My name is Steven Norton,
I’m 54 years old, disabled because of back problems, COPD and a fair-sized list of other complaints that has changed the direction of my life!
After a major fight with OCC to get out of the tiny room in a shared house I lived in for six and a half years, I finally got a wonderful bungalow in Kidlington two and a half years ago.
I started my working life by making cornflake cakes in the evening then selling at school the next day. At seventeen I joined the RAF and the following years gave me an incredible experience where I learned the importance and joy of teamwork but also the companionship and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
In the mid-nineties in Manchester, I started buying and renting out properties, I fought the council, tenants, drug dealers and prostitution. I was trying to build something that would last, give a home to people who had little or no hope of getting somewhere to live and in time, give me a pension so I could go and live on a pretty beach sipping rum based cocktails (recipes to be shared later!)
Thee foolish naivety of youth…!!!!
Sadly, I lost everything and ended up sailing away on an old fourty-five foot, canal boat. The next ten years were a misery of self-reproach, self-hatred and dreams of where I should have done things slightly or massively different. After stripping and resealing my boat, travelled with a friend heading for Bristol.
I woke one morning moored in Wolvercote. This was so beautiful. Six months later I moved to the Thames - I stayed here for a further three years.
Round this time my mother died. I fell apart. This led to me waking in hospital one day after a failed attempt to end the misery I believed I could never escape.
A man called Ian was sat by my bed, he and his wife led me to rebuild my life. This started with the room in a shared house, boat sale and attending Mind at the Mill on Cowley Road three or four times a week, then I started attending a writing class through Crisis.
I gained a foundation degree at Ruskin College which for a man who left school at fifteen with no qualifications was quite a step.
In the last year my tutor thought the piece created for his class, teaching people how to write, had merit. After college finished, we worked on the piece together. I taught three classes on the back of my achievements. The television script we created were based on moments of my life – this was truly amazing for me, as I never believed I could achieve so much.
I mentioned how amazed and thankful I was for all of this support I’d received, she pointed out that maybe I could give something back. This was another revelatory moment.
I started volunteering at a Sue Ryder shop. I received a weekly box of supplies from the Cherwell larder, then I volunteered at Exeter Hall, welcoming each person how it worked. I was very dedicated to raiding their pockets for as many donations as possible!!
I have realised that I get exponentially more from volunteering than I put in. When this opportunity to work with Wendy and all the other ambassadors arose, I was fascinated, it took more than one sleepless night to realise that maybe I could bring something to the table, that volunteering with the Council will help so many people struggling to deal life and with the council systems that often lose touch with the tenants and community they serve.
I love working collaboratively and work well in a team.
I have experienced much in my life and hope to bring some of this to the forums we will work in.