A drug user in Doncaster says addicts haven’t got a hope of turning their lives around because of the state of the town’s rehab services.
Kerry Fullwood, 43, from Edenthorpe, has had drug problems for most of her adult life, starting with heroin and alcohol before recently turning to the notorious former legal high Spice.
She managed to get herself off the synthetic cannabis substitute after being put in temporary accommodation when the council cleared the streets of rough sleepers in the snow.
But, she says, many of those still living at one of two hostels in the town haven’t had such luck and have to try to get themselves clean surrounded by drug use and death.
“You haven’t got a hope of getting away from drug problems in those hostels,” she says.
“You realise if you stay there you are just going to become a zombie like them.”
Spice is worse than heroin was 20 years ago.Kerry Fullwood
The two hostels Kerry mentions - Wharf House and College House - are run by homelessness support service Riverside.
She says the people who live in them are constantly exposed to drug dealing and drug taking, with much of it happening on the premises itself.
Many residents are seriously ill and malnourished and two people have even died there in recent months, the first of a drug overdose and the second by suicide.
“There are drug dealers in there selling Spice out of the top window,” said Kerry.
“You can get smack in there as well - just by knocking on a door.
“I was in College House on Christmas Day and I saw a dead body in the toilet.
“Another guy killed himself in Wharf House on my birthday.”
The mum-of-four and grandmother of five has now been living in temporary accommodation in Shaftesbury House in Intake for the last six weeks - and has now got herself clean.
The accommodation is basic, doesn’t have a cooker and she is struggling to access the benefits she is owed.
But her current life is undoubtedly better than it was before.
For six months after her former partner was murdered in prison, Kerry lived on the streets of Doncaster, and got heavily into Spice.
She says people take the former legal high so they can just sleep and numb themselves to the outside world.
It is cheaper to buy than heroin and easier to use - with those who take it simply smoking it in joints like they would cannabis.
The addiction problems that stem from it however are more akin to the issues faced by alcoholics and heroin users.
“You just go to sleep for about 10 minutes so you don’t have to think about what is going on,” she says.
“But it is worse than heroin was 20 years ago,”
“It is £5 for half a gram and I took two grams a day. I needed £20 worth every day.”
She says there are around 30 to 40 ‘Spice heads’ in Doncaster at the moment, all of whom hang around in the town centre.
Despite getting into the former legal high when she was living on the streets, she hasn’t touched heroin for over a year.
“I don’t want to go back to being a spice head, I have grandkids to look after,” she says.
However, despite the fact she has stayed away from so-called hard drugs, that still hasn’t kept her safe.
Two of Kerry’s bottom teeth are loose from when a Spice dealer hit her in the face when she bought from one of his rivals.
She was only plucked from that world when the council cleared the streets of rough sleepers in the snow and she couldn’t return to the hostel after she had a fight with a member of staff.
“I had to be a criminal before I got noticed. As long as I wasn’t causing any trouble they could just forget about me,” she says.
“If I had have worked as a prostitute, I would have got more help.”
Kerry’s addiction problems began in her early 20s when she was in an abusive relationship with a man who beat her up and gave her drugs.
She was also sexually abused between the ages of nine and 15.
She says she has been ‘screaming for ages’ about wanting to speak to someone about all the trauma she has suffered - so far to no avail.
John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support at Riverside, said: “Many of the homeless people we work with have complex drug and alcohol issues and we provide ongoing assistance and encourage them to seek help from local support agencies.
“Over the last 12 months in Doncaster, we have supported 139 homeless people to move into a home of their own, along with ongoing support to aid their recovery.
“In order to give people the best chance of recovery we have a strict no drugs policy on our premises and if anyone is found to be dealing drugs they are immediately asked to leave and the police are informed.
“Ms Fullwood was asked to leave both schemes in September 2017 and January 2018 following incidents including assaulting a member of staff, which required the police to be called and resulted in a criminal conviction.
“In response to some of her specific allegations, I can confirm that sadly, two people died during the Christmas period and we have carried out a full review of the circumstances. We are satisfied that all our safeguarding procedures were followed.
“The entrance door at both sites is locked at all times and controlled by an intercom system that connects to the staff office and covered by CCTV.”