Mum who lived in crack house and now volunteers at Sheffield homeless charity plans fiancé's memorial
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Jo spent time living on the streets and six months in a crack house while dealing with addiction, and now volunteers at The Archer Project, a Sheffield charity which helps people facing similar issues.
Jo, aged 48, and her husband of 15 years divorced in 2010. Following him getting full custody of their two sons, Jo took Class A drugs for the first time that same year.
“I was living in a crack house at 35 with my partner, who I was with for three years. He was on heroin and I tried it. I didn't think it would affect me like it did,” she said.
“You had to give the lady of the house 15 pounds worth of drugs or drink every night. One lady, who was there with a pimp at the time, had her knees blown off in front of me for not sharing her drugs.”
Fifteen others lived in the house in Pitsmoor, now shut down, which she calls the ‘doghouse’. Jo spent six months there before leaving to sofa-surf and live on the streets.
Jo, who is now on good terms with her sons, Adam and Liam, said: “The social worker used to walk past me every Thursday at 4 o’clock with the kids, and I couldn’t talk to them. Not seeing my children for five years was a long time.”
She goes into Sheffield Cathedral every day to light a candle for Glynn, her partner of 18 months and fiancé, who passed away just two months ago on July 7.
She said: “He was the best friend I have ever had in my life. He was in a bit of state, but he was a good lad deep down. He had his first bag of coke at only 14,” she said.
“He did always say he wanted to marry me. He announced it at Archer Project one day when I was serving breakfast. I was behind the counter and he said, ‘I’m going to marry her, watch this space!’. I was saying, ‘shut up!’”
A memorial will be held on Tuesday, September 12, which would have been Glynn’s 45th birthday, at Sheffield Cathedral.
She added: “We went to bingo and bowling last year, before he spent time in prison. He had never been before. It was just a normal day, without heroin, without spice. It was amazing.
“They think he died from brain damage. I had been at the hospital with him every day. I went out at 9:20 for a smoke and I said to him, ‘don’t you go anywhere without me’, and when I came back he was gone.
“I said I would look after him until the day he died, and I did. I did do that.”
On her hands, Jo has a tattoo of Glynn’s name on her ring finger, and scars around her thumb from a previous partner trying to cut it off.
“I have faced a lot of domestic violence. Women on the streets go through a lot. There needs to be more awareness. The people on the streets are human, just like us,” she said.
The Archer Project has worked with Sheffield marketing agency, Black Eye Project, and individuals like Jo to create the ‘Wish You Were Here’ exhibition which opened on Friday, September 8.
The exhibition features postcards depicting places where the Archer Project’s beneficiaries have slept, with the words chosen based on their first ‘interviews’ at the charity where they explain their situation, needs and experiences.
Jim Lobley, co-founder of Black Eye Project, said: “The idea is to highlight the sceneries these people have to live in on a daily basis. Usually postcards would have this amazing vista, but instead we have somewhere you wouldn’t want to be in a million years."
The exhibition also includes installation art as a memorial for six individuals who attended the Project who have passed away while sleeping rough.
Jim added: “I just hope the exhibition does what it needs to do. I want people to come away having a different feeling as they come out of the door.”