Hey guys, my name is Carl. I’m 36 years old and live just outside of Bristol.
Homelessness is something that I hold dear to my heart and that is why I am taking part in the Bristol Sleep Out on the 26th February 2016 for The Big Issue Foundation.
Due to family relationships breaking down, I was first homeless when I was around the age of 16. I wasn’t homeless in the conventional sense of the term, but I was doing something which is known as sofa surfing. I used to bounce from friend to friend and with that sofa to sofa and I had no official fixed abode.
A recent poll of 2,000 young people aged between the age of 16-25 found that many of them had no choice but to stay with friends or members of their extended family on floors or sofas.
I was part of this UKs hidden homeless.
During this time, my life spiralled out of control and I fell into drug addiction. I starting with alcohol and marijuana at first and then moved on to harder drugs like amphetamines and barbiturates.
By the age of 18 I was completely dependent on drugs to function in my day to day life.
Not only did my family relationships break down but so did all of my mutual friendships. This was all down to my own destructive behaviour.
It was at this time when I first became homeless in the way most understand and was sleeping rough on the streets of London, namely Camden town. By then my drug use was completely out of control and I was using both crack cocaine and heroin along with a cocktail of whatever I could get my hands on.
Where ever I went, I was well known by the police and often found myself in a police cell and on four occasions, prison.
This broken lifestyle went on for many years and I kept finding myself homeless in different parts of London. First it was Camden town and then Crouch End, Wood green, Tottenham and finally the West End, around Oxford Street.
After a serious suicide attempt I knew that something needed to change. I realised I needed to change and started to engage with local services and the Big Issue was one of them.
Although I didn’t have an official selling spot, I used to walk daily from Oxford Street to Vauxhall and pick up magazines and then returned to sell them around Hyde Park.
The Big Issue helped me find a little purpose amongst the madness. It also helped me stay away from crime and stopped me from having to beg on the streets. There were days that if it was not for the Big Issue I would not have eaten.
I have never said thank you to the Big Issue Organisation but that is something I do now by taking part in the ‘Big Sleep Out, Bristol. They played a big part in the turning point of my life and I am grateful for the service and support they provided me.
Now to date and through the kindness of others and the support of local services like the Big Issue, DASH and Weston Cancelling services. I am proud to say I am almost 10 years clean.
I am now 36 years old and have a lovely home, a wonderful, supportive wife and beautiful little girl who is actually going to be 6 on the 26th February.
I have just launched my own partnership business named Clear & Clean House Clearance Bristol and with that we aim to support local homeless charities by donating house hold items to them.
I am also in the process of writing my first book and hope to have it finished and published next year.
I hope that my story and taking part in the Big Sleep out, Bristol will help raise awareness of homelessness in our City.
It is reported that over 100 people sleep rough in Bristol every night and that these people are just the ones outreach organizations are able to count. This figure does not include those that are hidden or sofa surfers with that, we can be sure that the actual number is much greater.
My story is one of self-destruction but there are many others who are homeless down to no fault of their own.
No matter what the story is, more needs to be done to get these people of the streets and that why events like the Big Sleep Out Bristol are vital to help raise awareness of this desperate situation and also to help raise much needed funds.
Please…If you would like to donate to the Big Issue and help support them in ending homelessness you can do so on their website at https://www.bigissue.org.uk/donate. You can also sponsor me for taking part in the Bristol Sleep Out here: https://www.justgiving.com/clear-and-clean/