Through the Gate: Mark's Story Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Mark* was referred to Pact a few weeks before his release from prison. He was 56 years old and, having spent much of his adult life struggling with addiction, he had some significant physical health problems, which made it difficult for him to move around. As his release date approached, he was increasingly anxious – he had nowhere to call home, and the country was in the height of the pandemic, in the grip of a national lockdown. Mark’s future looked extremely uncertain. Ed*, a Pact Mentor, sent a message to Mark in prison to let him know about the support Pact could offer. Ed explained that he couldn’t meet Mark in person because of Covid-19 restrictions, but he could be at the other end of a phone, and talk him through practical things, including travelling to his Probation appointment and claiming Universal Credit, as well as supporting his general wellbeing. This gave Mark the reassurance he needed: he wouldn’t have to do everything alone. Then, just before Mark was due to be released, he was rushed to hospital with a serious heart infection. He was told he would need to stay as an in-patient for a few weeks so, when his release date came, the prison released him from custody while he lay in his hospital bed. A Prison Officer arranged to take Mark’s belongings to the hospital but, when they arrived, most of Mark’s clothes and belongings had been left in his cell. He was left with only his pyjamas. While Mark edged closer to a full recovery, Ed began to put plans in place to support him out of hospital and into temporary accommodation. Ed worked alongside Mark’s Probation Officer and council Housing colleagues to find him somewhere suitable to stay, and he talked Mark through making an online Universal Credit application. However, Ed soon realised that Mark’s missing belongings would present some serious problems for him: without a bank card, he was unable to access his Universal Credit funds, and he desperately needed some clothes to wear. Ed approached the Pact Welfare Grants team with an application for basic clothing for Mark: jogging bottoms, sweatshirts, t-shirts and underwear. The Grants team reviewed and approved Ed’s application straight away and the clothes were ordered and delivered to Mark within 48 hours. This made a huge difference to Mark, both practically and emotionally, and he was very grateful to Ed for how fast he had worked. He would now be able to leave the hospital with dignity. On the day of his discharge from hospital, Ed spoke with Mark to reassure him that his accommodation was in place, and that transport had been arranged to take him to his temporary home. While Mark was pleased to hear this news, he told Ed that he was now feeling very anxious about the following day, as he would need to collect a script to manage his substance use and he wasn’t sure how or where he could do this. Ed contacted Mark’s Community Nurse on his behalf, and she confirmed that the script was in place and gave Ed instructions on how Mark could collect it. The Nurse also advised Ed that she would contact the dispensing chemist to confirm that Mark would be collecting the following day. Ed was able to relay all of this information back to Mark, which put his mind at rest. Over the following weeks, Ed kept in touch with Mark to find out how he was getting on, and to offer his support. Mark was pleased to say that he’d managed to pick up his script without any problems, and he had been able to access an advance on his Universal Credit. Ed told Mark that the Community Nurse would be getting in touch with him to support his recovery, but that he would continue to work with Mark, and help him as he got settled in a permanent new home. Mark told Ed, “I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done and are doing for me. Honestly, thank you from the bottom of my heart.” *Names have been changed to protect anonymity. Find out more Read the stories of our volunteer mentors - and other incredible people who give up their time to support prisoners and their families. Do you want to support people like Mark? Take a look at our volunteering roles to see if there's an opportunity near you. Make a donation to support Pact's work and enable more people like Mark to receive our support.