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A former restaurant owner now roams the streets of Leeds searching for heroin and scratching uncontrollably.
Dad-of-four Jamie, 36, warned “it could happen to anyone” having had his life upended by drink, drugs and jail.
Only 10 years ago he was running a thriving business. Now his face is covered in scars and lesions, with withdrawal causing him to itch all over, reports Leeds Live.
READ MORE: UK street of window-pukers and rooftop ramblers where fires, flies and food fights reign
Wearing his worn-out Nike tracksuit, Jamie now walks the streets of Leeds with his meagre belongings – a tattered quilt and a sleeping bag – slung over a shoulder.
A biological father to two, nine and 13, and step-dad to another pair, 18 and 21, he succumbed to the mounting pressure that came with running a restaurant and providing for his family in his mid-20s.
He said: “Basically, my life went wrong. I was under too much pressure, to be honest. I was only young. Then I ended up in jail and ended up homeless.
“I went to jail because I ended up fighting drunk. That’s in my past now. I wouldn’t ever be that person again, that was due to drink.
“I was drinking every day, about 12 cans a day. It was the pressure and taking on all that – the kids, the restaurant. It was hard work.”
Once the proud owner of The Bistro, an establishment serving up classic British meals in Ilfracombe, North Devon, Jamie’s life crumbled beneath him.
When he left prison after serving a 12-week sentence, his wife left him and returned to Yorkshire. To make matters worse, Jamie said most of his family members tragically died when he was in his teens.
For the past decade he’s been in and out of shared housing and admits he “never managed to get his life back on track”.
He decided to sleep rough in Leeds as he has family roots in the city and it’s busy, so can rely on the good nature of more people to hand him their spare change.
He said: “I’m a heroin addict. I started taking drugs because I enjoy drugs. Not to forget anything. I’ve always lived my life to the full. I’ve taken drugs to see stuff differently, not to forget.
“But you’re ill if you haven’t got it.”
Despite his brazen attitude towards his drug addiction, he opened up about how “demeaning” his life has become.
Jamie said: “I feel s***. I shouldn't have to do it. I’ve only just started sort of begging for money now. Some people are nice and some people aren’t very nice. They don’t understand what you’re going through.
“They’ll just blank you. Ignorance. Complete ignorance. I’ve heard about people getting kicked in the head, all sorts of things. Getting weed on, chucked rubbish at, called names, all sorts. I’m not bothered about it as I can look after myself but there are people out there who are vulnerable.”
If you are concerned for someone on the street, you can report it here.
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