How Shaun turned his back on an abusive childhood and the revolving door of prison

Turning his back on an abusive childhood and the revolving door of prison with the help of the ‘No Wrong Door Network

Walking out with a new hope

Shaun Kelly is 48 years old.  After an abusive childhood he spiraled out of control as a teenager, getting expelled from school at 15 and kicked out of his home at about 19 years old. He  became  homeless,  his  mental  health  deteriorated  and  a  violent assault triggered Post traumatic Stress Disorder.With no direction or anchor in his life he was caught up in a repeating cycle of violence, crime and prison.  For nearly 30 years he went in and out of prison.

But  things  have  changed.    Toward  the  end  of  his  last  sentence   Shaun   connected   with   Birmingham   Changing   Futures  Together’s  No  Wrong  Door  Network,  a  group  of  18  organisations  working  together  to  provide  ‘joined-up’  services  through  one  point  of  contact.    Instead  of  walking  out  of  prison  to  a  frightening  and  isolated  life,  he  was  met  by  a  peer  mentor  and  lead  worker  from  Shelter.    That  was  January  2016.    Since  then,  as  well  as  receiving  the  housing  support from Shelter, he has been referred to other Network members  for  support  specific  to  his  needs,  which  includes  anger and stress management courses and counselling.

No Wrong Door

He’s  been  free  of  alcohol  and  drugs  since  then  and  is  now  looking forward to a positive future.

Shaun’s story

Shaun  was  raised  in  a  violent  home.    His  father,  a  prison  officer,  took  out  his  anger  on  his  wife  and  Shaun,  regularly  beating  them  both.    In  this  abusive  environment,  instead  of  learning  how  to  manage  his  own  frustrations,  Shaun  was  shown violence was the answer.  When he was bullied at school he  lashed  out  and  increasingly  became  unmanageable  in  the  school environment.  After repeated warnings and frequently being  canned  he  was  expelled.    Things  at  home  deteriorated  further  and  when  he  was  about  19  he  finally  hit  his  father  back.  He was kicked out of the family home immediately.

Facing  homelessness,  he  moved  in  with  his  mother’s  elderly  parents.    His  grandfather  died  in  front  of  his  eyes  from  emphysema, and without a support network able to help him make sense of his loss and dysfunctional and abusive childhood his  life  deteriorated.    Adrift,  he  left  his  grandparents’  home.

He was homeless for three years, sofa surfing and sleeping in bus shelters and garden sheds.  His history of violence meant no hostel would allow him in.

In 1990 the inevitable happened and he went to jail; his first sentence  was  12  months.    The  environment  gave  him  some  security.    He  had  somewhere  safe  and  warm  to  sleep  and  he  was  fed,  but  when  he  came  out  he  had  nowhere  to  go,  no  money  and  no  job.    He  resorted  to  petty  crime  and,  mixing  with ‘the wrong crowd’, he was exposed to violence.  On one occasion, he suffered a serious head injury.  Coming after such a  destructive  childhood,  the  violent  assault  –  he  needed  200 stitches  and  had  a  blood  clot  –  this  event  led  to  Sean  being  diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  His behaviour became more extreme; he became more violent and relied on drugs and alcohol.

“I felt like a caged animal,” said Shaun.  “I was attacking and hitting  out  because  of  the  rage  boiling  inside  me.    I  kept  reliving  the  trauma  of  my  childhood,  re-experiencing  the  beatings as if they were happening now.”

“I’ve spent about 20 years of my life in prison,” said Shaun.  I was getting longer and longer sentences, not complying with the licence when I was released and sent straight back.

“When  you  get  released  you’re  sent  to  a  probation  hostel.    It’s  like  going  into  the  lion’s  den.    It’s  the  worst  possible  environment for anyone who wants to get things together and move on with their life.

Turning his back on an abusive childhood and the revolving door of  prisonWith a help of  the ‘No Wrong Door Network’“Caught in the revolving door, I have missed out on so much in life.  I have no family life; I’m a qualified brick layer but I haven’t been able to hold down a good job for long.  It’s not a life you would choose.”

Things were different the last time Shaun came out of prison. In  his  last  few  months  inside  he  took  a  course  on  violence  and  compulsive  drinking.    It  gave  him  an  insight  into  his  behaviour.    Then,  whilst  still  in  prison,  he  engaged  with  Birmingham Changing Futures Together’s Lead Worker Peer Mentor  service,  delivered  by  Shelter.    As  a  result,  instead  of  going  straight  to  the  probation  hostel  on  his  release,  he  was  met  at  the  gate  by  two  workers,  his  peer  mentor  and  lead  worker.    A  peer  mentor  is  someone  with  lived  experience.

He’d taken the first step towards a new future.  “As  I  walked  out  the  prison  officers  said  ‘see  you  in  a  couple  of weeks’,” explained Shaun, “but they didn’t.  My peer mentor made  a  big  difference.  I  was  scared  when  I  came  out  of  prison;  the  probation  hostel  was  a  threatening  environment,  everything  in  the  outside  world  had  changed  and  I  had  nothing.   I  came  out  with  £46  which  had  to  last  two  weeks.

My benefits were delayed for three weeks and I had to pay £30 straight away for the hostel.  I couldn’t share my problems with my  probation  officer  but  I  could  tell  my  peer  mentor.    He’d  been in my situation so he knew what I was talking about.  He understood me.”

With  Shelter  part  of  the  No  Wrong  Door  Network,  Shaun’s  peer mentor and lead worker were able to provide more than housing  support  and  understanding.    They  facilitated  access  to support services necessary to address his other needs. This has  included  anger  and  stress  management  courses  at  Crisis  Skylight  and  referral  to  Birmingham  MIND  for  the  floating  support and to Citizen Coaching for his counselling needs.

He is now training to be a peer mentor himself

“I  still  get  anxious  but  it  doesn’t  escalate  to  violence  now,”  continued  Shaun.    “I’m  learning  how  to  stop  things  from  getting  to  me  and  while  I’ve  had  a  few  scrapes  since  coming  out of prison, I’ve managed to de-escalate things.  I’ve still got lots of rage inside me but I’m working hard to control it.  I take diazepam to control my mood swings and anti-psychotics to quieten the voices in my head.”

The Birmingham Changing Futures Together Programme

Birmingham Changing Futures Together programme improves the effectiveness of     service   provision to those with multiple and complex needs.  It does this by bringing together organisations in the sector, identifying and sharing best practice and establishing new approaches.

Shaun’s story shows the value of seeing the person as a  whole.  The Changing Futures   Together programme provides a ‘community of support’,  facilitating  interaction  between  other  colleagues  and leading to better, more satisfying outcomes.

The No Wrong Door Network is at the heart of the Changing Futures  approach, the   No   Wrong   Door   Network   is   a   group   of   organisations  working  together  to  ensure  service  users, with at least two of the four complex needs (homelessness,  substance  misuse,  offending  and  mental health) can have access to a whole system of support through one referral. 

Engagement in the Birmingham Changing Futures Together programme is not limited   to   those   charities and organisations formally part of the No Wrong Door Network.  All other organisations can benefit  from  the  best  practice approaches    being    developed    and shared with sector members through learning events and the Birmingham Changing    Together website:

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