Updated: Feb 3
Everyone has a story to tell, and Laura Casserley’s is one of hope.
After overcoming her own battles with addiction and mental health, she now works as part of the Greater Manchester Housing First pilot.
In her own words, Laura takes us through her journey – from leaving school to her job now with Jigsaw Support.
“I’m Laura and I’m going to share with you a bit of my story as to how I overcame my own struggles with Multiple Complex needs and how it led to me being an Engagement Worker within the GMHF Pilot.
I left school at 16 with very little qualifications and no idea or passion as to what I wanted to do.
I knew a didn’t want to go into further education so feeling the pressure decided to complete a City & Guilds in Hairdressing level 2.
I completed this over a two-year period knowing that my heart wasn’t really in it.
This was the start of many different career changes for me. To name but a few I tried my hand at being a dental nurse, Personal Injury Claims Handler, Working behind bars and Sales Consultant etc.
I fell in love with House Music and Travel and I spent a few years travelling to different experience culture and music.
Due to the lifestyle I led at the time, I found myself with a drug and alcohol problem.
It was at this point I accessed help within drug and alcohol services and also started to attend self help groups such as AA.
As I recovered from my addiction, I then started to access Mental Health Services, and spent about two years working with me.
My experience of accessing drug, alcohol and mental health services was positive but painful. There are so many doors that can be opened if you’re just willing to walk through them.
The next two years were spent on sustaining my sobriety and counselling in terms of my mental health.
I also had a peer mentor, someone I felt I could really open up to and also looked up to as they had experienced the same struggles as me.
This motivated me to keep going even when I wanted to give up. It’s the hardest but most rewarding thing I’ve every done.
It was at this point that I started to think maybe I could help other people, if I could do it anyone could do it.
I started to volunteer within the drug and alcohol service I’d accessed during my recovery.
After six months of supporting people as a Peer Mentor within recovery groups and community rehabilitation, I was given the opportunity to become a Peer Mentor at Inspiring Change Manchester which is part of Shelter, supporting people with Multiple Complex Needs.
I started as a Peer Mentor in October 2017, I worked as a Peer Mentor for six months and supported approximately six people both practically and emotionally in different areas of their life depending on their needs and priorities.
I do think the fact I had lived experience made a huge difference in terms of them being open with me and not feeling judged.
In March 2018 I applied for the role of Grow Trainee Engagement Worker within Shelter and was successful. I was over the moon, the role is specifically for people like myself who have faced complex needs, are unemployed and have no experience or qualifications in a support worker role.
Six months into my one-year contract as a Grow Trainee I applied for the position of Engagement Worker within Shelter’s SIB (Entrenched Rough Sleeper Service) this was a full Engagement Worker Role supporting 18 of the most Entrenched Rough Sleepers in Manchester.
As this was also a one-year contract I started to look for alternative employment as I was approaching the end of the contract.
I was already aware of Housing First as there was a project within Shelter. What interested me was the low case load, being able to give more time and intensive support to the people I would work with was the drive for me to pursue this role. I was successful with my Application to Zone C with Jigsaw Homes and have been in role since August 2019.
I started this blog by stating I left school not knowing what I wanted to do or what my passion was. I can honestly say that I’ve found my calling.
The working relationships I have today with both the people I support and the team I work with are phenomenal.
It’s not an easy role, it’s hard work, but for me the rewards far out way the tough times.
Seeing people overcome barriers is one of the best feelings you can have.
And the moral of the story? Your experiences don’t define you but can influence your future and what you do with it.
If my story helps others, that would be pretty special.