Rough sleeper fights back after seeing his kids walk by from his doorway
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Anz Soumahoro knew he had hit rock bottom when he looked up from the doorway he was sleeping in and through a drunken haze spotted his former wife and kids.
“I was in St Stephens Street sleeping in a doorway on top of cardboard boxes. I saw my kids and honestly, I was ashamed, I couldn’t bring myself to speak to them,” the 48-year-old said, sniffing back tears at the memory.
“I was embarrassed and that is my truth.”
But in that brutal moment something began to build inside Anz. He became determined to turn his life around.
Anz moved to Norwich in 2010 hoping a move to the UK would offer him and his family a better life.
He grew up in an orphanage in Africa, a smart young boy but one who already faced many difficulties.
But when the family arrived in Norwich things appeared to be looking up. They were happy for a while but life grew harder when his partner’s father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
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“It put a strain on our relationship,” he said. “It’s very complicated but my kids were young and she had to look after her father a lot.
“I was the sole bread winner so I was under a lot of pressure. And at the time I wasn’t aware of the difficult things that she was having to do.
“Ultimately, there was a lack of communication, I was so focused with keeping a roof over our heads, I didn’t speak. I failed to communicate so emotionally, we began to separate.”
Month rolled into month, rolled into month before without really knowing it the pair were drifted apart.
Finally the family had to sell their house and Anz and his wife separated.
He moved in to a property in Unthank Road but only months later the landlord asked him to leave so he could sell the house.
At his wits’ end Anz was forced to ask for help. Luckily pal Nick stepped in and offered him a bed until he got back on his feet. Then disaster struck again.
“After only a short while of living together, Nick died,” he said. “It’s hard, it never gets easier and you have to carry that around with you.”
Desperate and hurting from the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of Nick, Anz moved in with another friend and for it while something like calm returned. The pair shared the rent and Anz had a home.
Then one night he came home to find the locks had been changed. The landlord was kicking the pair out for unpaid rent.
“I paid my share of the rent,” he explained.
Quickly Anz’s life spiralled out of all control.
He was forced to sleep rough and as an escape from the horror of the streets he turned to alcohol. Night after day, rain and shine Anz was homeless and seemingly hopeless for two years.
Then a glimpse of his former life grabbed him by the heart and the fightback began.
In April this year homeless charity St Martins put a roof over his head. Since then, he has been working with the charity to combat his alcoholism – a battle he admits he is still very much fighting.
He said: “I keep a diary of my drinking habits and I work with the staff to hopefully diminish my alcohol consumption.
“People have to remember that addiction is a complicated thing, the coronavirus has made things even more complicated for people like me and the world just doesn’t realise.”
But Anz is working hard to take the necessary steps forward to create positive change he is also looking forward to what he can achieve.
“I dream of being busy,” he said with a smile. “I have three passions in life: poetry, mathematics and astronomy.
“I wasn’t to research these things, and spend my days being passionate, I desire nothing more.”
And now he plans to bring together some 379 poems he has written into a book.
“I write every day,” he added. “It helps me when I feel low, I just want to break the cycle that I am stuck in.”