In August 2016, after a 16 year prison sentence, I was finally directed to Hestia Approved Premises (AP) service where I spent from 3 to 5 days once a month for the next 10 months in supported housing. One week after that I was paroled to the same address. Now almost a year on, I’m moved to say that I’m still counting my blessings.

I really got the AP system; it had rules that at first sight made me bristle - in by eleven, not out before 6am, and random searches of my room. But I received a hot meal every day and was allowed to help myself to breakfast and as much tea and coffee as I could drink. All the facilities were clean and comfortable and I had access to the washing machine and dryer (a luxury I was later to discover that would cost me at least £5 a load at the launderette!).

That was all fine, but the real benefit of my stay was the help I received from the staff. I’m writing this from my own one bedroom flat, a situation I couldn’t even imagine myself in a year ago. The dread of all the dealings I would have to go through with the council and benefit agencies – all the things one has to go through and deal with when coming back to the community after years in prison – was eased into almost non-existence with the help and guidance of my allotted support worker. The same person I went to whenever I had a problem or just needed someone sensible to talk to.

The AP service had meetings once a week, where residents would voice their concerns and suggestions. Ideas were contributed in relation to purposeful activities, whilst I was there we talked of getting a five a side football team together and finding a local league. Trips were organised and we had barbeques in the garden on good weekends.

"I really can’t think of any negatives and can only thank the people at the AP service I was at and hope everybody that goes through the AP route has the same experience as I’ve had."

Still can’t believe it’s only been 9 months - I don’t know how I would have managed without all the help I got from Hestia.