Daryl’s just had a fresh haircut. A neat shave back and sides. His friends at the drop-in centre tease him that he looks like a soldier now. He’s thirty-two but appears a good ten years younger. Young enough to still get asked for ID if he wants to buy a can of Red Bull. 

He’s polite, personable, and speaks candidly about his experiences of drug addiction and homelessness in Middlesbrough. Like many other people experiencing homelessness in the town, he’s been attending Depaul UK’s drop-in centre on Monday and Wednesday mornings, where the team provide support and guidance to anyone who needs it. 

Daryl’s problems began when he was made redundant from his job as a car mechanic. At the same time, he was served a section 21 eviction notice on his flat and suffered several bereavements in the family home. Struggling to cope, he turned to drugs, but this only made matters worse. Eventually, his partner left too. 

Living in a tent for five months, he queued for hours daily at the local council offices, trying to get housing support. Despite presenting with drug addiction and mental health struggles, he wasn’t deemed high priority and was continually turned down. 

 Daryl’s luck began to turn around when he went to Recovery Solutions, a local charity that helps people with their drug addictions. Since then, Daryl has made great progress and started attending the Depaul UK drop-in centre as well.  

Until recently, he’s been living in a hostel for people on drug treatment programmes, but he’s been finding the conditions difficult.  

“I just keep myself to myself,” he says, “I leave in the morning and then I’ll go back in the night. No one sees me because they’ll just knock on your door if they know you’ve got cigarettes or anything like that. ‘You got this. You got that’. Just does your head in. And so I’ll go back later on when no one will see me and I’ll just stay in my room. And when someone knocks on my door, I’ll just ignore them. It’s not worth the trouble.” 

Martin Picken, who manages the drop-in-centre in Middlesbrough, saw how motivated Daryl was to change his life and acted quickly to secure a flat where he could receive wrap-around support for his problems, away from any negative influences. 

 “To get a flat off Martin,” says Poppy, a support worker with Recovery Solutions who uses the drop-in-centre to meet clients, “Martin wanted him to engage with us. Daryl has done that brilliantly. I’ve been able to feed that back to Martin, and now he’s been given that flat. I believe that guy will go far from drug use. I believe he’ll change his life.” 

Daryl couldn’t believe it when he heard he’d got the flat.

“It’s like wow. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I can’t wait, honestly. It’s a nice flat, as well. A two-bedroom flat. Really quiet area.” 

“I was living in my own place for like four years, but obviously a lot of stuff went on, which is obviously why I went off the rails last year. I took anything to try and cope, but that wasn’t the right way and I realise that now. I’m not going to go back that way again. You can’t change your past, but you can change your future.

I’ve already lost everything once in my life, I don’t want to lose it again. It won’t be easy but I’m not going back to that life. I’ve had enough of all that. Only forward.”