pounds. About a week later we were walking past a hotel and the same guy came running up, I’d been chatting to him anyway, off and on, and he said, ‘Simon hang on a second.’ He came up and he pulled out five pounds and gave it to my son and said, ‘Happy Christmas.’ So that taught Ben the kind of law of spiritual physics that when you give, you get more.

Gratitude

There are plenty of things that could have made it worse but didn't happen because that's not in the cultural values of Alabaré. I'm so grateful for everything that you did for me, and as for my little boy, you gave him his father back.

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