Sam has autism and a learning disability. He wanted three things to help him turn his life around; the right support, the right home and to find work.
“I went to live with my Dad when my parents split up. I was 16 years old,” says Sam, GLH tenant. “My Dad died when I was 19.”
“It was decided that I should go into supported living as I couldn’t look after myself, which was true at that time. They put me in a home with people with profound and multiple disabilities. It wasn’t the right place for me as we had different abilities.
I was isolated and became insular. All my time was spent in my room on the internet and reading books. It had a huge sociological effect on me. I sank into depression and put on weight. After a period of time I became homeless, and at that time I was 32 stone.
The local authority put me into emergency accommodation. For the next six months I lived in a B&B. Being homeless was awful. It was a shock to my system. During this time I realised the want for a different type of life had to come from me but I couldn’t do it alone.
To turn my life around I needed the right support to help me with progressive change and a stable home, then I could find work. Being 32 stone brings health problems of its own, so I needed to lose weight as I possibly wouldn’t see past my 30s. My aim was to be happy.
I got a new care provider who still support me today, and Golden Lane Housing helped me to find the right home. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m incredibly grateful, more than you’ll ever know. The government has paid for my support and my home, which is needed and I really appreciate it – but I don’t want this forever, I hoping in the future to make a financial contribution to society by finding a full time paid job.
When I moved into my new home, I looked for voluntary work straight away. I came to Oxfam and picked up an application form for a voluntary job. The next morning I brought it back. Several years on, I cover for my line manager John, and responsible for e-commerce; selling books and chatting to customers online. John is fantastic and gives people the opportunity to get involved in many ways. I often swing just to check everything is okay.
My other type of voluntary work is with horses. I love them. After researching on the internet I found approached a few places and began volunteering with horses. Since then, I’ve got certificates Land Based Studies Level 1 and British Horse Society Stable Management. I’m hoping to progress in this and make it my full time job, otherwise I’d like to run my own Oxfam shop – I really like them both.
I made lifestyle changes so I’m more active, that’s also helped looking after horses. I’ve lost half the weight, I’m now 16 stone. I’ve made real friends too, something I’ve always wanted. They accept me for who I am and people who I can count on outside of my family.
It’s been one day at a time, which has turned into five years. It’s still challenging and I’ve not reached my goal yet, but I’m getting there. Most importantly, I’m happy and I’ve made a future for myself.
John Hunt, manager at Oxfam talks about Sam’s volunteering work:
“Our volunteers have all kinds of abilities. Sam’s really good with the computer and does our e-commerce, which has raised over £2,400 since April. He researches and values the donated books using a variety of internet resources before putting them on-line including description and condition. he then responds to all the online enquiries generated.
He’s a really reliable volunteer; hard-working, gets involved in all types of work and an asset to the shop. Over time Sam’s taken on more responsibilities, and can always be relied on to stand in for me when I’m not there.”
Find out more
This year, Mencap’s Learning Disability Week focuses on employment, visit their website to find out more. #LDWeek17