Former drug addict comes clean to help feed the hungry through Covid

Former drug addict Mick Hanley has turned his life around.  He is now a key member of the Sheffield S6 team working tirelessly to feed the hungry in Sheffield.  Supporting others in dire straits is helping him keep on the ‘straight and narrow’.  He talks about his life, and how surrounding himself with positive people has been one of the cornerstones of his recovery.

Mick Hanley is 52, happily married and lives with his wife Julie in Stocksbridge. He spends his days helping others.  But from the age of 13, for 25 years, Mick was a drug abuser, addicted to alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine.  His future looked bleak.

By his early 20s, Mick’s life had fallen apart and for eight years he lived on the streets in the north of England.

“It was a constant fight for survival,” he says. “Every day I lived in fear of attack, always watching my back, just existing from one day to the next.  I lived a chaotic existence with the focus on trying to stay warm, stay fed and find somewhere safe to sleep. It was a battle just to stay alive.”

It was Bolton drugs worker, Phil, who helped turn Mick’s life around.  “Without Phil I wouldn’t be here to tell my story,” he says.  Back in 2008, Phil encouraged Mick who was living in hostels then, to go on a detox programme and arranged for him to spend a month in a rehab centre in Manchester.  He moved on to Storth Oaks in Sheffield where he spend eight months. “There were relapses, but thanks to the support of Phil and the team there I started to see the potential for a better life.”

In 2009, while volunteering in the kitchens at The Cathedral Archer Project in the city Mick met assistant cook, Julie.  They married in 2015 and Mick now has a loving family – four step children and four step grandchildren.

A part-time church caretaker, he also works for four days each week distributing food to foodbanks from the Sheffield S6 warehouse. As he helps unload another pallet of food delivered by the South Yorkshire charity programme, Rotary4foodbanks, he says: “It makes me so proud to be with a team of such wonderful people. I am honoured to be a part of it.  I love every minute of the work I do.”

Demand for services has rocketed since the pandemic hit.  Mick says the supplies donated by Rotary4foodbanks have provided a lifeline during lockdown. The R4FB group, run by Rotarians, buys food at wholesale prices and distributes it free to organisations like Sheffield S6 who in turn deliver it to foodbanks across the region. 

Mick expects the problem of hunger in the city to get worse in the coming months.

“I have experienced first-hand the real suffering which hardship and hunger can bring to individuals and families.  I am determined, along with others in the team, to make sure that no-one in our region goes hungry this Autumn and Winter.  I implore anyone who can, to give money and time to support our efforts.”

And what advice would he give to others who find themselves in the position he was in in his teens and twenties?  “Don’t be in denial. Admit you have a problem.  Most importantly, surround yourself with positive people.  Then look to help others.  It is so life-affirming,” he says.

Mick works for Sheffield S6 which is part of the Trussell Trust. 

Rotary4foodbanks is run entirely by unpaid volunteers.  It supplies food to over 50 foodbanks across South Yorkshire and the East Midlands and has a just giving page for those wanting to support its work.

You can support Rotary4Foodbanks through our JustGiving page

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