1. ITV Report

How a homeless man transformed his life by stepping on stage

Kevin was once an alcoholic and living on the streets but has since turned his life around with the help of Behind the Label. Credit: Behind the Label

A man who spent years sleeping rough on the streets of Cardiff has transformed his life by stepping on the stage.

Kevin Machent's life spiralled out of control after losing his brother. After the trauma he turned to alcohol and found himself living on the streets. He says he was labelled as an alcoholic and "nothing".

Kevin is part of a scheme that encourages people to share their life experiences in a group setting. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

"I'd drink myself into oblivion," says the 33-year-old. "I'd become a professional jockey, but complications with addiction ruined my career."

Kevin lived on the street for five years. He moved around, but encountered verbal abuse and violence wherever he went.

"I felt no one trusted me. I was very bitter," he says. "If someone offered to help me I'd tell them to go away because I thought they were all words. It was me against the world."

In late 2015, Kevin was sleeping rough in Cardiff when he was set upon by a group of about 15 men as they left a club where they had watched Wales defeat England in the Rugby World Cup. They beat him so badly he lost his front teeth and ended up in hospital.

Kevin performs at the Wales Millennium Centre as part of a theatre project. Credit: Behind the Label

When his wounds healed he was determined to get off the street. He was offered temporary accommodation and asked if he wanted to take part in Behind the Label, a creative project for vulnerable people who have experienced homelessness and low self-esteem. The scheme encourages people to share their life experiences in a group setting along with fully-staged performances at the Wales Millennium Centre.

It helped me get my confidence back and speak out to people how my experience was and how I ended up becoming an alcoholic and how much that affected me and I felt like I got listened to.

– Kevin Machent

The project is funded by the national lottery and has been running for the last three years.

Jennifer Hartley founded Behind the Label. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Jennifer Hartley founded Behind the Label and says it's a chance for people to share their story.

In terms of success stories for a lot of them it was being able to tell their story for the first time in their lives, some of them went on to work some of them got placements in terms of housing things like that, some have gone on to start college, reunite with their families but most important was feelings of shame and guilt for things they had no control over when they were young that disappeared and being able to stand on stage and say you know that's not my fault that this happened to me when I was a child, I've made bad choices since but I can now control those choices.

– Jennifer Hartley, Behind the Label Founder