Born in Wigan, James entered foster care at the age of one due to his mum’s poor mental health. At three James was adopted, later growing up in Hayfield, Derbyshire with successful and caring adoptive parents and three siblings.

From an early age James felt as though he was “different”, struggling to identify and express his emotions and fearing being given away once more. This led to strained relationships in his teens as he tried to balance a desire for connection with a need for self-protection.

By 15 James had discovered alcohol, finding it to be the solution to his social anxiety and negative thoughts. In time this led to him losing jobs and cutting ties with his family before, at the age of 28, finding himself on the run and homeless. James spent 7 years sleeping on the streets, in tents and on the sofas and floors of friends before eventually moving to Sheffield.

It was here that James made the step of engaging with local services and joining a 12-step recovery programme. With the help of the Cathedral Archer Project James got accommodation, medical help, benefits and counselling.

Four months later, the idea of Just Works was born and, shortly afterwards, Printed by Us was piloted.

Despite significant reservations, James attended the very first screen printing workshop, producing a beautiful, high quality print which would later be sold. James recalls the “feeling of giving back to society” recognising this huge achievement and the perseverance it had taken him to get there.

James has continued to be a key part of Printed by Us, running workshops, teaching others this new skill, packing orders and running stalls. In January 2019 he was promoted to Operations Manager and was later voted Sheffield Star’s Small Business Personality of the Year 2019!

James’ life has also developed in other exciting ways. Since meeting his partner Jo 2 years ago James has become a loving stepdad and, 18 months ago, father to triplets!

He continues to work on all areas of his life recognising that he, like everyone, is “a work in progress” and that “life is now about trying to improve myself, rather than chasing perfection.”

James has commented that being part of Just works has been so vital to his recovery and progression over the last 3 years. He has gained many skills, confidence and built his self-worth and now considers himself a responsible and productive member of society. Seeing his fellow partner participants progress with their journeys, as he is doing, is amazing and he’s eternally grateful as he sees the programme grow, transforming more people’s lives.


Buy “Strong & Northern gifts” - the artwork James hand-screen printed in his first workshop

James’ shared his full story at the Homeless Link Enterprise Conference in September 2019. Read his full speech »