In 2002, Phil wanted to escape his life in Hull, so took the first train he could, which was headed straight for London. In his twenties and addicted to crack and heroin, he wanted to make a new start. But arriving in Kings Cross with no support, no friends and no family, he began sleeping rough:
“Scary, frightening, fearful… You’re sleeping on the pavement where people walk all day long. And you’re also laid down there at a height for people’s feet to give you a kick… Which I’ve seen many a time.”
Before his addiction took over, Phil worked full time, driving machinery on construction sites. Between 2002 -2008 he was usually employed, but when his contract ended just as his licence ran out, he couldn’t afford to renew the licence, so couldn’t secure his next job.
In 2008 when he was homeless again, Phil found a lump in his neck. He went to The Connection, where he knew nurses could assess him. Following his visit, he was quickly sent to hospital, and diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He was treated, and his thyroid was removed.
Phil returned to Hull to be with family, but came back to London years later in 2017, as he’d been using drugs again. He was rough sleeping but says “when I put myself on the streets it becomes a thing of ‘I need to get my life in order’. So that use slowly stopped and that’s when I started to feel better…”
Phil came off the drugs, but suffered two bouts of pneumonia and his health seriously deteriorated. He returned to The Connection because he knew that he’d be able to seek help, talk to people and use the facilities there. Just taking a shower could make a huge difference:
“Think about the muddiest field. And you’ve just been dragged round it.. You’re absolutely filthy. And you’ve done that for a couple of days on the trot… Then you finally get a shower… And it just rejuvenates you.. It really does help get some warmth within you.”
Phil stayed at The Connection Emergency Night Centre where his body could rest and recover. And with help from his key worker, he found a studio in west London. In March 2019, Phil moved in.
“Having your own key to your door, you can close it, lock it, that’s it. It’s your own place.…Having that independence makes you feel good in itself.”
Today, Phil volunteers at The Connection and joins the Outreach Team, speaking to people sleeping on the street and finding out what help they need.