“Growing up, I experienced abuse at home, and have struggled with physical health problems as a result, which are still ongoing. Over the years, this has made me vulnerable, and I have experienced a number of abusive relationships where my finances and freedom have been restricted.
“For years, I struggled to get the help I needed – my physical health got worse, and out of desperation I turned to illegal substances to self-medicate. I was forced into homelessness and was sleeping rough or in temporary hostels, where I experienced further assaults.
“I really needed help, but I was labelled as ‘intentionally homeless’, meaning I didn’t qualify for permanent housing. But this wasn’t right at all – I would be no safer at home. My physical health problems also weren’t taken seriously by my GP - they just saw me as a ‘junkie’.
“Just as I was ready to give up, I was referred to Housing First by Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), and this is where my story really started to change. My Housing First Worker, Natalie, was amazing. She really took the time to get to know me, to understand what I have been through, and help me access the support I need – including finally finding a place of my own to live.
“I also received support from GMMH Housing First Dual Diagnosis Practitioners, Gill and Jade. They spoke to me about my physical and mental health needs, and then made sure the proper support was put in place. They liaised with my GP on my behalf, and made sure that they were doing the right tests, treatments and referring me on to the right specialists.
“They also provided a range of support and resources for my mental health – I’ve learned about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), grounded and mindful breathing, managing flashbacks and managing pain and fatigue – which has been so useful.
“Without Housing First, I would be in a doorway or dead. But life now is so good! I now have the proper medication I need and no longer use illegal substances. I have my own home – my own private space – where I can do the things I love to do. I grow plants, learn Korean do yoga, play the piano, read, and watch films. I pay my bills, and do my weekly shop. I don’t have to worry about how I am going to be able to access things like clean water, toilets and washing facilities like I did when I was homeless. This I will never take for granted.
“My daughter lives with me which is amazing. She has passed her A-levels with flying colours, and will be off to university soon. I’m so proud of her, and so happy to be her mum. I am in the process of fighting for access rights to have contact with my younger son. My Dual Diagnosis Practitioner, Jade, is supporting me throughout this process, and is by my side at every Family Court session. My Housing First Worker Natalie was also instrumental in this process of me gaining access to see my son, she’s been there every step of the way from completing the court application to supervising contact.
“Natalie still visits me regularly, and she’s only ever a phone call or text message away. She helps with anything from little admin tasks like reading over emails and letters, to advocating for my rights as a tenant, and providing moral support when I’m sad or frustrated or when I have exciting news to celebrate. Everyone should have a Natalie.
“I now volunteer at MASH and a local foodbank, and recently I visited the Houses of Parliament, to share my story and talk about how Housing First helped me. This felt like a real full circle moment.
“I am passionate about advocating for the rights of people experiencing homelessness – there are still so many who are struggling. The people I have seen and spent time with on the streets are resilient, brave and tenacious – they have had to be. They just need a chance for someone to believe in them, give them a helping hand, and provide that foundation of stability, and there is so much value they could contribute. This is what Housing First gave to me.”