Frank had been doing drugs and had been in prison. On leaving prison in April 2007, he was referred by Probation to a Tyneside Cyrenians ‘Brighter Futures’ construction training centre. He worked with them from April to November, refurbishing Virginia House, an old Victorian building that received a Hostels Capital Improvement Programme grant to turn it into a ‘place of change’. He received training in a range of building trades, particularly plastering and bricklaying, plus other things such as how to act in an interview. He decided to focus on plastering and subsequently became a qualified plasterer. The availability of a one year contract then arose. There were competitive interviews – nine people were interviewed in total and Frank was one of the four appointed. He is now a Supervisor in the project. He works with volunteers and trainees – in training for a trade, but also in giving them advice and direction. He is open with them about his own background of service use and believes it helps break down barriers. He’s recently been offered a Saturday job at Newcastle College, training others in plastering and also covers there for the plastering tutor. He has received a ‘Positive Change Award’ from Newcastle Council, which is framed and on his wall at home.
Towards the end of his prison sentence Frank was part of a ‘job club’, to look for employment on release. He sent off 141 job applications but received only one reply – which was negative. He felt there was very little hope of getting work. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, he believes that working with Tyneside Cyrenians has helped him break through a barrier – others he knows are still actively involved in crime and he’s certain he would be too, if it weren’t for Tyneside Cyrenians. As a result, he has moved away from where he used to live, to break with the old patterns and contacts. He is pleased that he now lives at home with his two teenage children and feels that if he wasn’t employed this just could not have happened. He is especially pleased that his son has said he wants to follow his dad’s example and become a plasterer. He concludes: “If you’ve got a chance, you have to take it with both hands”.