Jonathan has led an eventful life. He has lived in one of our Independent Living for Older People (ILOPs) schemes for the last five years.
"I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not ashamed of my past. I’m proud of where I am now. I was born in the 60s on the edge of a town. It was a good family; when I was a kid we’d go mushrooming, blackberrying and fishing.
"But it all fell apart when my parents’ marriage ended. They’d started fighting all the time and I got sucked into the vortex.
"I had never done well at school. I’m really short sighted, but it took them a couple of years to figure it out and by that point I’d already got a bad reputation at school.
"After school I did a couple of small jobs. I worked in a pig farm, and my Dad got me a job at Unigate, but I got sacked when the foreman caught me with my finger in the cream!
"By this point I’d started smoking cannabis and taking LSD. Then I started on amphetamine – it didn’t help my mental health! At 20 I ended up in a detention centre, but I didn’t get into much trouble when I was there, 'cause I was one of the oldest.
"When I got out, I met Nancy. She already had a new-born baby, and it was my job to look after them. I used to sneak out early in the morning to help myself to food from delivery trucks, round the back of shops. By the time I got caught and sent down again, Nancy was pregnant with my baby.
"When I was in prison I got a letter to say that my baby had been born; then another one to say the baby had died from cot death. I tried to find Nancy when I got out, but she’d left town. I tried to settle down after that, but I just couldn’t. I went back home, but it didn’t work out, so I got on my mate’s bus and just left town. Over time, I learnt to live on the streets. From other people I learnt how to beg, where the soup kitchens were and how to get free food.
"I met another girl - her father had abused her, and I think she looked up to me as a father figure. I ended up burgling again to support our amphetamine habit. I wasn’t a very good burglar and got caught again! I wrote a letter to the court, telling them about my life, and it kept me out of jail.
"The judge said the letter showed I had sensitivity and intelligence and he didn’t want to send me to prison. It was the first time anyone had praised me and it made me really proud of myself and think maybe I could do something else.
"By then people on the streets had started using heroin and they started to die around me. My best mate died of alcoholism, right in front of me. It is the worst thing I have seen.
"I ended up in Nottingham. Fed up of seeing people die and with liver failure I stopped drinking. I was sober for six months, and then celebrated with a drink... My liver started to fail again, but I was lucky - there was funding available back then - and I was sent to rehab. I decided I needed to kick everything.
"I was sent to The Ark in Scarborough and for the first time ever people were nice to me, they encouraged me. In Scarborough I started back in education. I’d never even been on a computer before. But I did it, and I moved on to a degree in psychology at Derby College.
"I’d spent my whole life being told I was stupid, thinking I was stupid. It turns out I have an IQ of 127! Why didn’t my teachers notice this? I then got my dream job in Nottingham. I was a support worker for people with a dual diagnosis of mental health and addiction. It was a 12 month contract and I loved it, but when my contract ended, the government funding was cut and I lost my job without any redundancy pay. I felt like I had lost everything and fell into depression. Then I got evicted from my bedsit, so the flat could be turned into student digs. I had to live somewhere, so I looked online and that’s when I found Ben Mayo Court.
"I’ve still got my troubles, but I’m seeing a psychologist and the emotions I’ve tried to ignore for so long are coming back. I’ve seen a lot of death, but I’ve never let myself mourn. I’m going through Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It teaches you that there is an emotional way and a rational way to look at everything. You need to identify and balance the two.
"The staff at Ben Mayo really help me, but I look after myself too - and I’m getting better at it! It feels safe here, I’ve got support when I need it, and the space to be me when I want to be alone. I have nothing to hide."