Ojay was suspicious of his Switchback Mentor when they first met in prison. Over three meetings, his Switchback Mentor gained his trust whilst making it clear what was on offer and the hard work it would involve if he really wanted to make a change. Aged 20, Ojay had no home to go to when released, no experience of work and an unusual communication style; his literal interpretations often got him into difficulty.
A key focus after leaving prison was keeping Ojay busy and avoiding old habits. He signed up for lots of shifts at the Crisis Skylight Café and was able to say to friends that he wasn’t available. When he started at the café, he often misinterpreted the instructions he was given and wasn’t sure why he wasn’t always getting a good reaction from other staff. His Switchback Mentor spent time every week talking frankly with him about how he interacted with people. It took a lot of practice but things started improving.
A large proportion of the rest of his time was spent dealing with housing. His Switchback Mentor was by his side all the way but made sure it was Ojay who tried to fix the problem. It was a slow process. A watershed moment was when Ojay managed to get out of a bail hostel and into a more permanent place in Whitechapel.
We often see that when one or two key areas of life stabilise, others follow. He successfully completed his license with probation and built strong family relationships. The growth in his confidence and social skills was clear to everyone on the team. He became really interested in coffee after attending a barista course. His Switchback Mentor also encouraged him in his areas of natural strength, in particular, being reliable and budgeting.
Ojay really enjoyed being part of the café team so his Action Plans started to include events that would introduce him to new people and experiences. He came along to an “Extreme Breakfast” at Roast restaurant, visited the Higgidy Pie factory, completed a first aid course and received excellent feedback from a three week work placement at Benugo.
As part of our work to build links with local employers, we had been speaking to the team at a local independent cinema, Rich Mix, to see if they would like to get involved. Ojay loves films and loves making coffee so when they told us about a vacancy they had, his Switchback Mentor encouraged him to apply. He has been working there part-time since February 2012. He has been given an increasing amount of responsibility, which set him up well for applying for more senior roles.