When I was released from prison, some member of the church met me at the gates and took me to the house. No-one had ever done that for me before and it made me feel a bit less anxious. I felt like someone actually cared about what happened to me.
We arrived at the Hope into Action house and I was told that it would be my home. The house itself was so lovely. It was clean and had everything I would need. People from the church had pitched in to help furnish the house, so I had a bed to sleep on, a sofa to sit on and a table to eat at. I was surprised that people who I’d never met had obviously put in so much effort to make it feel homely for me.
For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt welcome and wanted.
That first night, I had a welcome meeting with Steve, the vicar of the partner church. We had a meal together, cooked by one of the volunteers at the house. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt welcome and wanted.
Steve talked through everything with me and reassured me that the people from Hope into Action would help support me getting back into employment. We also went through lots of other housekeeping things together like paying bills, so that I knew exactly what needed to be paid and when. He said it might take a while for my benefits to arrive, so they gave me some Foodbank vouchers to get me through in the meantime.
I met my housemate the day I moved into the Hope into Action house. It felt a bit strange to suddenly be sharing a house with a complete stranger, but in some ways, I liked the fact that I wasn’t on my own. He’d been there a while, so he seemed very much at home and said he’d show me the ropes over the next few days. I was pleased there was someone who I could ask where the nearest bus stop was and the local shop.
It was an amazing feeling to have my own room for the first time in ages. Just the privacy of not having to share a bedroom felt really good. It was really peaceful – I hadn’t realised how much the noise of the prison bothered me until I noticed the peace and quiet of the Hope into Action home.
Having a bathroom felt like a bit of a luxury after sharing facilities with loads of other blokes in prison. Someone had thoughtfully provided some clean towels and toiletries to me to use, so that I could freshen up.
It’s hard to describe how I felt the first night I slept in the Hope into Action house; I think it was a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Here I was, in my new home, living with someone I’d only met an hour or so before. Everything was different.
The weirdest thing was that a bunch of complete strangers from a church I’d never been to had worked so hard to make me feel wanted and welcomed. They actually seemed to care what happened to me. I wasn’t used to feeling like that. It was strange…. but I really felt touched by it.