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Following on from winning Social Enterprise of the Year at the Homeless Link Excellence Awards James and Terry were invited to present at the Homeless Link Social Enterprise Conference in London on 10th September.

Terry explained the history, ethos and success of Just Works & Printed By Us before James shared his own inspiring story with the audience.

It’s safe to say there were more than a few tears with James receiving a standing ovation. Reactions to the speech on twitter were similarly enthusiastic.

The success of the Just Works/ Printed By Us model shows that social enterprises really do work. And as we move toward the launch of our first franchise at St Georges Crypt, Leeds we continue to grow, working together to maximise our impact.

Read James’ inspirational speech in full below`: 

James’ Speech: “Printing Positive Change” Homeless Link Conference

 

“Hello everyone . Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience with you all. It’s a real privilege to be stood up here with Terry as part of the Just Works Team………

So….. I’m James. I have been a partner participant of Just Works since it’s inception back in late 2015.

To demonstrate to you all the impact that being part of this amazing project has had for me I feel I must take you back to the start……

I was born in Wigan in 1981 and due to my mother’s poor mental health placed into foster care at 1 year old. After some moving around, at the age of 3 I was adopted into a family with whom I had been fostered for the previous year or so. Now the youngest of four children surrounded by a loving family I had the best chance of a happy and stable life ahead of me.

Growing up in Hayfield, a small village in Derbyshire we were well cared for and were never short of anything. My adoptive parents both had successful careers and our physical and emotional needs were well provided for.

Some of my earliest memories are associated with somehow feeling “different” and “separate” from my adoptive siblings and parents. I had difficulty identifying my feelings, and was incapable of expressing my emotions. I saw myself as abnormal and was terrified that if I made myself vulnerable I would be given away once again.

 

In my early teens with my siblings starting to move away from home I spent a lot of time wondering how my life and how I felt about myself could have been different had I remained with my birth mother. Relationships became increasingly strained as I swung between “I’m fine” and acting out for attention when the build- up of tension inside became too much to bear.

Often highly capable, but disruptive at school, I was looking for a way to escape the constant inner monologue, telling me to never be vulnerable and keep myself safe. I was desperately seeking connection in an alien world, but was so fearful to take the risk.

At 15 I discovered alcohol which instantly had the solution I was looking for. With it I gained confidence, could overcome social anxiety and escape from the loudness of my own negative thoughts. That first time as I can see now was the same as every other time since. I couldn’t stop whilst others around me could.

What followed for me was as familiar story for others like me.

I moved out of the family home, I got jobs, I lost jobs. I moved location, my ties with my family now well and truly cut through their own frustration with my behaviour and their own need for

self-preservation. My circle was becoming increasingly smaller, and my world ever darker.

After losing my flat to dealers over an unresolved debt, at the age of 28 I was on the run and now homeless. The next 7 years were spent sleeping on the streets of Chester, in tents in the woods of North Wales, and the sofas of people kind enough to accommodate me. The isolation, the cold and the fear of life on the streets just fuel to keep me using more and more.

I had dropped off the map, and out of society. It wasn’t until having relocated to Sheffield spending 2 and a half years on a friend’s floor I had finally had enough. I had spent 2 whole decades running from myself and I didn’t know how, but I was tired, and had to get clean.

I engaged with local services who pointed me to a 12 step recovery programme. What a relief to find others who thought like me, and reached the same point of desperation I had. I found hope, and got stuck in.

Through the help of Cathedral Archer Project I gained accommodation, medical help, steady benefits and access to counselling. I had some stability, I was clean, but overcome with anxiety at the very different world I found myself in, connected with new feelings and life on life’s terms. Like an actor thrust out on stage under the lights on opening night.

I began volunteering at the project, building my confidence and keeping busy. After about 4 months the idea of Just Works came about and shortly after Printed By Us was piloted. I had begun to think about steps towards work but was not nearly ready, and desperately behind with basic skills, with an employment gap on my CV of nearly 10 years.

Recalling the very first screen printing workshop of Printed By Us is something I still laugh about. It was new and different and I tried my hardest to get out of going. Terry had other ideas. It was paid for, and I was going! The gentle push I needed and am to this day extremely grateful for.

Within half a day I had met new people who were lovely, learnt a new skill (which is by no means straight forward and simple), and produced a beautiful, high quality print which I would sign and people would pay money to have. The feeling of giving back to society after having taken and taken for so long. The achievement, and the perseverance involved to get there, such an example of so many areas of life. If you turn up and get involved, great things can come of it.

I have continued with Printed By Us since that day, running stalls and pop up shops at events. Running workshops, packaging orders, teaching others new skills. Seeing the change in people involved is an incredible process.

We have tried things that haven’t worked, others that have. We have built it from the ground, into something that is so beneficial for those involved and can be replicated successfully. In January I moved to a part time paid role as operations manager, coming off benefits entirely. Last month I won Sheffield Star’s Small Business Personality Of The Year Award!

For the last 2 years I have been with my partner Jo, step-dad to our wonderful boy Oscar, and in March of last year we were blessed with the arrival of 3 magical sons. Harry, Oliver and Silas. Jo and I plan to marry next summer, following an intense and crazy past nearly 18 months!

The strains and challenges of triplet + 1 multiple parenting test all areas of our lives. With the ongoing support of Just Works, and my recovery programme, as well as the support from my Dad (with whom I now have an amazing relationship) my circle is now wider than it has ever been.

Being part of Just works has been so vital to my recovery and progression over the last 3 years. I have gained many skills, confidence and built my self-worth. I am now a responsible and productive member of society and continue to work on my recovery and all areas of my life on a daily basis. I am as all of us are a work in progress. My life is now about trying to improve myself, rather than chasing perfection!

Seeing my fellow partner participants progress with their journeys as I am doing is amazing to see and I am eternally grateful as I see it grow, transforming more people’s lives.”

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