Standing firm in our support
The man and wife who have taken the time to share their story for our Newsletter are long-standing supporters and well known friends of Framework.
They have chosen to come forward and give a parental perspective from a family whose son has been receiving the support of Framework for a number of years.
It has been extremely difficult to cope with my son over the years. Becoming homeless is most distressing and difficult for the person experiencing it. It is a crisis point that drives people to desperate measures; the kind of behaviour that shakes an entire family to its core. My wife and I are in our seventies and eighties and have carried the weight of worry for him as he’s existed on and off the streets and between disappearances for over 20 years.
The journey we have followed has been a difficult one – starting when he was just a boy – we were looking for child psychologists for help shortly after his 12th birthday. Unfortunately the help we needed was denied and seemingly Autism didn’t exist in 1968. We were living in the county, perhaps we may have been offered more help if we were in the city. It’s not until the later years that we feel that he has received the kind of support that he so desperately needs.
In his early years he started abusing alcohol and drugs at school. He was stealing from as many places as possible, church, friends, gas metres, even his grandparents. As a family we worked hard to be supportive and to control his behaviour but it was an incredible drain on the family. A few years later after threatening me, his father, with a knife we knew that for the safety of our daughter and for the rest of the family that we needed some time apart and he stayed at a care home.
We feel that the care system failed him, he got into the wrong hands and was actively encouraged to smoke by care workers. His planned time away in care ended with a prison sentence after an arson attack on a house. We were astonished and exhausted after working hard to bring him up with good morals and encouraging good manners that our boy had behaved this way. It was an eight-year prison sentence. We visited and tried to support him as parents but also feared for decisions he would be forming in prison and what would happen on his release. So many people told us that we should let him stand on his own two feet but we knew that he just couldn’t.
As a parent to a person who is so destructive it is very hard to bear sometimes. Your neighbours, the Police and the wider community recognise you for negative reasons. He has been a financial drain on the family with no moral compass but we stuck with him. Over the years we have given him thousands of pounds as we thought it was the right thing to do. All we ever wanted was to ensure that he was safe. My heart broke when he arrived at his mother’s (my late wife’s) deathbed to ask for more money.
It was following his release from prison that his days of rough sleeping and homelessness really started. By this time I know that he was really struggling with his mental health and the change between living a prison lifestyle and re-joining society. We tried to help and support him but as elderly people we couldn’t do it alone.
He was in his thirties when he was introduced to Framework and they started supporting him in Nottingham. Despite his threatening and unpredictable behaviour they have been wonderful. His support workers help my wife and I meet him in a controlled way and even though some steps to recovery have been and will have to be retraced again, we know that there is no better place for my son.
At least now he’s with an organisation that can help him. We honestly believe that if he had received this quality of support at an earlier stage that we’d stand more of a chance of being a functioning family again.
We always tell ourselves not to give up in our support and love for him. Similarly we can see that Framework follows a similar mantra, service users can make mistakes and face worsening issues, challenges and crises but they are a tolerant and resilient organisation, willing to welcome people back if they wobble.
His testing behaviour has made so many people turn away from him throughout his life and I’m sure also physically in the street. However understanding that his ill mental health and poor choices are not guided by a balanced opinion is vital. He is a man who needs help not just from professional organisations but also compassion and non-judgement from those he may meet in the city streets.
We have been great supporters of many charities supporting vulnerable people over the years and will continue our support for Framework as the organisation who have given my son the best chance possible and encourage anyone else who can, to do so, too.
*All names have been omitted from this article to protect the identity of the son.