Former alcoholic who spent five years sleeping rough praises The Sunday Centre

by | Dec 14, 2022 | Campaign | 0 comments

Julian Payne, a 63 year old social worker, said the Sunday Centre was a lifeline in his darkest moments.

He was 46 years-old when he voluntarily did his first alcohol detox at Burbage Ward in Michael Carlisle Centre, a rehabilitation centre, and was left with no home to return to. 

During his time living on the streets, Julian would go to The Salvation Army every Sunday, as they used to do breakfast for the homeless starting 8:30am. Then he would go to Middlewood Road Church for Sunday service and then would visit the Sunday Center for lunch.

While living on streets and parks, Julian said he was persistently drunk. 

He said: “My younger sister didn’t know where I was, I think everybody presumed I was dead.”

Three months after Julian’s second alcohol detox, at an alcohol free residential, he bought a bottle of vodka, drank it and had an epileptic fit which got him evicted from the accommodation.

He then was placed in a flat but after only a month he got evicted. Julian said: “And that’s when I started sleeping on streets and wherever possible.”

In 2010 he ended up at St Anne’s Woodhouse with 64 other homeless men. “For 64 homeless men it’s not the best place to be in. I asked a key worker to get me back to Burbage Ward for another detox, so that was fifth and the final detox. On June 1st 2010, I moved into Phoenix House in Sheffield and have not had a drink since then.” 

Now, 12 years into his sobriety, Julian is a carer for people with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar.

He often discusses his battle with alcoholism with psychiatric doctors, give talks at a neurologist training ground about how epilepsy affected his life and helps at a cancer support centre. 

Julian said: “It’s all voluntary work. I would not want to do what I’ve seen so many people do and die.

“I’ve learnt that from other people’s experiences.”

He found new gratitude for things he didn’t have when he was homeless.

Julian said: “Moving into your own flat when you’ve been used to living on the streets, there are responsibilities, bills, getting your own food, feeding yourself. You know it’s just appreciating that I’ve got a solid job, I’ve got television and a stereo, and I’ve got my cat, Lacey, my bed and things like that, and just appreciating that stuff.

“The fact that I have a flat that’s mine as long as I pay rent and I feed my cat. It’s the simple things like that, it’s the appreciation for things like that. 

“In Sheffield at any time you can see homeless people. I think people need to be more grateful for what they’ve got because some people live on the edge. I think for a lot of time it’s sort of been behind the curtain but it’s now becoming a clear issue to the people in general.” 

Julian said one of the hardest things he found while volunteering was taking bins out and thinking ‘Oh I could take that myself’ and ‘oh I know somebody who would need that.’ 

He said: “I’m sure you hear so many stories about what it’s like living homeless, during winter time, the cold nights, trying to find a place where it’s warm and I know some people actually used to be homeless and for a lot its unavoidable, and I’m afraid it’s one of the things that’s going to be a part of the future even more so now. Just that appreciation of living and having simple things in life that makes you feel like a human being I think.”