In 2006, Anthony joined TLG lacking hope and needing a family he could belong to. We caught up with him 10 years later to see what kind of lasting impact TLG had made in his life.
“I was 16 when my parents split up. I tried living with each of them, but every time I did it became so tough because they hated each other so much. So I went to live with my brother. His priorities were all over the place. He had no money and when he did, he didn’t spend it on essentials like food. So I turned to shoplifting so that we could eat.
The thing is I had no stable family around me helping me to figure out what was right or wrong. I had no one to explain to me how life works, you know, what systems were in place for when you can’t afford your own food and what help is available. So I just stole. I thought that was my only option. I was arrested and cautioned.
I’d had enough. I was living out of a suitcase, struggling to eat, not knowing where my life was heading. I visited an advice service in town and they introduced me to TLG.
What would I say to the staff at TLG who helped me? The biggest thank you I could muster! I can’t think of any other way to say it! Thank you for telling me off, for giving me the discipline that I so needed and wasn’t getting anywhere else. Thank you for always being fair.
Watching everyone together at TLG and seeing what made them different changed my whole perspective on life. I used to smoke a lot of weed but I don’t at all now. I also used to drink a lot but I’ve cut out alcohol too. Now, if I see homeless people on the street, I stop and buy them lunch and chat with them. One man burst into tears the other day when I gave him some food. I don’t understand how people can’t look after each other better. It could be so easy.
There was one staff member, Gary, who I’ll never forget. He treated me like his son. He was what I’d always wanted from a father. He was tough and told it to me straight, but had a laugh with me too. I never had that with my dad, he used to hit me a lot and we went for years without seeing each other.
At TLG, I had help getting back on track with my education. Now, I’m a full-time and fully qualified chef at a garden centre café. Most people put their qualifications in a file – not me! Mine are plastered all over my walls in frames; I look at them and think ‘look what I’ve achieved!’
The most amazing thing that’s happened to me has been having my own house. It’s somewhere for me and my family to belong – a proper little family house. I’ve been with my partner for 7 years now. When we met she had a 3 year old daughter and I’ve become her dad. I love it! She wants to dress like me and speak like me; it’s great. I feel really good about myself. I was living off £22 a week – for everything! Now I don’t have to worry and I can provide for my family.
Since TLG, I’ve never been arrested. I’ve not had any trouble with the police. For me, the boundaries set at TLG helped me realise that, if I don’t follow rules, things can go downhill. But with them, they can help my life run smoothly. I don’t regret my past – the mistakes and the hard times. It’s all been a stepping stone to who I am today. It’s all led to me having a family to belong to, a future to pursue and a resolution to persevere. It’s all part of my story.”