New year, new beginnings: that’s just what Craig Holmes from Liverpool was thinking on 1st January 2013. But some devastating news was to come. It would trigger a chain of events that would see Craig estranged from his family, homeless and suicidal. Here he tells us what happened and how things are starting to get better.
“It was New Year’s Day 2013 and I had a lot to look forward to,” says 28-year-old Craig. My girlfriend and I were expecting our first child and I couldn’t wait to be a dad. The day began with a sense of excitement, knowing that something special would be happening this year. But later that day, a call from my mum changed everything.”
Craig’s mum rang to say that his 23-year-old sister, Kaylea, had been rushed into hospital. She’d suffered two cardiac arrests and had to be put on a life support machine. “Her heart had swelled to twice its normal weight, starving her brain of oxygen. Seven days later she died,” says Craig.
“We later discovered that Kaylea had a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. It’s a disease she didn’t know she had. She left behind a beautiful daughter, Lacey, who was just five months old at the time.
“It hit me hard. We were very close. She was so young and such a happy, energetic person. I took 12 months off work as a forklift truck driver and had some counselling. But I couldn’t shift the grief.”
And there was more to come. “Kaylea’s death broke us all,” says Craig. “Mum and dad ended up separating and mum moved to Scotland. My relationship with my girlfriend wasn’t good either. In 2015, we split up and that’s when I attempted suicide. I hit a brick wall and couldn’t see a way forward. I took an overdose but recovered from it.”
Keen to get his life back on track, Craig moved in with his dad but things soon turned sour and he left. “After that, I moved from one place to another. I slept on mates’ sofas and occasionally roughed it on the streets. I was homeless – and that’s how things were for 18 months,” says Craig.
Just as life couldn’t get any worse, Craig was involved in a motorbike accident. “I broke my leg and got compartment syndrome, which affected the blood supply to my leg. I was in hospital for a while,” says Craig. “At the time I’d been staying with a friend and doing odd jobs to pay my way. But because I couldn’t work anymore, he told me to leave. This time, I had nowhere to go.”
Craig went to the Whitechapel Centre, a homeless charity in Liverpool. He says: “After a short stay in a hostel, they referred me to Riverside’s Green Lane project. And that’s when my life started to change.
On the up
“When I moved into Green Lane I immediately felt cared for by the staff working there. They gave me emotional support and helped me to apply for a flat with a housing association. It was such a buzz to get an email saying I’d got it. I knew then that things were going to be different from now on.
“Staff also encouraged me to apply for Riverside’s GROW trainee programme. I couldn’t believe it when I got accepted. I’m starting as a trainee support worker at Green Lane in a few weeks – and I can’t wait! I want to help others who’ve been homeless.”
Speaking with confidence, Craig adds: “Finally, I can stand on my own two feet. I’ve got a home, a job and the possibility of a whole new career ahead of me. I’d like to progress through the company once the traineeship has finished.”
Craig says he’s rebuilding his relationship with his dad and wants to re-connect with his daughter, Isabel Kaylea. “My daughter’s five now and I haven’t seen her for two years,” he says. “Now my life’s more stable, I’m determined to be a dad to her again.
“Without the support I got at Green Lane, I think I’d still be stuck in an ongoing cycle of homelessness. I have a better life now – the one I think my sister would’ve been proud of.”
About Green Lane
At Green Lane supported accommodation in Liverpool, we provide temporary accommodation and support to single homeless men. There are 23 self-contained bedsits and residents usually stay for up to six months. The project helps residents develop the skills they need to move into independent living. Support might include help with managing money, applying for benefits, learning skills such as cooking or IT, and looking for work and training opportunities. The project also works with agencies that specialise in mental health and substance misuse.