When I found out I had 14 days to vacate my home (Read why HERE) I had never heard of Conduit Engagement but I knew Chris. I felt lost with nowhere to turn. The kids relied on me and I had promised everyone that I would be the best father ever but now I had already let them down. For a while I buried my head and went into auto-drive, pretending it wasn’t happening. With the support of SSAFA I slowly started to face reality. They helped pay for the removals of our stuff and for storage whilst we were moved into emergency accommodation. This made it all to real and from then on I knew I had to switch on.
I remember hearing Chris on BBC Radio talking about his forces recruitment company, Conduit Engagement. I remember listening to how he was helping forces veterans and I remember feeling like I wish I could just phone him. We had known each other several years `due to service but I felt like a massive failure and although I knew he wouldn’t judge or pity I didn’t feel ready to say anything out loud.
We moved into the Hostel and initially I felt optimistic about things, it was a nice room with a fridge freezer and washing facilities something we didn’t have the luxury of in the Hotel. Another bonus was free parking and not having to find £4.50 a night. Things quickly deteriorated due to lack of sleep brought on by the fact we were all in one room and the children would not settle with me active. I tried everything from sitting in the dark to leaving the room but this made things worse as they were scared.
I remember feeling all alone in there. I was getting no response from the council towards my queries or concerns and I felt that I was now a tear drop in the ocean of the homeless system. Things continued to get worse. We were constantly having our washing stolen from the laundry room the kids were petrified to go outside alone in the evening because of other residents and the living conditions in the ablutions was dire. This coupled with my mental health problems was leaving me feeling like a zombie. I became very angry, frustrated and disinterested in everything around me.
Then one day I was reading the Evening Telegraph and I saw the town hall had a community drop in on Tuesday mornings for forces veterans. I went along and that is when I met Chris again for the first time in over 5 years. He promised me everything was going to be ok and that he had my back. Truth be known I didn’t listen, I was already more than accustomed to being let down by everyone around me. The only thing keeping me going were my kids and my partner, who I was hardly seeing as she lives in Leicester and she wasn’t allowed to stay at the hostel.
Days turned into weeks and weeks in to months but sure enough Chris worked tirelessly. One evening taking a call from me at almost midnight to reassure me that everything would be ok. The truth is I was falling apart and still had no idea how to save myself from sinking further into a depression that was crippling me. The final nail in the coffin for me was when my 9 year old daughter was playing hide and seek with some other children and one of them, a student at Stanground Academy sprayed her in the face with pepper spray.
A very emotional phone call to Chris at Conduit Engagement and he assured me he would break his back to get me out of there. That he did when two weeks later I got a phone call saying he had something planned. I was building a shed with my brother at the time and Chris insisted I needed to come to the office. I told him I was busy and that I didn’t have time but he was insistent. I went to his office and he greeted me at reception. We went upstairs where he informed me that he had sorted a move for me to St Michaels gate in Parnwell. I wanted to believe this was it a move away from one room in a hostel full of alcoholics and ex convicts but my newly diagnosed PTSD would not allow me to accept that there was actually light at the end of the tunnel.
The next week was a different type of hell. I was soo looking forward to moving out of the Hostel but I was also cautious that I didn’t have the keys in my hand yet. That is until on Monday the 22nd May when I finally met Chris outside the house. We met the agent had a look round and signed the paper work. FINALLY I was handed the keys. I know this again is temporary but it was a home. It had a separate bedroom for the kids and our own clean kitchen and bathroom. No longer did I have to put up with human faeces in the showers or 2 day old Sheppard pie in the oven.
The day of the move and I was excited and nervous. I had a lot of stuff to get from my room to my car and then from my car to the flat. Then at 10AM a car turned up with three lads from Oppo2Opp, Chris’s charity. We had the hostel room completely empty, hovered and cleaned in 30 mins and we were out of there. I can honestly say I was walking on water that day Oppo2Oppo made the move soo easy with helping to move my furniture in and erecting beds and wardrobes. Within a couple of hours I was in and set up with one lad even cutting the grass for me.
I remember leaving Oppo2Oppo and Chris in the flat whilst I went to get the kids from my sisters. was about 7PM so they had all done a 10 hour shift but happily waited to meet the children. I remember driving to my sisters with tears in my eyes; I sobbed all the way there as I felt that I could finally be the dad to my children that I set out to be after taking custody of them. We had a home again and we had stability for the first time in 6 months for me and the first time in 2 years for them.
I remember a real sense of pride in Chris, Carley and the lads from Oppo2Oppo, There is so much more they did for me and I can honestly say they saved my life. Not physically but emotionally I was on a horrible slide and he saved me more than he will ever know. More than I can ever put into words or emotions. More than I can ever explain. Seeing the kids run into the garden and jumping in to Chris’s arms smiling and laughing before exploring their new home was the best feeling I had experienced in such a long time.
Not only did I have stability, Security and a stable foundation for my kids again for the first time since leaving the RAF. I felt like I had real friends again. I am no longer in a situation where I felt alone with the world against me. I had contemplated the unthinkable on more than one occasion. My life is now going from strength to strength, because with Chris and his team at Conduit Engagement on my side it can’t possibly go wrong.
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