After his marriage broke down, Michael found himself living on his brother’s sofa and began suffering from depression. But with support from our community support service – and gaining his first permanent home in 18 years - he found himself again.

I moved to America in 2014 after meeting my wife. I enjoyed living there, moving around a lot, but I soon found out that she was very controlling. She didn’t want me to have any friends – male or female – and that’s when my depression started.

It got to the point when even talking to friends on Whatsapp would cause an argument, so I knew I had to leave and come back here.

 Luckily, my brother picked me up, so I had somewhere to stay.

When I was back, the depression really kicked in. I had underestimated how much my marriage met to me. Nothing helped and I just kept on sinking lower and lower, I was in a spiral. Some days I didn’t even wash or get dressed. I started drinking beer during the day. Looking back, I think I was grieving.

My brother would come home and say “What the hell are you doing Michael?” I didn’t know. 

I even tried to commit suicide – I didn’t actually want to do it, it was just a call for help.

I went so downhill that I even stopped painting for four months. For the last 27 years, art has been consistent in my life. I started in 1991 after my mum died – I used it as therapy and it just grew from there. It’s a big part of my story. I wouldn’t be here without it.

I’ve always felt that drawing and art is a process from beginning to end and at any point, you can give up and stop, but you can’t you’ve got to finish and that’s a character building thing. Then you get to the end of the journey. It’s like life, you’ve got to keep going.

After two years living on the sofa like that, I eventually went to the GP for help. He suggested I talk to the Council. I wasn’t sure they would help, but that led me to SHP.

The best thing they did was finding me this SHP flat. I’ve not had my own place since 2000, 18 years without a proper home. On the day I moved in, I just shut the door and cried.  

My support workers with SHP really helped me to start putting myself back together.

I started to do things like go to coffee mornings and trips; met new people; improved my skills and did a bit of volunteer cooking. I began dealing with my mental health at a group called Talking Therapy.

The best thing they did was finding me this SHP flat. I’ve not had my own place since 2000, 18 years without a proper home. On the day I moved in, I just shut the door and cried.  

I found the flat difficult at first – I wasn’t used to all this space and the independence. I sort of encamped in the living room as that was what I was used to!

I even got back some of my old possessions and furniture that my brother had kept - including a lovely old cabinet of my sister’s. I’ve put some art on the walls and got my records and easel out. I’ve made it my own. Now, my support worker often shows my flat as the showpiece one to new residents.

Having a stable place to live has really helped me move forward. I’ve always been keen to get back into employment, but it’s hard when you’re 52. This was the next thing my support worker moved onto, helping with my CV and confidence. And I’ve now got a job in M&S. It’s only part-time over Christmas, but feel like it’s coming together now.

I’m still at the start of my journey, but I feel my old confidence is back. And my ambitions, which I lost. Of course, becoming a professional artist is the dream. I’ve got hopes of doing an exhibition around the 70s, around my childhood. I have dreams of getting an art studio in Ilford.

Two years ago, it was almost like I was like Lego pieces – all scattered. Lost. Thanks to SHP, I’ve started to build myself back together.

Michael's beautiful painting 'New Jersey Winter Trees' was also one of Christmas Card designs this year. Buy it now from our Christmas Card Shop.

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