There is a story behind every person sleeping on York’s streets.
Fifteen people were sleeping on the streets of York the last time official counts were conducted and released in November.
But these people are more than statistics and each has a story to tell.
Often they are telling their stories to the City of York Council’s rough sleeping navigators, like Mikey Silver, who showed us an insight into life sleeping on the streets.
“It’s all about building up trust,” he said.
“Because a lot of these people have had really bad experiences with services.”
Two men on Stonegate refused help when he approached them, but one man who has been helped by the council navigators, Mikey in particular, told his story of drugs, crime and heartbreak.
“I have been on heroin since just before I turned 15,” said Joe, 36, which is not his real name.
“I was driving cars for older people selling drugs and one guy who was in his thirties gave me and my mate some heroin.”
This was when Joe’s life went down a track entwined with drugs and crime, a life he is now hoping is behind him.
Joe was first sent to Wetherby Young Offenders Institution when he was 15-years-old and has been in and out of prison for numerous reasons since, including burglary.
“I’ve burgled homes and I feel ashamed,” he said.
“But I did it because I was off my face on heroin; it wasn’t me.
“To have someone come into your home, where you’re supposed to feel safe, and take your belongings is disgusting and I regret it.”
Joe’s life took an even more tragic turn, however, when his soulmate Laura – again, not her real name – passed away from an overdose.
“I usually can’t be around people for too long because I get sick of them, but I could have been around her all the time,” he said.
“She just got me.
“A lot of people don’t meet their soulmates because they could be living in another country and you never even know they exist.
“I’m lucky enough to have met my soulmate.
“She was absolutely beautiful and had a big heart.”
He continued to use heroin when the love of his life died, which led to a careless injection causing an abscess on his leg which was consequently amputated.
When Joe was discharged from hospital, the loss of his leg and the ongoing grief over the death of his fiancée was overwhelming and, again, he turned to heroin.
“It was a cry for help,” he said.
Mikey was the person there to help Joe and it is clear the pair of them have built a special bond.
“It’s like talking to one of the boys,” Joe said when asked what made Mikey different from others who have tried to help him.
Mikey got Joe temporary accommodation at James House in York and he now has a prescription to ease him off his heroin addiction.
The next step is to get Joe into the Housing First scheme, where he will be able to live more independently and move further away from a life of crime, drugs and sleeping on the streets.
“Now, I’m in the best place I have ever been,” Joe said.
Following the interview, Joe said if there’s one thing he would like to come from the article it is how transformational Mikey’s approach has been to his life.
There are a number of ways people sleeping rough can get help.
Anyone sleeping rough in York will be offered a bed and support, according to the council.
More information can be found here.