John Griffiths, known as John ‘Films’ by many of his friends and members of the community, says “I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time”, following support he has received from Trivallis’ Magpie service and other partner agencies.
Now aged 76, John has led an interesting life; working as an engine cleaner for puffer engines on the railways, operating a cutting machine for cooked meats at Lipton’s factory and upholstering furniture in a factory for Remploy, he has experienced lots of different jobs.
As well as a varied CV, John has lots of interests including reading books and visiting libraries across Wales, writing and hosting quizzes in local pubs, building Lego figures and, most of all, films.
Four years ago, John had problems with his legs, which had a big impact on how he felt both mentally and physically. John said: “I’ve got depression, I have had for a long time. But when my leg went, I really stopped caring. I would just stay in the house and drink cans and throw them on the floor, I didn’t care that it was messy.”
As well as general litter, John’s home had become filled with thousands of DVD’s and piles of Lego; it was clear that his collecting had become more than just a hobby but a hoarding disorder and serious risk to his safety. “It got to a point where I would hear the door knock and, by the time I got through all the stuff to answer it, the visitor had gone. I was so overwhelmed things started to spiral for me and get worse.” John said.
A friend of John’s had heard about Trivallis’ Magpie service, which aims to support people who collect things and struggle to get rid of items, making their home cramped and cluttered. John was referred to the service and that’s where Magpie Coordinator, Sarah, got involved.
“When I went to John’s home it was clear to see that it was not safe to live in. My main concern was John’s health and safety, and I could immediately see that he was unwell.” Sarah said.
Sarah worked to build John’s trust to get him the help he needed to improve his health. Although he admits he didn’t want to let anyone in at first, he’s now glad he did, saying: “I was in agony with my feet and my stomach and Sarah supported me to go to the doctors. I’m now getting help with that and feel better.”
Due to the health and safety risk in the property, John agreed to move into the guest room of Trivallis’ Bryn Ivor sheltered scheme in Tonypandy, just before Christmas. Making the move meant John was safe and able to work with Sarah to manage his hoarding and keep his space clean and tidy.
Sarah said: “Since Christmas, John has moved out of the guest room in Bryn Ivor and into a permanent new home in the scheme. I’ve seen a massive improvement in John, both his physical and mental health have improved, particularly his mobility.”
Being so close to the town centre with improved health means John can get back to doing things he loves. Since moving to his new home, he regularly heads in to Tonypandy by bus or taxi to have a look around the shops, grab a bite to eat in Conti’s Café and enjoy a Whiskey in the Pandy Inn.
John is continuing to work with Sarah, who said: “We don’t judge at Trivallis, instead we work with people to understand their thoughts and feelings towards the items in their home.
“Changing habits takes time but through our MAGPIE project, our dedicated team will be on-hand to motivate anyone struggling with hoarding. We start by looking at the things they would like to change – making sure to take things slowly and at a pace that suits them.”
When asked if he would recommend this service to anyone feeling overwhelmed with the number of items in their home, like he did, John said: “In the past, I would never have accepted help from a service like this because I didn’t like the idea of it. Now, I would tell anyone who is struggling to accept all the help they can get.”
Help and support from Trivallis’ Magpie project is completely free of charge and is available to tenants of any registered social landlord across Rhondda Cynon Taf.
For more information on Trivallis’ Magpie project, visit www.trivallis.co.uk/the-magpie-project
This story is from the Spring 2022 issue of our Trivallis Valleys Magazine. To read the full issue, visit our Valleys Magazine page.