Growing up, Darren considered his family life a happy one. When his mother remarried, though, his life began to spiral. “My stepdad used to pick me up, smash my head against the wall, hit me with a belt. Then he dragged my mum across the floor by her hair.”
Darren eventually moved out, but with shattered confidence and no real structure or sense of belonging, he got into bad company and developed an alcohol problem. “The people I mixed with used to let themselves in and when I’d tell them to leave, they’d say they weren’t going anywhere. So I had to leave my own house and come back the next day.”
Darren eventually decided he was better off in prison. “I made a plan with this lady so I could get sent to prison and get away from everyone. I felt prison would be safe for me.”
Comparatively, it was – prison gave Darren food and shelter, and it was rehab by default, free from drugs and alcohol. But by the time Darren left prison, he was back to square one with no support. He would go out of his way to get arrested, and ended up being recalled 10 times.
“I was getting upset that I was only getting put away for three months, six months at a time. I wanted to be put away for two years. I knew that when I came out of prison I’d have nowhere to live – I was hoping the council would give me a room, but they said I wasn’t vulnerable.”
It wasn’t until Darren hit rock bottom that he reluctantly accepted the offer of working with Nacro, but by the time he was leaving prison he had no interest in what anyone had to say – in the final weeks of his last sentence it had all got too much, and Darren had tried to hang himself. Right up to the day of his release he was skeptical about what Nacro could do to help him. “I just thought it was something else I had to jump through hoops for. They want me to do all this stuff when I come out when I still have nowhere to live.”
When Darren came out of prison he met Robert, a resettlement broker at Nacro, and the two of them went to argue his case as a vulnerable person with the local authority housing team, who agreed to place him in temporary accommodation while they decided his case. On that day, Nacro also helped Darren to register with a doctor and apply for benefits.
With the support of Nacro, Darren eventually built up the courage to attend Drug and Alcohol Services. He moved into supported accommodation and got himself clean. “I can do things for myself now. Before, I couldn’t pay my bills. Now I’m paying my council tax. It can work you know, you’ve just got to believe in yourself.”
Nacro has encouraged and inspired Darren to take the small steps needed to become more independent, financially stable and happy. “The best thing about Nacro is that you get opportunities to do things, and they encourage you and push you in the right direction.”
“It’s down to the right key workers. If you don’t have the support when you come out you don’t have much chance. There aren’t 100 Roberts floating around, unfortunately.” Darren is now taking all the right steps to improving his wellbeing and creating a meaningful life for himself. To him, this simply means “no worries, no stress, and having good people around you.”