My dad is British from Birmingham and my mum is Brazilian. I was brought up in São Paulo by my grandmother. When I was 13 I came to London to live with my parents. I left school at 17 and I was living with my mum and her boyfriend. I got in with a really bad crowd and started using all sorts of street drugs, all the time – crystal meth, ketamine, DMT, mushrooms, LSD, alcohol, cocaine – you name it, I took it. I never tried heroin or crack; for some reason I was more worried about them being addictive. I was living an unbelievably crazy life; on my 19th birthday, I came home from a rave and I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. It was like I was staring at a stranger, I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me and I was shocked. I thought of my grandmother in Brazil who’d brought me up and how she’d be horrified at the person I’d become. I don’t think she’d have let me back into her home. It was a big wake up call. I decided there and then to stop using drugs. It wasn’t easy. I just didn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t taking drugs; that’s all I’d done for the last couple of years – I was lost without them.
It was at this time that I came out to my parents as bisexual. They were horrified. My mum thought I was joking, but when she realized it wasn’t a joke, I’ve never seen her so angry. How could her son, the son of a good Catholic family, be like this – she just couldn’t cope with my sexuality. We started arguing about every little thing till after a week I had a big fight with my mum’s boyfriend. We really hurt each other – he broke my nose and I punched him so hard I cut my hands. After that they kicked me out and mum told me never to set foot in her house again. I managed to sofa-surf for a week but then I hit the streets. I slept on buses, at railway stations, if I couldn’t find somewhere safe, I’d just walk around all night. It was freezing, it was exhausting, it was frightening. One morning I saw this sign for New Horizon Youth Centre and I just walked in, it was a pure fluke! New Horizon referred me to Shelter from the Storm and amazingly they had a space.
The 3 months I was homeless felt like a lifetime, the nights lasted forever and I was always worried that someone might really harm me. Everyone and everything I knew was in a different part of London and anyway, I wanted to keep away from drugs and the violent life I had been living.
My first night at the shelter I felt this huge relief – It was warm and welcoming and the food was amazing even if you hadn’t been living off scraps! After a few days, Cookie asked me if I wanted a job – I didn’t think twice. She arranged an interview and the shelter bought me some nice new clothes to go in. I got the job! It’s the first proper job I’ve had and I love it! My managers are really kind and supportive and I get on well with my co-workers. I want to save up to visit Birmingham; it feels like I have roots there and I need to see it. I’m so much happier in myself now – sometimes I get down and I miss my family, but it’s OK. I’m working, I’m confident about who I am and I’m never going back to that dark place again.