*Name and image has been changed.

When I left care at 16 I went into a B&B for about a month. It wasn’t nice or clean. The person who left before me was very dirty and left a lot of cigarette ends all over the floor. I knew the place was temporary but I also didn’t know where I was going to end up.

I had no friends or family around me and struggled to manage my money. I was being paid £63 a week and had to pay electric, gas and water from that. I did extra jobs here and there to try and get enough money to pay for food but it was always hard.

I ended up living in a hostel but it was full of people who took drugs. They used to blackmail me into taking drugs, saying they’d kill my mum if I didn’t. I was only 17 and being forced to take all sorts like cocaine, pills, crack, even stuff I didn’t know how to take. I felt too scared to tell anyone in case they did go and kill my mum so for ages I just kept doing what they told me to do. I’d end up being awake night after night because I’d taken so much stuff.

I’d never touched drugs before, only a drink every now and then. They tried to make me take spice but I said no, and started getting into fights from then on. I watched one kid get his flat smashed up, his stuff stolen and he got hurt badly, it was so sad to see, but he just wouldn’t fight back. I was evicted for fighting.

I lived in one other place after the hostel and then moved to Llamau’s Merthyr Housing First project. It’s a brand new building with really nice flats. I have my own one, which I look after. It’s my space and I feel safe in it. On my front door there’s a spy hole and chain so I can look out at whose knocking and make my own decision on whether or not to let them in.

There’s about five of us living here right now and we all get on. The one girl doesn’t really talk to any of us yet but with time she might.

The support I’ve had living here has been good. My support worker has helped me with things like remembering what I have to do each week. I had a brain haemorrhage a few years ago so I need help with remembering certain things.

Not long ago I saw a picture of myself when I was on the drugs. I look so different now. You can see how my face has changed. I’m looking forward to moving into my own home one day with my partner. I met her when I was studying in college and we’re happy together. I’ll hopefully go back to college again but I’ll study something different this time.