Jo grew up in Burnley, Lancashire, and had a traumatic upbringing. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who left the family when she was 13 and her mother worked three jobs to try and keep the family afloat. After her parents split up Jo, her mum and her little brother went on to live on a farm in one bedroom whilst they were waiting on a housing solution. During this time her mother met a new partner who was mentally and physically abusive to Jo. Soon after meeting this man, Jo was taken into social care, going on to live in a series of children’s homes.
“Before the children’s homes, I was sent to live in an assessment centre. If we were good we were given tokens which meant you could pay for a cup of coffee.”
At age 18 Jo ended up in the hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown, it was here she decided she would move away. She left Burnley to start a new life in Sheffield with her partner *Tom, whom she had met via an online dating website. Soon after the beginning of the relationship, Jo got pregnant with her first child. It was a tumultuous, toxic relationship and she suffered from domestic abuse.
“ It wasn’t just domestic abuse, it was constant mental torture”, says Jo.
The couple moved around a lot, living a chaotic and unstable life. At age 35, after years of long-term suffering, the marriage broke down and Jo went on to take class A drugs.
“I met some people who took these drugs and I asked them ‘ what does that make you feel like?’
They said, ‘it feels like you’re wrapped in cotton wool and no one can hurt you’
And I thought, ‘I want to feel like that to escape everything going on”.
Soon after, Jo became addicted to drugs which led her to become homeless and losing her children.
For four years she slept in clothing bins, doorways and dust bins.
“I remember one time, we were sleeping in a clothing bin in Leeds to try and stay warm. All of a sudden I heard this loud noise and felt us moving. We were being picked up by a crane type of thing. Luckily we managed to get out but it was frightening.”
Jo was homeless for around four years before she started coming to The Archer Project. She came for breakfast one morning and started getting to know some of the staff.
“There is positivity out there. When you’re in a situation like I was you just have to reach out and get help like I did at the Archer Project. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do but anyone can do it”.
Around 5 years ago, Jo managed to get back in contact with her two children and has since then built on their relationship which is now in a good place. She continues to volunteer for the Archer Project and is in a happy and healthy relationship with a new partner. She is drug-free and enjoying life.
If you’d like to help someone like Jo, please visit our donation page.
*Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect identities