“I went from prison to rough sleeping but now reoffending ain’t even in my vocabulary”
When Adam May was in prison for a second time – on a 28 day recall for non-attendance of probation – he felt hopeless. He thought this would be his life now – bouncing between prison and the streets.
He hadn’t been able to keep his appointments with his probation officer because it was difficult to stick to a schedule when he was rough sleeping in Croydon.
Speaking now from the comfort of his supported housing, he describes what it was like to bed down outside night after night. “I was just using the services available,” he says.
“Five days out of seven I’d go somewhere for a meal, hot drink, a shower. You get a couple of hours in these places. Then you go out and find yourself a spot for the night. It was mostly carparks, anywhere warm, near a heat source.”
He was part of a community of rough sleepers in Croydon and there were a few who, like him were yo-yoing between jail and the streets.
“It’s not nice. It deteriorates you. Sends people suicidal, to alcohol, to drugs, to all sorts of things. It all comes down to what kind of individual you are. Take me, I was lucky, I never turned to none of that. But I had a reason to keep going – my children.”
When he got in trouble with probation, his officer told him to hand himself in, do his 28 days and then she would help.
While he was in prison, Adam’s probation officer got in touch with homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support’s Prison Discharge Navigator (PDN) Jo Alexander.
The goal of the PDN is to stop offenders rough sleeping – to make sure they have somewhere to go on their release.
Jo Alexander went to visit Adam in prison.
“From that very first meeting Adam seemed motivated and determined to get his life back on track,” she says.
“I knew it’d be a long road,” says Adam. “But when Jo came along the light got brighter and the tunnel got shorter.”
Jo arranged for Adam, who’s 27, to move into an Evolve homelessness service for young people.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I’m not one to be doing places like this. I’m independent, never rely on no one.
“But everything has been positive, there’s not one bad thing to say – the staff are friendly, they’re welcoming with the missus, they give me everything I need.
“It’s all fair.”
Adam says he had been going from hostel to home since his childhood in Margate.
At 17 he began working as a plasterer and for a while he lived independently.
His aspirations were derailed when he was caught for a petty crime. But, he says, it’s not a life he’s going back to.
“My probation is happy with me. Reoffending aint even in my vocabulary.
“I want to work in an Evolve service to give something back. I see the satisfaction they get to see a person doing better, looking better, I’d love to be able to do that for someone one day. To think a person is in the situation I was in and I can come along and get them on the right path.”
Adam has a girlfriend of two years and a daughter he sees regularly.
One day he’d like them to get a place of their own. “We like views. We’ve got a few little spots where we like to sit and look at the lights and the buildings in the distance.
“I’d like a place with a view.”
As told to Press Officer Liane Wimhurst