Homeless man beset by mental illness tells of his struggle to find somewhere to live
Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved by Simon Folkard’s story.
Bedevilled by mental health issues for 20 years, Mr Folkard spent January 2 – his 42nd birthday – homeless in Ipswich.
Desperate for permanent accommodation, he was prepared to speak publicly about his illness in an effort to get a roof over his head.
He wanted to do so because he felt he had nowhere else to turn.
The words which followed provided a piercingly honest account of Mr Folkard’s descent into mental ill-health, and an unsparing insight into a troubled mind.
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Visited frequently by suicidal thoughts, Mr Folkard feels he is without help or hope.
Although the authorities insist they are willing to help they say he refuses to engage with them. However, Mr Folkard believes they have all but turned their backs on him.
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Now he trudges the streets of Ipswich while struggling with his demons.
Mr Folkard said: “I’m walking around homeless. I have got nothing left.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with me at the moment. Things have never looked so bleak.
“No one’s going to rehouse me. The only way it’s going to stop is if I stop it.
“If there’s a health system that’s meant to give you help that’s what it should be doing.
“My goal in life is not to be on a mental health ward. I don’t enjoy being ill. I would love to be healthy. I’d love to be working.”
Mr Folkard, originally from Colchester, said his problems began to surface in 1994. He was diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depression in 1996.
Mr Folkard said: “In 1997 I spent time in a hostel. I was sorting myself out and studying but there was quite a lot of instability.
“I got a job in a hospital for about a year and then started working in the pharmacy. I was on medication most of the time. I stopped it once and ended up a bit of a mess.
“I was doing really well for myself, but I had a problem with my neighbours.
“I also had a part-time job in a pub trying to get as much money as I could, but everything came on at once.
“I took an overdose. It would have been essentially a cry for help. I had no intention (to die), like I do now.”
“All I was worried about was focusing on my work. I wasn’t really bothered about my health.
“I went back and then the depression came back. I had some changes to my medication. I felt like a zombie which led to a loss of confidence.
“I had to give up work. I was out of work for 10 months and got quite well.
“I got a job as a care assistant in Colchester. I really loved it and found it really rewarding.
“Then just under a year later I came back down again and started to get agitated.
“I took quite a large overdose of anti-depressants. That resulted in me being in an intensive care unit for two days.”
Although Mr Folkard says he adored his work he decided he had to stop around 2000.
“I had a hard time coming to terms with leaving because I wanted that career.
“It kind of steadily grew (worse) from there.”
Mr Folkard said he was admitted to a mental unit in Colchester.
In 2001 he had long admissions frequent suicidal thoughts.
The following year he had electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which he said worked for a while.
Mr Folkard said he did some voluntary work but he was dogged by ill health with longer episodes of illness interspersed by short periods of being well.
In 2006 he had a long-term admission in a mental health until at The Lakes in Colchester before moving to Halstead.
He returned to Colchester in 2010. There were two more suicide attempts.
More ECT followed which he said improved his mood very quickly.
After living in temporary accommodation, he moved into support accommodation in Colchester.
Mr Folkard said by 2011 he was getting his confidence back but his illness returned without warning.
“I had an assessment and two weeks later I got a letter saying you are capable of work which crushed me.”
Further episodes of ill-health followed and he said he was sectioned at The Lakes.
After coming out he had nearly six months of good health in the summer of 2012, but relapsed.
“The last two or three months of 2012 I found myself getting more and more agitated.
“I started to have thoughts in terms of suicide and felt this is never going to go away.”
In December 2012 Mr Folkard tried to set fire to his flat intending to kill himself, but then called the fire brigade. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act before being prosecuted and imprisoned for 28 months for arson with reckless endangerment.
He came out of jail in June this year.
Mr Folkard said Colchester’s housing department was unable to find him anywhere permanent to live and he ended up at the Kingsley Guest House in London Road, Ipswich.
He continued to stay in Ipswich where he liked the staff who he said were good to him.
However, he said in October he received a letter from Colchester Borough Homes which stated that as he made himself intentionally homeless in 2012 it could not provide accommodation for him.
Mr Folkard said: “That started me going downhill.”
In mid-November he was told he would have to leave the Kingsley House and he received a letter saying he would be referred to Anglia Care Trust. The news came as a blow.
He said: “I wasn’t that well at all. I just went to pieces.”
After booking himself into a Travelodge Mr Folkard said he attempted to hang himself in his room.
He was taken to the Woodlands Unit at Ipswich Hospital.
Mr Folkard said since mid-November he has had nowhere to go or stay.
“It’s been utter chaos.”
Friends have given him money for the occasional stays in cheaper hotels, for which he is appreciative.
Before Christmas he ended up at a Travelodge in Norwich which looks out on to the city’s bus station.
He said he climbed out of his window and got on to the ledge, intending to jump.
Police brought him back to Suffolk and returned him to the Woodlands Unit.
“I just felt a complete fool for screwing up what I had planned.
“I was like a lost child. I was a mess. I just felt in absolute pieces.
Although Mr Folkard spent about 12 days in his second visit to the Woodlands Unit he ended up walking out as he felt staff did not understand his issues.
He believes he would have been expected to find his own accommodation rather than have someone find it for him.
Mr Folkard said he is not able to deal with the pressure.
Shortly after finding out two people had died in three days after apparently falling from the Orwell Bridge, Mr Folkard said he intended to do the same.
Police found him walking up the bridge and he was sectioned again.
He left the hospital after refusing to engage with staff because he felt they did not understand the nature of his illness.
Over the Christmas period Mr Folkard said he slept in doorways around the town and anywhere else secluded from the elements.
He claimed to have been to the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital five times in two weeks to try to find somewhere to sleep and said security staff found him on the floor of a disabled toilet.
Mr Folkard said the police have been very kind, but have been unable to solve his homelessness problem.
For now he lives from hand to mouth, each night looking for a place to shelter from the elements.
A Colchester Borough Homes spokeswoman, said: “Colchester Borough Homes has been and continues to work with Mr Folkard.
“We have provided a reasonable period of temporary accommodation and are supporting him in the search for a new home.
“Mr Folkard has been referred to Anglia Care Trust to assist him to find a private landlord in Colchester, but he has declined to engage with them. We are continuing to engage with him to offer advice and assistance where possible and Anglian Care Trust is still able to assist him to find a landlord when he is ready to work with them.
“When a tenant makes themselves homeless by their criminal actions, Government legislation states that we do not have a duty of care to provide accommodation, but instead to offer advice and assistance.
“We work hard to provide supportive and efficient services to customers who are tenants already and also to customers who are on the waiting list for a home.”
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s Alison Armstrong, Director of Operations (Suffolk), said: “Our Trust is unable to comment on confidential patient matters. However, if this service user would like to contact our Trust directly, we will take a further look into the issues raised.
“When patients are discharged, accommodation is one of the factors we examine and, when required, information and support about how to access suitable accommodation is provided.
“Before being discharged from a ward, we ensure a patient will receive the relevant support from the Trust that meets their needs. This can include follow up telephone calls, a referral to our community mental health teams or other community support if required
“If a patient is identified as being vulnerable to homelessness and has mental health needs, we work with local authority social care and third sector colleagues in Suffolk, including Shelter, Mind and Julian Support to look at housing options, including temporary accommodation.”