Graham is a regular at Handcrafted; if you were to ever visit our workshop he’d definitely be one of the first guys to come and introduce himself and see if he could help you in anyway. You’d be forgiven for feeling he was one of life’s naturally outgoing and confident people, but the journey he’s been on to arrive at this point hasn’t been without some pretty dramatic twists and turns. He explains:
“I was born and bred in the North East but moved to London and was settled and working there. Things turned sour and I ended up serving two years in Brixton Prison for GBH. When I was released my marriage was over and I ended up coming back to the North East to be closer to family. I was driving taxis for work but in October 2013 I had a major heart attack and ended up with a stent in the back of my heart. I couldn’t drive anymore and so was constantly in the house. I was becoming severely depressed and between 2013 and 2015 I tried to commit suicide three times – the last time, I took 340 assorted tablets and I was found in a drug induced coma. I was rushed to hospital where I was in intensive care for a week. I was told my blood oxygen level was down to 48% and I believe that, although I tried to do this to myself, God or somebody was there to bring me back.
After I’d attempted suicide that last time, I ended up living in a homeless hostel, and, while I was there, I was asked if I’d be interested in going to a Monday night Connect church group. I went along and heard from Dan (Handcrafted founder) about Handcrafted, especially about the woodworking workshop, and so I came down, had a look around, saw what it was like and I started making things – I found it really interesting.
Coming to the workshop did give me a boost as before that I would have just been stuck in the hostel in one room, thinking ‘Where do I go from here?’. I probably would have ended up doing something stupid. It helped me grow in confidence and focus to the point where I was able to get my own place. Things went really well at first after I’d moved out of the hostel; I tried doing other things and made some new friends, but then things started to go downhill. I’m a big-hearted person and I let people take advantage of me and, in the end, it got so bad, with people treating my home like a drop-in, that I ended up lashing out at someone. I was arrested and cautioned for this and was left in a position where I felt I had no choice but to give up my house because I just couldn’t stay there.
I was so stressed by the prospect of becoming homeless again but I was encouraged by guys at Handcrafted who gave me the chance to move into one of their properties in Ushaw Moor. Since I’ve moved in I’ve got a housemate I get on with; I come along to Handcrafted every single day, Monday to Friday; I enjoy doing the cooking; I enjoy the companionship of all the other guys and staff. To me, if it wasn’t for Handcrafted intervening when I was at my lowest ebb, I wouldn’t be here now today.
While I’ve been in my new house, I’ve had some problems with my benefits. Handcrafted have really helped me out – organised who I needed to see, took me to appointments and they’ve also given me the chance to set up an email account so I can search for jobs.”
We are loving having Graham as part of our community, he embodies our heart to participate and contribute so well, and he makes a fantastic lunch!