Homeless Man Turns His Life Around

A Liverpool artist has spoken about how his life ‘hit rock bottom’ after a series of personal tragedies left him homeless and addicted to alcohol.

Ten years ago, Wayne Freeman’s life was going down a very different path, reports the Liverpool Echo. Speaking to the Big Issue North, the 58-year-old said he turned to alcohol after he broke his leg in an accident that left him unable to work and then found his ex-docker dad, Alfred, dead in his home.

Now a grandfather, Wayne said: “My life was spiralling out of control, largely because of the drink. Around this time I was also going through a very troubled relationship with an ex-partner. I lost my job, I lost my flat, I lost my partner. I’d drink just so I could sleep and not have to think about what was happening to me.” Over the next four years, Wayne was made homeless, living in a hostel near Sefton Park. He said: “I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I couldn’t even see my children because I wasn’t in any fit state to be a parent. I was at rock bottom and I knew I had to dig myself out. Thoughts of suicide flashed through my mind – I can admit that now.”

In 2014 Wayne’s mum Kathleen passed away. It was her dying wish for her son to get back on track. He said it was the turning point he needed. He said: “Something happened to me where I was just pushed onto the right path. I gave up all of my vices there and then – I just stopped. This was the moment I vowed to change my life.” Taking heed of his mum’s plea, he enrolled at the City of Liverpool College to study for a diploma in design. He added: “I knew I wanted to go to university, and going to college was the first step I needed to take. At the time, I knew nothing about ceramics and clay. I just wanted to go and draw. But something just clicked as soon as I saw the pottery wheel. I didn’t leave the ceramics room. I wasn’t a natural, but I got there in the end with it and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.”

Wayne enrolled at Liverpool Hope University in 2017 to study for a BA in design, specialising in ceramics, and began honing his skills, experimenting with his love of Native American art in particular. After completing his course in 2020 he graduated in September this year, with a photograph of his mum in his pocket. Wayne said: “Mum was right here with me. She had to come. And I hope she was proud.” Wayne is now working with the Granby Workshop in Liverpool, a social enterprise set up by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble. The Granby Workshop forms part of community-led efforts to rebuild Granby, a Liverpool neighbourhood that was nearly made derelict by decades of failed regeneration initiatives.

Wayne creates soap dishes using workable clay from a mix of sink, toilet and tile industry waste materials that would otherwise go to landfill. Currently, he’s engaged in a commercial project supplying items to cosmetics store Lush. Wayne said: “I absolutely love it. I’m the first here and I’m the last to leave. When I’ve told people I’m making products for Lush they just can’t believe it. They’ve told me: ‘Hold on a minute – is this you? Is this the same Wayne?’ “I’ve even had people who’ve said: ‘I thought you’d be well dead by now, not getting a degree from university! Wayne? A degree!?’ “I’m in a really good place now.”