Thirty-four-year-old Louise (not her real name) knows the value of a home more than most after three years without one. Forced to leave her family home in 2017, Louise found herself living on the streets of Manchester.
With every day a living nightmare – begging for money, trying to keep warm and with the threat of violence around every corner – Louise turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort.
As addiction began to take hold, Louise struggled to see a way out of homelessness. But after almost a year of rough sleeping, she was thrown a lifeline. Louise was placed in council-run temporary accommodation to help her get back on her feet.
At first, Louise settled into a more normal routine but her drinking and drug-taking got her into trouble and she was asked to leave. This pattern continued for many months and Louise was placed in six different temporary accommodations.
It was a referral to Greater Manchester Housing First (GMHF) in September 2020 that really made a difference. As well as helping her get her own flat, a GMHF support worker, Lisan, has been on hand to give Louise the support she needs.
So far, Lisan has helped Louise register with a GP, set up direct debit payments and get items for the flat, as well as giving regular support and advice.
Connecting Louise with local health services was a priority as she has epilepsy and has been diagnosed with Wernicke's encephalopathy, a condition which affects the brain.
Now that Louise is off the streets, she doesn’t use drugs and only drinks occasionally. She hasn’t had an epileptic seizure in over a year.
Lisan said: “Since Louise moved into her own flat with her partner, she’s been doing really well. She’s had a positive attitude from the start, taking her medication regularly, paying her bills and cooking nutritious meals for her and Martin.
“Over the last few months, I’ve seen her confidence grow. She’s become quite organised and is doing things for herself. I think she’s able to look to the future now, and we often talk about this.
“I’ll continue to support Louise for as long as she needs me, while encouraging her to do things for herself. We often chat by text, which is a great way for me to find out what she’s been doing and how I can help.”
Louise loves having her own place. She says she feels safe there with her partner. “I can’t believe I’ve got my own place,” says Louise. “This has given me the incentive I need to change my life. I feel much more independent and can make my own choices now.
“When I think back to how things were three years ago, I can see how far I’ve come. I’m looking after my health now, and my family are back in my life again, which has made me so happy. They’re really proud of me.”
So what lies down the road for Louise? “I want to start driving again and I’d love to get into volunteering, which Lisan is going to help me with. For the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the future.”