A MAN left brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair after a street attack is today celebrating a housing victory in South Tyneside.
Disabled Chris McGeary, who has spent years in special care units, has battled long and hard to return to his native Jarrow.
Mr McGeary, 52, who cannot walk and has badly impaired speech, spent several years on a housing transfer list and had his hopes of a new home dashed several times.
But now he has finally secured a specially adapted bungalow in Salem Street, Jarrow, and is looking forward to the future with greater confidence.
He said: “It’s great – I feel like a free man!
“This has gone on for years, but I’ve finally got my own place in Jarrow.
“It’s been a long saga, but I’m finally back home.”
Mr McGeary’s life was turned upside down after he was assaulted outside a kebab shop during a night out in Rugby, Warwickshire, in 2004.
His subsequent medical problems later saw him placed on a life support machine at Newcastle General Hospital.
The divorced father-of-two, who grew up in Barnard Grove, Low Simonside, Jarrow, has spent time in several specialist units, and has latterly been a resident for more than two years at Abbeymoor Neurodisability Centre in Swalwell, Gateshead.
But after being registered for rehousing in July 2008, Mr McGeary, who travelled across Europe in his job as an HGV driver and played in rock bands, grew increasingly frustrated as he fought for a transfer to South Tyneside, where some of his family live.
Mr McGeary, who has spent £1,600 decorating his two-bedroom bungalow in Jarrow, added: “I have a walk-in shower and other adaptations.
“It’s just what I wanted and I’m a lot happier since moving back to Jarrow.”
Helen Thompson, senior practitioner with South Tyneside Council’s west older person and physical disabilities team, based at Hebburn Civic Centre, said: “It’s been a long haul, but Chris is delighted with his new home.
“He will receive care for six hours a day for the first six weeks, and then three times a week, as part of a phased programme.”
John Musson, director of housing at South Tyneside Homes, said: “We have worked very closely with Mr McGeary, social services and staff at Abbeymoor Neurodisability Centre to ensure he could return to live independently in South Tyneside.
“We are carrying out some final adaptations to the property in Salem Street, Jarrow, so it fully meets Mr McGeary’s needs.
“Once he has moved into his new home, we will continue to offer additional support to help him sustain his tenancy.
“This support will include completing any further adaptations needed, and regular customer care visits.”