THE FOOTPRINTS PROJECT
Footprints clients/mentees are men and women returning to our geographical area and seeking help in order to reduce the risk of their re-offending.
Many have been abused, have mental and physical illnesses, have a history of living in care or leaving school early, have experienced family problems/rejection, suffered from drug/alcohol addiction, repeatedly been in prison, and are fearful about returning to a world which may be dysfunctional or hostile.
Some will be homeless or living in supported housing, and unfortunately the great majority will be unemployed/untrained, and lacking academic qualifications.
Some clients need a great deal of support to help them realise that change is possible – even for them. Their confidence and self-esteem is often extremely low.
Simon, My Name is Simon Whittle and I am 43. From my teens until my release from prison 2 years ago, after serving 12 years for armed robbery, I had never spent Christmas and my birthday (in January) out of prison. I have the hereditary disease Huntingdon’s Chorea, a terminal and horrifying wasting condition which affects both mental acuity and physical wellbeing.
My life of crime started at an early age when my Dad told me and a young friend, to tear lead off the rooves of neighbouring houses on our estate in Salford. Dad then used the proceeds to abandon my Mum, leaving her with five kids. She had Huntingdon’s disease and me and my brother had to go into care.
At this point I was pretty angry and confused and, as they say, went off the rails. Approved school was followed by borstal and then by prison.
My brother (now serving an “IPP”) was my “partner in crime” and our offences escalated into a crime spree culminating in a robbery using a toy gun. It earned us our 12 year sentence.
I first met John, my mentor 4 years ago, when I was released on parole. I found life on the outside a real struggle and so went back to prison determined to stay there until I was kicked out. That way I knew I would be fed, watered and receive medical treatment – and not face the bewildering questions, and loneliness that come with freedom.
Two years later I finished my sentence and was released. John became my mentor. Looking back I realise that my health was very poor, I was extremely twitchy and found walking very difficult – I needed exercise for my condition which was impossible in prison.
I started off in a cheap hotel in Portland. I was assaulted by a staff member who thought I was on drugs because of the facial tics and jerky movements that characterise my condition. The Housing people refused to find me alternative accommodation so I briefly became a rough sleeper, which I thought was a safer option. After intervention by my doctor I was given a week in a recovery facility. I then spent ten months or so in a seedy B&B in Weymouth. Eventually, after persistent prompting by Footprints, suitable accommodation was found for me.
Now I have my own ground floor flat. I have bought a mobility scooter and I strive to be independent, but know that John is always there for me. My health is not good but is much improved by exercise – I am now able to walk without a stick. Nowadays, I always look on the bright side of life and I vow never to return to prison.
Kevin, has been a heroin addict for 10 years and in and out of prison during that time on a frequent basis. He left prison to live in supported housing. Unfortunately he lapsed once and was therefore evicted from his accommodation. Footprints helped him to find alternative housing and have supported him on a regular basis with his lapses – now hopefully and thankfully historical; he attends college and is about to share a flat of his own. He had a poor relationship with his family and is working on re-establishing some contact, thereby enabling himself to move on mentally, emotionally and physically. He had has also spoken about his experiences publicly and the support that he has had from his mentor and the staff at Footprints.
Emma, in her thirties is at the end of an eight-year sentence and on licence in the community, having been recalled after a relapse. She was released - again on licence. She has been in hostel accommodation and has been happily engaging with therapeutic groups and her probation officer. She meets with her mentor at regular intervals to discuss future plans and has freely talked about her past. Her crimes include burglary, theft, robbery, and GBH. She has made many positive decisions since her release including, with help from her mentor, working as a volunteer, and goes to a church where she is welcomed. Given her past record, she has made an amazing effort to change her behaviour, to avoid drugs, and is now hoping to get some qualifications in order to find a job in the caring profession.