Category: Our Stories

Real stories from our clients and the people supporting them

We help hundreds of homeless people in Luton every year. Our mission is to help our clients build their strengths and skills in order to reach their full potential and take the steps they need to achieve and sustain a bright, independent future.

Here are some real stories from our clients as well as from the people who have supported them along the way.

Emma’s Story

I came from a hectic background and ended up becoming homeless due to family breakdown. My family background is a bit rough, my relationship with my mum was not so great and we were constantly arguing. When I became homeless, I did not know where to turn; and got in touch with 16+ team at Social Services who referred me to Mary Seacole Housing Association.

I moved to Mary Seacole Housing Association about 2 years ago. When I was started off at Mary Seacole I did not have a direction or a purpose; I was quite happy to just live in the moment. Some of the issues I battled with were looking for work, I had very little training and work experience behind me, but I was always sure I wanted to work but needed help finding and sustaining a job.

I also battled with alcohol issues. I looked forward to Friday night when I would go out drinking with my friends and then struggle to budget my money for the rest of the week.

I think deep down I knew things needed to change and I didn’t have a straight forward journey at Mary Seacole Housing Association. I was moved from stage 2 back to stage 1; due to my own shortcomings. I eventually made it back to stage 2 and was allocated a new key worker.

My key worker helped me see that the outside influences were not having a positive impact on my life and was always there to talk to when I needed someone to listen to me; despite how trivial my issues were.

Some of my thoughts on being homeless initially were; it was a scary prospect, it was unfamiliar territory and it was quite nerve racking moving into somewhere, where you are completely on your own. At the beginning, moving to MSHA was very overwhelming.

When people think of a homeless hostel, they do not think of a comfortable homely environment, hence I thought MSHA was going to be the total opposite of what I wanted. I was pleasantly surprised; MSHA has such a friendly and homely feel to all of its projects. During my stay at the projects I made some lifelong friends that I still rely on for support.

One thing that sticks to mind is that despite my various moves, the staff did not give up on me, and at each stage I was supported and taught new skills. I was housed in my own flat in Marsh Farm, and it was nice to have my own space knowing that I still had support from MSHA’s outreach service. I got into a relationship and decided to move to Brighton with my then boyfriend. I was given a lot of support with my move on and with my move to Brighton even after I left MSHA by the Resettlement Officer; it was great to have someone to turn to.

Now I am a full-time carer and undergoing a NVQ level 2 in Health and Social Care as well as working as bar staff at Weatherspoons. I am hoping to go to college and get a nursing degree; and hope to save some money for a deposit on my own flat.

emmaI think the support at MSHA was great and I cannot think of what was bad other than maybe I felt nagged 1% too much; but then again I needed it. The best parts of living at MSHA was the support, communication, shelter and being able to talk to the staff openly and frankly.

Two particular people who come to mind as making a huge impact to my journey are; my keyworker who helped with so much such as cooking, cleaning, employability and so much more. The other person is the Resettlement officer, who was brilliant with my moving on and was always available, even after my move to Brighton. In all honesty though, all the staff were really supportive and each played a part in my journey from being homeless to being where I am now, with options.

One thing I still live by is what my keyworker taught me; be empowered enough not to let anyone take advantage of you.


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Sarah’s Story

“My name is Sarah, and I want to share my story. I grew up in a big family, I have 5 sisters, 3 brothers, I was born and grew up in Luton. Growing up I was described as stubborn and always wanted to find my own way of doing things, and more often than not; it was to the dismay of my family. My actions were deemed not acceptable for someone of my ethnic background to do and eventually this resulted in me being put into care. I was different.

As a young 13-year-old in care, I was scared, lonely and all I wanted to do was to be at home. However, I was not ready to conform to someone else’s idea of how I should live my life, so from the ages of 13 to 16 years old I spent my life in and out of care with foster placements. I was difficult.

A day before my 16 birthday my social worker said that she had a placement for me within a supported housing project. I remember, I came to view Mary Seacole Housing Association in my school uniform, this was the first time I become a client. I was apprehensive.

I had my interview, and the place was not as bad as I thought it would be, actually it was quite nice; the staff were welcoming and very down to earth. I decided with my social worker that I would give this place a try. I was open-minded.

When I moved in, I was in charge with my social worker for making my own decisions for my life such as health, finances, education, learning to live independently. Although I thought this is what I always wanted, it was really daunting; even with the round the clock support from the staff. I was overwhelmed.

Staff were always on hand to support with any issues but during this time, I started to go out to parties, drink too often and got involved with the ‘wrong crowd’. This lead to a safeguarding concern which resulted in me moving out of Luton for my own safety.

Although I spent some time back at home, the arguments started again and after a brief time living abroad, another placement opportunity arose with Mary Seacole Housing Association. This time I grabbed it and never looked back. I was determined.

I will never be able to quantify what Mary Seacole Housing Association has done for me, but some of the things that come to mind are, they let me express and be myself, there was no more fighting between the two cultures. The staff took on responsibilities such as attending parent’s evenings with me, teaching me to carry out all the day to day tasks that you learn growing up. I was developing.

The support on offer is not just to sort out your life for the present, but they strive to tap in to your long term goals and what you want to do with your life going forward. The staff look at your aspirations and work towards helping set foundations for the future. I was encouraged.

I had turned 17 years old at this point. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but I felt that staff were always on hand to support me with whatever my needs were at the time; as a person suffering from poor mental health; I could not put a price to this. I was heard.

I was not sure what I wanted to do when I came back, so I became heavily involved with Mary Seacole Housing Association’s training programme. I learnt so many skills from cv writing, first aid, knife crime to infection control; so many varied subjects that helped me grow.; not just my knowledge but my self-esteem and my social skills too. I, even became a director of my own company through a programme called Young Enterprise and I tried my hand at public speaking in front of an audience of hundreds of people. I was learning.

Through the training provision I learnt that I wanted a career in Care, I was inspired to want to make a difference in someone else’s life; like Mary Seacole had done for me. Staff supported me to explore my options, helped me look for jobs; and prepared me for an interview with a local care home, I got the job! I was becoming independent.

I was working hard and having a job meant I was earning my own money; I was not relying on anyone else, this was something that I always strived for. I was feeling happier. I needed one more thing to feel accomplished, this was my own home. I was striving.

I worked closely with the resettlement team, learnt all the skills required to manage my own home from learning about tenancies to managing my own bills. When I turned 18 years old, I was recommended for housing, and was shortlisted for a new 1-bedroom flat. I had achieved.

Moving out into my own flat was a bittersweet moment, I felt ecstatic that I had achieved my goal but I was really sad to leave Mary Seacole Housing Association, this place had become home. I am happy that staff have continued to support me through their outreach programme, providing me with home visits and access to Mary Seacole training unit so that I am able to contact all the relevant organisations to sort out my housing concerns. I am not forgotten.”



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Shane’s Story

I moved into Mary Seacole Housing Association in January 2012. I was asked to leave home because of family breakdown. Looking back on the situation now; I believe that I was the cause of this. I was always out, mixing with the wrong kind of people, getting into trouble but thought I was doing nothing wrong. I think I was just a horrible person; I did not really care about anyone. I was only looking out for myself.

Alcohol played a big part in my life at this time. I think this was because I had nothing constructive to do. I still enjoy an occasional drink every now and then, but now I drink socially whereas before I was binge drinking for the sake of drinking. I had no direction or purpose. Due to all these issues my mum could not handle it anymore and asked me to leave.

I moved into Mary Seacole Housing at Stage 1, where I was told what to expect from the service. When I got there, all I wanted to do is to get out and I did not want to be there, not because of the environment, staff, clients but simply because I was there because I had to be. I felt like I was alone, and was always lonely, and even though staff were always on hand; I felt that they were there because they were being paid to be there. I was always anxious and suffered from anxiety and was also unhappy with my situation. The attitude at stage 1 was laid back, I was able to settle in and find my feet.

After a few weeks I was moved to Stewart House, where I made some really good friends. I found myself a part time job at a warehouse and due to the timings and curfew; I was moved to another Stage 2 project at 26 Brantwood Road to accommodate my working hours.

I was given a tremendous amount of support; I was taught life skills that were relevant but, I was not really paying attention or absorbing anything.

I then got made redundant from the warehouse job and was desperate for another job. I knew that I wanted to be working and did not want to be on benefits; this was a bug bear of mine. One thing that really sticks to mind is my keyworker spent hours sitting with me and showing me how to find jobs and where to look. My keyworker would sit with me and fill out the application forms with me and was a great support. With the support of my keyworker and other staff, I moved to stage 3; this is when I saw much greater independence.

Whenever I was having a rough time, I had a support network of friends and staff around me. I was supported with my anxieties and worked on my drinking. I also had some fun times at Mary Seacole.

When I was not working I was asked to participate in training; at Mary Seacole Housing; they expect clients doing something that entails either training or employment.

I think my main barrier to the learning was, I was anxious to go to the training as I did not have the confidence. I remember going to a First Aid course at the Training Unit and my keyworker accompanied me to this. Once I had completed the training session; I realised it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

By this time I was actively bidding with the resettlement officer; who was so knowledgeable about the area and what would suit me in the long term.

I agreed to complete training begrudgingly. I was given an opportunity to complete Maths, Literacy and IT; on two separate occasions. First time I turned it down and the second time… Before I was able to start the training, I was then advised that I had come first on a property. I was so excited and that is where it became real for me.

I was supported with my move and went into my flat; in December 2012. It was once I moved in, that I realised and felt that I should have absorbed more of what I was being taught; and taken an interest in the opportunities they were providing at Mary Seacole. The first few months in my flat were really tough, and the advice and suggestions of staff kept coming to mind and I thought they were right!

So instead of dwelling on the past I got myself a job at Morrisons. I kept my head down and decided that I am going to move on and make something of my life. I now have a trade behind me, I am a qualified butcher. I started at the bottom and have had 2 promotions since I started and I am still climbing the ladder. I learnt how to drive and got myself my own car. Ironically I am now completing a qualification in Maths, Literacy and a Retail course; I should have just completed the training when I was given the chance at Mary Seacole.

If someone was to ask me, what was the one thing Mary Seacole did for me? It was teaching me how to be independent. They put the skills in place to enable me to succeed when I was ready. I honestly believe that Mary Seacole is there for the young people when they have nowhere else to go.

If I was given another opportunity to do it all over again, I would not be in such a rush to move on. I would go back and take note of everything that they were saying, a lot sooner.

The future for me I believe is bright and I hope to keep on progressing in my job. I am happy and settled. I now have positive and good influences around me.

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Jack’s Story

Young Enterprise supports over 250,000 students every year to harness their personal and business skills and to realise their potential. The charity’s mission is very much aligned with Mary Seacole’s, setting out “to inspire and equip young people to learn and succeed [through enterprise]”.

In 2017, Jack Davy Dupris, a Mary Seacole client, won the national Young Enterprise Journey Award. Jack was one of 20,000 young people who set up and ran a real business with Young Enterprise’s flagship ‘Company Programme’. Jack won the award because he made the most transformational journey during his experience, overcoming tough obstacles to develop his key skills.

‘Company Programme’ students develop their key employability skills by making all the decisions about their business, from deciding the company name and product, to creating a business plan, managing their finances and selling their products. Jack believes the programme has taught him how to see things through to the end and not give up. He is determined to make a positive future for himself.

When Jack started the programme he was not comfortable talking within the group or confident in doing presentations. Taking part in the Young Enterprise programme has developed and enhanced skills Jack already had but was not able to utilise due to a lack of confidence. Jack is now able to present to different people on a weekly basis and he is extremely natural and confident in talking in different group settings. He now believes in himself and his goals in life have grown through Young Enterprise.

With the support, mentoring and guidance of Kimberley Lamb, Young Enterprise manager for Bedfordshire and Mary Seacole’s Engagement and Safeguarding Officer Nicole Christophi, Mary Seacole will continue to embrace the Young Enterprise initiative and encourage our clients to feel encouraged and motivated by Jack’s achievements.

“Jack’s success is testament to Young Enterprise’s ability to unlock the potential in young people” – Lorraine McMullen, Community Investment Manager at Keepmoat Regeneration, Supporter of Young Enterprise in Luton


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Solance’s Story

I became homeless for the first time when I was 16 years old, due to family breakdown. I didn’t get along with my siblings and this was the cause of my anger issues. I had tried living in private rented accommodation, however I wasn’t able to sustain my tenancy due to being in college, poor budgeting and not being able to hold down a job. This resulted in not being able to afford the rent and being issued with a NTQ. I became homeless again but was not able to go back to my family home.

I had been bullied all my early life and gradually this made me become violent and caused me to mix with the wrong crowds. I became a bully myself and did not trust anyone. I had major issues with trust and felt that I could not rely on anyone but myself. I coped with life by hurting the people that hurt me in the past. I got into trouble with the police on more that several occasions, for reasons such as physical violence, intimidation and bullying; I received 6 cautions and realised that something needed to change.

I moved into Mary Seacole Housing Association in July 2012. I found all the staff very welcoming, and always on hand for help, guidance and support. In fact, Mary Seacole provided me with the stepping stone to build a career in a field of my choice.

I completed various training sessions whilst I was with Mary Seacole, such as: Level 1 in IT, First Aid, Job Assistance, Level 1 in Plumbing and gained a CSCS card. The training was always fun and enjoyable and I felt motivated to learn due to the laid back attitude of the staff in the Training Unit.

I also participated in boxing lessons at Mary Seacole which helped me to channel my anger appropriately. I have fond memories from my time with Mary Seacole; building friendships and participating in the MSHA Sports Day – I never enjoyed group events before; but at Mary Seacole, I was always made to feel comfortable.

The staff at Mary Seacole helped me to address my anger issues – I learnt social skills and felt that I could finally let go of the anger. This is mainly thanks to my keyworker; the main person who put me back on track with my life and supported me to stay out of trouble. Sometimes I would spend hours just talking to my keyworker; my keyworker reinstalled my self-confidence.

At Mary Seacole I also learnt to budget effectively; I was able to buy furniture for my flat when I moved on. I also took on the staff advice, stopped trying to push boundaries and became a stronger person within myself.

When I was with Mary Seacole Housing Association, I set myself some goals: To find employment; I achieved this. To get my own place; I achieved this. Credit also goes to the Resettlement Officer for all the work that she did with me. I also set myself the goal of getting my own car; and I’m working on this at the moment!

The best thing about Mary Seacole Housing Association is that they provided me with somewhere I could call home, they provided me with a steady routine, kept me out of trouble with the police and taught me how to budget effectively.

From where I was when I came to MSHA, to where I am now is a world apart. I now work as an IT engineer at Triage Services, something I could never have achieved without Mary Seacole’s help. I can enjoy life now.


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Sarah’s Story

Sarah was 17 when she was told to leave home due to a breakdown in family relations. With no fixed abode, Sarah was unsure where and who to turn to until a friend told her about Mary Seacole Housing Association.
Fully supported by the staff and residents at Mary Seacole, Sarah is now making positive changes to her life and rebuilding a future for herself. Sarah recounts her story in this video>


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