A 25-year addiction to heroin had plagued Steve Rodda’s life. The 51-year-old from Guildford has been kidnapped, attacked with an axe and has slept rough in a tent. But with support from Riverside, Steve is starting to lead the normal life he’s always craved.
“I was about 18 when I started doing drugs. I smoked weed like lots of people my age. But when the rave scene hit in the late 80s, drugs were everywhere. Cocaine became my recreational drug of choice. It went hand in hand with the dance music and all-night parties. As far as I was concerned, I was doing what everyone else was doing at the time.”
Things started to go downhill for Steve a few years later. He’d moved in with his girlfriend and they had a baby together. “I was 27 and in a relationship but I wasn’t happy,” says Steve. “I wanted to leave but I loved my daughter, Bethany Ann (now 23). Eventually, I moved out and that’s when I hit a low point. Someone introduced me to heroin and that was the start of my 25-year addiction.”
Steve goes on: “Over the years I managed to keep my job as a plasterer. People at work knew about my addiction and were supportive. But my life was carnage. I was kidnapped by drug dealers and attacked with an axe. And many of my friends died from drugs. My parents struggled to understand what I was going through and my relationship with them deteriorated.”
Living in a tent
Four years ago, things got even worse, as Steve explains: “It got to the point where I was homeless, living in a tent in the woods. It was a harsh and lonely existence. I craved a normal life – the one everyone else appeared to be having like going to the pictures.
“I did move into supported housing in Dorking for a while but it wasn’t the right environment for me. I ended up leaving there in debt and went back to sleeping rough.”
Moving to Vaughan House
Still wanting help, Steve went to a night hostel in Leatherhead where staff put him in touch with the local council. “The council referred me to Riverside’s Vaughan House in Guildford. And that’s where my recovery journey began. I’ve been a resident for over a year now and my support worker has been brilliant. I’m off drugs, out of debt, back in touch with my family and I’m creating a new life for myself.
“I joined my local church and that’s helped me so much. I have a community of people around me who are caring and understanding. I do charity work for the church two days a week – helping ex-homeless people get furniture and doing gardening and painting for the local community. I’ve also been speaking to local children to educate them about homelessness.
“When I got baptised recently, I had to give a speech to around 700 people. It was nerve-wracking. You can imagine how surprised I was when people told me afterwards how inspirational I was. I couldn’t believe it!
“Staying off drugs is still a daily battle for me. But since moving into Vaughan House and getting the right support, my confidence has grown. I recently got a passport and went to Barcelona – it was my first trip abroad in 25 years! And I’ve been helping a friend who’s in a band by selling merchandise at his gigs. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before.
Steve looks ahead: “Eventually, I want to get a job and move into my own place but I’m taking it one day at a time. For now, I’m enjoying doing the charity work and helping other people. I walk around the town and speak to rough sleepers. I tell them that there’s another way. There’s always hope and I’m living proof.”
Vaughan House – support for homeless people in Guildford
Vaughan House provides accommodation and tailored support to people who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless. The project helps clients improve their health and wellbeing, build their skills and tackle any personal problems so that they’re able move on and live independently. There are 47 places and residents can stay for up to two years.
The project works alongside agencies that specialise in mental health, substance misuse, domestic abuse and childhood trauma. Riverside’s Homeless Outreach Support Team (HOST) refers clients to Vaughan House while St Saviours dispersed housing provides the next step towards independent living.