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Gemma - a GMHF story

Gemma was one of four children who was raised by her Grandma, with whom she had a very close relationship.

But when her Grandma died when Gemma was 11, it had a huge negative impact on her mental health and by her own admission she “spiralled out of control.”

There were issues at school and at home and she began drinking, so much on some days that she would black out.

Due to issues at home, she went to live with her step father but continued to drink as a way of coping with the loss of her Grandma.

Due to her behaviour, Gemma said she was labelled as a “naughty child” and she wasn’t given the support she so desperately needed.

She started to self-harm, cutting her wrists, and then hiding it from her mother and step-father as a way to cope.

At the age of 16, she started to experiment with drugs and was coerced into using cocaine with by her sisters friends. From that day forwards, Gemma was using drugs and alcohol daily and would regularly shoplift and steal from her family to fund her habit.

She left home at the age of 17 and stayed anywhere where she could lay her head and also take drugs. She formed a relationship with another female drug user who would physically and mentally abuse her and would send her out to shoplift to fund their habit.

This relationship made Gemma feel wanted and she would do anything for her partner.

From the age of 19 to 31, Gemma spent eight spells in prison. Her first terms was for 45 months for supplying a Class A drugs. The second sentence was for robbery and she served 42 months in prison.

The rest of the offences were for shoplifting to feed her habit.

She eventually found herself homeless in Trafford and in 2019 was referred into GM Housing First by the Trafford Rough Sleeper Team after three years on the streets after sleeping under a church’s stairway.

Gemma then moved to Oldham to stay with her cousin and that helped her begin her recovery journey.

She was given the choice of a female or male GM Housing First Worker and chose female so Paula Lorde started working with Gemma.

By the time she started working with Gemma, she had started detoxing herself and was two weeks into the detox on methadone. We arranged another appointment to meet for the following week.

The pair discussed the Housing First principles, the support she felt she needed and her long-term goals and provided her with a phone.

She expressed her desire to be housed in Oldham but took the opportunity to look at a Jigsaw Homes property in Ashton-Under-Lyne which she fell in love with.

Paula helped her set up her utilities and helped her get the furniture, furnishing and items such as cutlery and crockery she needed as well as registering her with a GP and dentist as well as helping her apply for benefits and a bank account.

Once she settled in, Paula and the team increased her support to help her settle into the area including phone contact and meetings at the weekend.

But the isolation of living in an unfamiliar place took its toll and she visited Sale on a regular basis and contact broke down for a short period until she was found safe and well at a house she used to frequent. She left her flat and stayed in Sale.

Gemma initially indicated she would like to return to Trafford but eventually decided against it as it held bad memories for her.

The consistency and flexibility of the support has helped Gemma’s life become more stable and as a result her confidence and self-esteem have soared and she has had the time and space to address her issues.

She is engaging with service and has become a model tenant with a pristine flat and no ASB issues or complaints for more than four years.

Gemma is in contact with some members of her family. She has been in employment for almost a year. Gemma is also an active member of the co-production panel and has taken form control of her recovery journey.

This is another example of the power of the model and strength of the regional partnership as services and local authorities have worked as one to give Gemma the help she needed


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