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Hear From Our Clients
My first experience of becoming homeless
Clients used a creative writing workshop to write about the first time they became homeless. These are their experiences:
The first time that I found myself facing a night out being homeless, I was terrified. All I had was a small bag of clothes and a thin sleeping bag, this was all that I owned at the time. Although it wasn’t a cold night, there was a certain chill in the air, and it took me about 2 hours to decided where I was going to make my bed for the night. After wandering the streets for a while, I spoke to other homeless people that I found and asked them where would be a good place to bed down for the night. Following their advice, I decided to settle in a carpark stairwell. I found some newspapers at the train station and cardboard which I pulled from a restaurant bin which I used to put on the floor to stay off the damp and keep my sleeping bag dry during the night. I probably only slept for a few hours that night.
I woke from spending the night on my mum’s sofa for the last time. After a couple of cups of tea, I decided that I would go to the homeless department at the local council offices. On arrival I took a ticket to be seen and sat on a seat. Thankfully, the lady that I met was very helpful and rang York Road Project who told me to arrive at the Night shelter at 6pm for an assessment to stay at the Night Shelter. I had an interview and was asked a lot of questions about my current situation, after which I was accepted and given keys to my room. This allows me some breathing space until I find accommodation for myself.
I first became homeless in May 2015 after leaving an abusive relationship. It was just me, my dog and my now current partner. We went to where a couple of my mates lived, it was early in the morning so we waited for them to come out of the Bed & Breakfast they were staying in, to which they were surprised to come out and see us sat on the wall. We put our bags in their room and went in to town for a little bit. Later, we put up a tent my mates had given us that they didn’t use and I was worried about how my dog and I were going to cope. Unfortunately all we had to keep the three of us warm were a few thin blankets and it was a very cold night. We stayed in that area for a month before moving on to another town and we got more blankets for the tent. I have currently been homeless for nearly 3 years, it has not been easy to try and find somewhere to live that accepts housing benefits and pets. My family won’t help.
Hi, I became homeless 3 months ago. I hate being homeless and never thought I would be in this situation. My mum doesn’t talk to me much, and my dad doesn’t talk to me at all now due to my anger issues. I suffer with mental health issues and learning disabilities, I used to have a flat but got kicked out due to these problems. Becoming homeless has caused my anxiety to hit the roof and I can’t get any support from my family.
A Film by the clients of York Road Project
Thanks to generous funding from The Paul Hamlyn Foundation as part of their 'Our Museum' Programmed and in collaboration with The Lightbox, the clients at York Road Project were given the opportunity to film a documentary about their journey of homelessness. It is a thought provoking and at times, emotional view of their world and the challenges they face alongside the positive changes they can make when given support.
We Love Woking meet the clients at York Road Project.
Jackie and Zahir visited the night shelter and heard from the staff and clients there.
Watch the video and hear from five of the clients who have stayed in the YRP Night Shelter
Jason has struggling with his situation for many years but since arriving at YRP, he has engaged with all aspects of the support offered.
My name is Jason Burton. I’ve been homeless for four years, most of that time living on the street, and sometimes in hostels. Up until now I rejected life saying ‘I just want to die’. This was how I felt. All the people working with me knew this but it seemed like that was ok. The more I self-harmed by using drugs or taking myself out of society, the more different organisations seemed to accept that and didn’t offer any way to change those feelings and I fell deeper into a rut which ended with me hating the organisations for not helping and hating society.
I felt people just wanted me gone. Maybe this was true of some organisations, for they were happy to just watch me do nothing. As long as I was killing myself quietly and not making a scene, then all was good for them, but it was not good for me. Now, after dilly dallying and contemplating suicide, I thought ‘hang on – maybe I’ve got a right to live’.
I’d been in a hostel in Guildford for months but was going nowhere and I heard of a place in Woking that actually cared about what their clients were doing with their lives so I asked to go. I got a room and a week ago I moved in – in the hope that maybe, just maybe I might actually want to be alive (I was sceptical to say the least). Well, now I can say that I’ve never been so shocked in my life as from the first day I was welcomed into the York Road Project like a long lost son coming home.
Every day since that first day I’ve been so busy, whether singing with the choir or cooking or creative writing. The Day Centre here is really that amazing that in just 6 days they’ve helped me change my view of life and are giving me the tools to dig myself out of the hole I’m in.
Every member of staff cares so much it’s rubbed off on me. I can now say ‘I’m Jason Burton and I’m proud to be me and I’m looking forward to the challenges life can bring’. This feeling comes from within me, but the help from the staff at York Road Project has definitely pushed me to feel this way.
I, Jason Burton have enormous gratitude to them and I look forward to every day doing new things at the centre. This really is the first time I’ve wanted to live for four years and I look forward to what’s in store for the future. I can only express how thankful I am for the chance to live here. Thank you.
Natasha has only been at YRP for a short time and has engaged with all the support she could get. As a result, she will be moving out shortly to a place of her own with her children.
'When I first came to the shelter, I felt scared and alone. I was very worried that I was not going to get help or support. Because of some personal experiences with other organisations, I started to feel as though staff don't do the job because they care about their clients. In this case, me.
After talking to the staff at YRP straight away I felt when they spoke to me that they genuinely cared, and they told me of the day centre that I could attend. All these activities are set up for up for us living at York Road. They vary from cooking, sports and also fantastic advice sessions that I could go to and get help with benefits and access to housing, and also support with my personal problems. This was because the support workers all take their time to get to know you and they get to know why you are in the situation of being homeless.
York Road did not only offer me a dry safe place to stay, but they also made me welcome, well supported and kept me busy with activities which helped me not think about my problems. I also got the great opportunity to do some good for others as they have other great projects in the community like Fresh Start where we decorated people's houses.
I have really enjoyed my stay here and have gained many positives from this, the great cooking and getting the chance to have a meal with all the great support workers. I have met many good people who have turned their lives around and come on out the other side. If you help yourself and want to make a better life for yourself, these places are here and the staff are a great support. They have certainly made a difference in my life!
There were many times that I felt really down or upset or angry and every member of staff that were here, all had their own way of making me feel better or to think about things and calm me down. I think that what makes a great support worker is someone who cares and supports you. This is a quality that the staff at YRP all have.
I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the fantastic things I got to take part in and the support I received and how genuinely happy you all were for me with my move on. They also give homeless people the opportunity to better themselves and move on to have a happy life. They also give other people the opportunity to realise that just because you are homeless does not mean you are a bad person and that people are willing to help themselves should receive the support which York Road fully provided.'
Alyssa has been with us for a while now and has successfully transitioned from night shelter to move on accommodation and is motivated to take part in any activity she can including football, cooking, decorating and singing. These are her words:
I'm grateful to have been given move-on stable accommodation as I wouldn't be where I am now without it. Having somewhere to rest my head and gather my thoughts before cracking on with a hard day’s work has helped me progress into a completely different woman so quickly sometimes I struggle to come to terms with it. I have not had this much faith in myself and without my support workers and the opportunities I'm always given such as the Dame Kelly Holmes trust programme and doing the house makeovers around our local community as well as getting involved with the project in itself when and where I can has changed my life in ways I struggle to explain. I am truly grateful for all the help and support I've been given and I strongly encourage anyone who wishes to get involved with project to seize every opportunity and to live, love and laugh at all the ups and downs to the top cause your not alone regardless of how you feel on a low
I've enjoyed rock climbing cause I conquered my fear of trusting people to be behind me on the road to the top. It taught me that when I felt like giving up i would get encouragement to climb higher and not give up, when I slipped I had someone supporting me so I didn't fall down to the ground, and when I got to the top I had praise that made me feel good about myself. It was a hard thing to do as I didn't have much faith in myself but now I believe I can do anything I put my mind to
Mark was with us for a very short few days and all he needed was help to get back to his Mum in Crewe following separating from his partner in Woking. We paid for his ticket and were thrilled to receive the following message from him via email:
To all that met me
'Thank you all for making me feel welcome and helping me when I was at what was I think probably one of the lowest points of my life.
I truly wish you all the best that you can bring to your own life and help some other person in less fortunate circumstances than yourself up and along this journey of life .
Be good be safe be happy and be nice.
I learnt a lot about myself in the short time I spent there and I bow down to you all
Good luck in the future Mark from the whole team at YRP!
I asked for help by knocking on the door in November 2012. I was upset, cold, scared and lonely but I was invited in, given a hot meal and compassion and after a short assessment, I was offered a bed for 21 nights.
'During those 21 days I was encouraged to engage in the support offered and eventually I was offered a room in one of the move on flats. What it felt to me was a new start, all the time being encouraged to get involved in all that YRP offers. From that day onwards, things moved fast. Suddenly I was cooking for myself and four flat mates and all the time I was told that I was worth something.
Then I was given the opportunity to move to Fairfax Road as I didn't need so much support - I was so pleased. It is a four bedroom house where I share with three other clients - all of which I have to interact with. i.e. maintaining the house and garden and sharing responsibilities. All of this is so I get ready for living independently in the future.
I also attend the Day Centre and as I have passed my Food Hygiene certificate, I help in the kitchen and on one day a week, I run it - I have to prepare lunch for the Day Centre clients and the evening meal for all those people staying in the Night Shelter.
It is so good to be trusted and volunteering at YRP means that I can give something back'.
'Paul' is a former night shelter client who now lives in our move on accommodation. His next step will be to move to Campbell Avenue when he is ready.
'When I first arrived at the Night Shelter, I was very depressed and worried. I was made to feel very welcome, the staff were very polite, and there is always someone to talk to. I feel very supported here, mentally and physically. The staff are great, and always on hand to deal with problems'.
'Richard' was a former client who, with our help, was able to return to his family home.
'I had quite an unsettled childhood and when my Mother died, I turned to alcohol as a way to cope with my feelings. I stole my father's car and was arrested for drink driving. My Father kicked me out. I ended up rough sleeping everywhere - on the streets, behind garbage bins, shop fronts - all over the place. I felt like there was nothing left. My body had detached itself and I was stuck in this vicious cycle of never ending pain - I was on the edge of no hope.
Until I found York Road Project, I thought there was nothing left but the staff at YRP were very understanding and supportive of everyone who walked through their doors. I attended regular meetings with Rachel and Tony to figure out what was best for me and we finally came to the conclusion that if I could remain dry (alcohol free) they would let me move into the Guildford Road Flats.
I sought advice from everyone I could - The Exchange, Alcoholics Anonymous, SADAS and Cruse Bereavement Service and I can proudly say that if it wasn't for YRP I don't know where I would be today. They have guided me down a road I want to remain on for life. I've achieved so much in such a short period and I couldn't have done it without them.
I'm now living in a 'Dry House' called Acacia house in Woking - it is for recovering alcoholics. I have been here for 4 months and it feels like home'.
'Craig' - former Shelter and move-on client.
Comments from Day Centre Users
'The Day Centre has helped me feel less stressed as I know the help I receive here will help me in the future.'
'It has helped me get a little more confidence with all the help I get there. It is warm and safe, we have a joke but still get stuff done.'
'The Day Centre has made me feel less vulnerable and the staff make me feel good about myself. The courses are a great idea.'