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‘Being homeless breaks you. It makes you think you’re worthless’: Man’s heartbreaking story of rough sleeping - and how he is turning the corner

PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:36 26 September 2018

At his worst point Stephen drank over 40 units of alcohol a day Picture: SALVATION ARMY

At his worst point Stephen drank over 40 units of alcohol a day Picture: SALVATION ARMY

Archant

After battling a nine-year cycle of addiction and homelessness, 28-year-old Mr Halls is finally on the road towards a new life.

Christchurch Park is looking scorched following the long dry spell   Picture: SKY CAM EASTChristchurch Park is looking scorched following the long dry spell Picture: SKY CAM EAST

At his worst point, Mr Halls - from Ipswich - was drinking six litres of white cider a day and was sleeping rough in Christchurch Park.

His addiction began when he tried his first beer aged five years old, at the time his mother was addicted to drugs and his father was an alcoholic.

It developed into him playing truant from school whilst drinking and smoking cannabis, which led to him being kicked out of his home.

He spent the next nine years moving between the streets, girlfriends’ houses and sheltered accommodation.

Andrew Wallace has settled into temporary accommodation in Lyndon House, Ipswich. Picture: AMY GIBBONSAndrew Wallace has settled into temporary accommodation in Lyndon House, Ipswich. Picture: AMY GIBBONS

But after moving into the Salvation Army’s Lyndon House in Fore Street in December 2017, he has begun to build a new life for himself - receiving specialist support and regularly attending alcoholics’ anonymous meetings.

He said: “Being homeless breaks you. It makes you think you’re worthless.

“As my life got harder and harder, I would drink more and more. It got to the point was drinking over 40 units of alcohol a day. “I had my first beer at five, it was given to me, that’s where the problem started.”

Things started to go downhill when school became more difficult for Mr Halls and he was teased and bullied by other kids.

During the winter Mr Halls was forced to sleep in empty buildings on the docks Picture: David VincentDuring the winter Mr Halls was forced to sleep in empty buildings on the docks Picture: David Vincent

He said: “I was quite a quiet child, just kept myself to myself but things went wrong when I started fighting back against kids who were teasing me.

“Then I stopped going to school.”

Whilst playing truant, he went off drinking and smoking cannabis. Whilst his drug habit would later subside, his alcohol addiction continued

“I was 17 and drinking every day,” he said.

“I just thought it was casual and normal for a teenager to do that.”

“I already had homeless friends, they drank as well and I used to let them stay in my room and my drinking just got worse.

“My mum didn’t like me having them there, we had an argument and I was kicked out.”

Mr Halls hit his real low when he got arrested from stealing from the till while working at a bike shop and broke up with his then girlfriend.

“I was really struggling and I took some money out of the till,” he said.

“I got arrested, charged, sacked.

“Me and my girlfriend had a house together. When we finished I had to move out - that’s what broke me. Then the drinking got really bad then.

Mr Halls would spend most of his time sleeping rough in a park during the summer and finding shelter in the winter.

During the day he worked on a stall at Ipswich market, earning just enough each day to eat and feed his alcohol habit.

Thankfully Mr Halls last year got a call from Martin Selby, a key worker at the Salvation Army in town.

“I got a call from Martin telling me that there had been a room available at Lyndon House,” he said.

“I went to see the room and moved in soon after.

“I was totally honest with them from the start about I had done and they have been completely supportive to me.

“I’m so grateful to them.”

Mr Halls moved to the Lyndon House on Fore Street in December 2017.

He has since received specialist support from The Salvation Army and regularly attends AA meetings to help him tackle his alcohol addiction as well as the root causes that led to homelessness.

Mr Halls said: “I really wish I could just stop completely but I can’t.

“I’ve done it before and I ended up in hospital. My body just can’t take it - I can’t get out of bed, I seize up, I’m sick and if it gets any worse, I get a fit or a seizure.

“It’s really annoying. I hate the sight of that blue bottle, I hate that I need it for my body just to function properly.”

Mr Halls is currently working on weening himself off the alcohol, taking just a little each day to take the edge off.

“I’m drinking less each day and it’s definitely getting better,” he said.

“If I looked at myself a year ago I would think that I had no hope - but now I can look in the mirror, give myself a cheeky grin and know that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Mr Halls continues to work part-time at Ipswich market over the weekend.

He is currently looking a for a flat of his own and is working on getting a full-time job.

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