Paddy Tierney says he’s aiming to take the positives from the darkest times of his life by using them to help others.
The 32-year-old is part of the co-production team helping to shape the Greater Manchester Housing First service to fit the people using the service.
Paddy and others with lived experience are drawing on their knowledge to ensure the Greater Manchester pilot changes the lives of the people who engage.
He said: “I come from a working background. I held down a couple of positions and, like any one, I went through difficult experiences.
“Things kind of came to a head for me. Everything kind of happened at once. I got into a position where I lost my girlfriend, I lost my job, I lost my car and it all deteriorated at one point.
“As many people do I started self-medicating with alcohol and with drugs and I guess it was a coping mechanism at the time. But obviously that’s bad medicine. It’s not good for the soul and it got to the point where I started to suffer from mental illness.
“I ended up spending some time in prison, so I ended up going through the probation service. Like others, we’ve come through these services and we’ve had certain negative experiences and we had this general shared feeling that something better can be done.”
Paddy shared his experiences at the launch event of the GM Housing First project in May, to guests such as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the founder of the Housing First movement Dr Sam Tsemberis who flew in especially from America.
And he believes the Housing First approach, which puts the service user in control of their recovery journey, is the right way to go.
He added: “There is a better way to approach things and a better way to do things and for me personally, I felt quite passionate about getting involved in this kind of thing and having a voice.
“That was the one thing that was kind of puzzling to me. When I was using these services, even though they were supposed to be for my benefit, no one put any value on what I wanted.
“Even though it was deemed my recovery, I was dictated to and told how things were going to work out and everyone seemed to be an expert on me, apart from myself.
“That was one big reason why I wanted to get involved. People need to start having their opinions valued in their own recovery because, at the end of the day your recovery is a journey and you want to be in the driver’s seat, you don’t want to be in the back being told to be quiet.
“I definitely felt it was something that there was a lot of value too and I was excited to jump on board and see if there was any way that I could potentially be of benefit to someone else.
“It means a lot to me. Anyone wants a sense of purpose and I’ve held down positions in the past and I’ve not felt this passionately even though I’ve been earning a big wage.
“I’ve not really felt the same kind of fire inside me for wanting to get involved and I’ve not had as much zeal. I really feel like there’s a lot that can be done here and see there’s a lot of potential for things to be done in a different way.
“It’s like an opening, a window of opportunity. I guess it will be judged on how successful the pilot scheme is but I’m here to try and make sure that in every way we can change things going forward for the better.
“I believe that all things happen for a greater good through my faith. What I would say is that these negative experiences, they can be turned into something positive. I wouldn’t say they were lost years because they have brought me to this point where I am hopefully able to, from my suffering, spare other people’s suffering and be a benefit.
“If I can make something good come out of that difficult time, and I can help someone in their difficulties then it would be a really profitable thing for me and I’d get a lot from that.
“Housing First is innovative and creative and it’s a different approach and a different way of tackling things.
“Ultimately, what we’re doing isn’t working. Things are in decline and it needs a fresh set of eyes. It needs a new way of going about things so I think it’s exciting. I genuinely want to see the best for these people who are going through difficulties and hoping that we can make a difference.
“We hope that there can be a relationship built on trust and the support is based on relationships and around the individual and around that person.
“The aim is that it’s going to be a new approach and it’s going to be different.”
And Paddy had a special message for people who join the programme.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “Keep investing that trust because what’s the alternative?
“We’re all here to make a difference. I’d like to encourage some one to definitely try the programme. You have to test these things to see the value of them.
”Draw heart from people like us because we’re not just talking the talk, we’ve walked it. There is a better future ahead for you if you dig in.”
Hear Paddy in his own words at https://www.gmhousingfirst.org.uk/post/paddy-story