I sit here pondering on the life I had. For 11 years I served as a police officer in Britain, firstly in Manchester and then in London. After my experiences of racism and homophobia in the force, and falling ill with depression because of them, I was forced out of my job as a detective. My life fell apart.
Not only did I lose my career, home and marriage, which crumbled under the weight of everything else, but I had to survive on benefits and live in a shared dorm hostel for over two years. A former Clerkenwell courthouse, Clink78 is a 600-bed hostel in central London. It uses former prison cells as bedrooms and is next to a police station. The irony was not lost on me.
After enduring horrendous discrimination in the workplace because of my race and sexuality, it felt like I had been sentenced for a crime I did not do. I shared a room with 13 other beds that were occupied by different people every night. There were no curtains and no privacy. I cried myself to sleep often. That’s my lived experience, but I know I am not alone.
Many before me have known such devastation, and millions in Britain today are just one paycheck away from losing their homes and livelihood. Over 300,000 are homeless in the United Kingdom. Between October 2017 and March 2019, 800 homeless people died, many in avoidable deaths. One in four people suffer from a mental health condition.
My physical and mental health plummeted following my experiences in the police. Some friends abandoned me, I abandoned others, and I no longer saw my family. I was completely devastated. I just didn’t feel at home in this world. Yet my experiences are not unique.
Like many, I wanted to quit life but life didn’t want to quit me. But what do you do after you’ve lost everything, including yourself? With the publication of my first book, Forced Out, that’s the journey I’m now on. Trying to rebuild a life after devastation and loss. But in order to heal, I have to mourn the past so that I can move forward. For this, I have to go back to the beginning and look at the choices I made, and why I made them. Why did a working-class black gay man from Liverpool think it a good idea to join the police force?