“My parents divorced when I was four-years-old and I lived with my dad. He was strict but loving, although his partner was incredibly controlling. I felt suffocated, and at 12-years-old, I ran away to live with my mum.

It wasn’t long into living with her that I realised she was an alcoholic. Her new husband also had drinking problems and they would drink a box of wine or two in the evening. My personality changed from a well-mannered child to someone who was angry, upset and felt abandoned. I experimented with cannabis at 13-years-old and my mum didn’t try to stop me.

My mum’s relationship with her husband deteriorated. Arguments would escalate and she became a victim of domestic violence. On numerous occasions she left to live in refuges, but she would return and the cycle of violence would continue. Eventually, we were housed in a ‘mother and baby’ unit when I was 14.

Over the next couple of years, my mum’s drinking got even worse. She dated various alcoholics and again suffered domestic violence. When I was 16, a bailiff knocked on our door one morning. Mum hadn’t been paying the rent on our flat and we were thrown out immediately. I sat outside the block of flats waiting but my mum never returned.

I had been banned from my father’s house by his partner so I had nowhere to go. I slept rough for a few nights before social services pointed me towards Step by Step (then called Emmaus Project). That was 10 years ago now."

James Mowat at Step by Step
James Mowat Step by Step Trustee

"I don’t think I can ever put into words how much Step by Step supported me. They gave me structure, care and a sense of belonging. I had regular one-to-one’s with keyworkers which were pivotal in growing my confidence. At first, I was going through every emotion on a daily basis – feeling alone, betrayed, shocked, numb, sad, helpless, angry. But now I felt like I was being supported and coached by people who cared.

I started to develop confidence. I got a job and a sense of independence. I used that feeling of achievement and empowerment to fuel me and keep me going in the right direction. That has stayed with me ever since.

Today, I am an Associate Director for a global recruitment company.

I am extremely proud to have joined the board of trustees at Step by Step, meaning I am involved in deciding how the charity is run. It is very rare for someone helped by a charity to then become a trustee. I have the opportunity to shape our services to help young people in a similar position to I was when Step by Step helped me.”

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