As part of our first-of-its-kind link-up with Southampton FC, Big Issue vendors will be given the exciting chance to work with the club’s official charity for the chance of long-term employment.
Saints Foundation aim to take Saint’s success on the pitch and move the goalposts to create positive change for the local community.
The Foundation harnesses the passion seen on the terraces at St Mary’s Stadium, inspiring, supporting and delivering equality of opportunity for nearly 7,500 individuals through their social change projects last year. A further 5,000 children were also involved in football and multi-sports activity in schools, clubs and coaching centres.
In the unique special edition Saints matchday magazine – which is on sale in the Hampshire area now and will also act as the programme for tomorrow’s Premier League opener against Swansea City – The Big Issue profile three men who transformed their lives with the help of Saints Foundation.
One man who benefitted from the life-changing work of the Foundation’s Saints4Sport programme, which is delivered in conjunction with Hampshire homeless charity Society of St James, is Kevin Stow. This is the emotional story of how he brought himself back from the brink with the help of Saints Foundation…
Brush with the law
It was when Kevin was told by a judge that he could go to prison for the first time that he knew that he had to get clean of drugs once and for all.
He was in recovery after his nine-year heroin habit led to him being arrested and given a drugs rehabilitation requirement order that saw him provide drug tests for the court.
The judge told me that if I didn’t clean up my act then I would be going to prison
But in his first three months, the now 48-year-old had not supplied a clean test and was given the stark warning that he was facing time behind bars.
That was when Kevin made a positive step in his life – walking into a drugs clinic where he was referred to Saints4Sport.
Kevin says: “The judge told me that if I didn’t clean up my act then I would be going to prison.
“I had never been before and I didn’t want to go to prison so I did something about it and by six months, all my tests were clean.
“I went into a drugs clinic and Saints4Sport was one of the things that they offered.
“I participated in the sessions and I found them incredibly useful because my physical health at that time was particularly poor. I was also able to do courses in health and social care and first aid through Saints4Sport.
“I did that two days a week for two years and I recovered to such a degree that I got a job as the first point of contact at the drugs clinic. So I was working five days a week and that gave me something to do other than take drugs and that was very helpful for my recovery.”
Off the rails
Suffering from low self-esteem as a teenager, Kevin began drinking to fit in at the age of 16 and it slowly became his pathway into drugs.
After he got hooked on heroin at 36, his life hit an all-time low when he was caught attempting to deal drugs to an undercover police officer.
I stopped working because I couldn’t work through the withdrawal and I just thought that I was going to take drugs until I died
And that brush with the law led to the ultimatum in court that put him on the path towards Saints4Sport.
Kevin says: “When I was in high school, I had a negative body confidence complex so I wanted to behave like a rock star to attract girls.
“I couldn’t be myself around girls and, in fact, I couldn’t even by myself around my family so I was reserved and quiet.
“All I wanted was a girlfriend so I went to the pub but I never got one because I wouldn’t talk to anyone.
“This led to me resorting to spending time with working girls in my late 20s and I started taking drugs with one because buying them would make her stay around and that gave me an emotional satisfaction.
“One of the girls started living with me and a few months later I started to take heroin and soon after I became fully addicted and all my life became about was drugs.
“I stopped working because I couldn’t work through the withdrawal and I just thought that I was going to take drugs until I died.”
Making a recovery
Those days are long gone for Kevin, who after three years of recovery, has now secured a role as a full-time drugs worker.
Saints4Sport brought structure back into his life and allowed him to build real relationships with people not involved in the drug trade.
Saints Foundation are very supportive and that support has enabled me to get not just through recovery, but also encouraged me to unlock my potential
After time spent as a volunteer and advocate for Saints4Sport, he is now in a role where he can help people who are in the same position that he found himself in before finding the programme.
Kevin says: “It’s very satisfying and pleasing to help people go through what I have because every life is important and you miss out on life when you are on drugs – every day is the same. It’s pleasing to see and it’s great.
“Saints Foundation has helped me enjoy life again and get the most out of everything. Without their support, I would like to think that I would be in recovery but I wouldn’t be this far along.
“You can’t wish yourself to be clean, you need to work hard and really fight for it and if you put in the effort then you can do it. It’s about trying to encourage and keep people safe to get them to recovery treatment.
“Saints Foundation are very supportive and that support has enabled me to get not just through recovery, but also encouraged me to unlock my potential and given me the chance to box, play golf or football and to have a life.”
The special edition Big Issue, produced in conjunction with Southampton FC, is available now. Priced at £2.50, EVERY purchase supports The Big Issue and our vendors with £1.25 going to the vendor and £1.25 allowing us to continue our work on the street.
Pic credit: Chris Moorhouse