Gordon works as a volunteer Peer Advisor with our Yorkshire Team helping other people overcome the challenges he did in turning his life around. He currently in the final stages of securing his Level 3 Information, Advice and Guidance qualification. Read his story here.
"My name is Gordon and I am a Peer Advisor volunteer with St Giles Trust in Leeds.
I'm a recovering heroin and crack cocaine addict and have been in and out of prison since the age of 16. I first tried cannabis when I was 9 years old and this eventually escalated to other drugs when I was 13. I first tried heroin and crack when I was 15.
I was expelled from school but luckily was allowed to still do my GCSEs. I gained 9 and got average grades.
But by then I was too caught up in the negative role models around me and thought I enjoyed fighting and being a bit of a Jack the lad.
At 15 my life spiralled out of control and it wasn’t long before my first stint in prison. I have served several prison sentences and have spent nearly 12 years of my life inside.
I first admitted I had a problem with drugs in 1999 and went to rehab in 2001. Since then I have spent years trying to get to get to grips with my addiction and reckless lifestyle. I have had periods of stability and tried really hard to fit back into life, but unfortunately at some point always relapsed then started offending again. I stayed out of prison and remained clean for over 5 years from 2005 to 2010. This was when my children were born. But I didn't handle the breakup from my ex very well and eventually relapsed.
On the 29th of July 2016 I was released from serving a 4 year custodial sentence. I had been released before at the halfway stage but only lasted 10 days and was recalled back to prison to serve the remaining 2 years. This really broke me.
During the end of my recall I came across St Giles Trust. I liked what I read on a flyer and thought about accessing support. When I had 6 weeks left I spoke to a lady who worked for St Giles Trust and asked for support. She helped me loads and arranged for another worker to come in who was part of the CF03 programme helping prison leavers.
Unfortunately, on the first day I was released homeless due to the shortage of housing in Leeds. I turned up at St Giles Trust and was given a mobile phone. This meant I could keep in regular contact with my support worker, attend appointments and also the job club to help look for work.
I talked about my past achievements and my interest in becoming a Peer Advisor. I was really keen but had to wait as the Level 3 Information Advice and Guidance (IAG). But I’m not one to be deterred and St Giles Trust put me in touch with Bradford College where I completed the Open Leaning Information Advice and Guidance Level 2 course. I found this quite difficult to complete whilst being homeless and trying to rebuild my relationship with my children. But fortunately, due to hard work and determination I passed.
I was also funded through St Giles Trust to do a Forklift Truck Driving course which I passed and completed. The more I turned up at the office the more I got to know the staff there. They're brilliant – really supportive and have helped me loads.
Last Christmas, I was interviewed for a place on the IAG Level 3 course and was offered a place. Also, which really excited me, I was offered my placement with St Giles Trust too.
Since then, I have completed the 12 week course, part of the qualification and am still in the placement. I have built up good professional relationships with my colleagues and clients.
At Easter, we climbed the 3 Peaks for St Giles Trust. This was quite a challenge but as a team we got through it. My life has much more of a purpose now. As well as being a parent, I have professional commitments and love volunteering with St Giles Trust.
Next week I'm off to London to an event to represent St Giles Trust and the work we do.
I have grown in confidence so much and finally feel part of life again. St Giles Trust has helped me immensely and I'll always be grateful.
Onwards and upwards as they say.
Thank you St Giles Trust."