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.

Mrs W’s Story

My life was perfect, I had the perfect life; an amazing career in care, a doting husband, beautiful children, and a lovely home; and just like that it all fell apart. 

My husband and I were great for a long time but over time things started deteriorating. It started by small arguments here and there. Then it went to constant fighting, shouting, and yelling at one another. He started to make me feel worthless, he told me I was ugly, and no one would want me, and I should consider myself lucky that he was there for me. I tried to put up with it for a while but slowly it ate away at me. Then I found out he cheated on me, I started not to care about him; but I had to stay there for the sake of my kids. 

So, I started going out and realised that there were guys out there who were interested in me and told me I was beautiful. Men were telling me all the right things to make me feel great again, so I started seeing one guy, then another and then the next. Partying and meeting new guys became a type of routine, every weekend. I started to notice things slipping at work, I felt my relationship slip away, my children wanted to spend less and less time with me. But I would go from one party to another party and find solace in someone else’s arms. 

Eventually my husband had had enough, and he told me I had to leave, and although I saw it coming, the worst thing was having nowhere to go. I did not have plan B, so I had to leave my children with my now ex-husband.  So, I ended up on a random guy’s sofas for a while. I was struggling but tried to keep a brave face. Then my ex-husband took me to court and was awarded full custody based on my so-called promiscuity, double standards. Losing my husband was hard but I expected this from when I found out about his first encounter of infidelity. But I had lost the most important thing in my life, my children. I was broken emotionally and mentally; my heart was taken away from me. Not much else matter now. 

The one thing that was keeping me going was my career, what happened next was something I did not expect – I was fired. I kept on making silly mistakes at work, not turning up to work and when I was, I was late or not fully there from seeking validation from men or partying. 

Now there was nothing left of my former life. I went from one ‘relationship’ to another; they did not last very long, a couple of weeks- at most couple of months and then on to the next. 

My last relationship was the worst, I was used to these men treating me like I was disposable, and I was just there temporarily until they were bored; I remember just numbness, no feeling. The last relationship gave me a wakeup call, my ex-partner started abusing me physically. As with everything like this, it happened slowly but it escalated very quickly. He tried to be discrete in the beginning but eventually even he did not care where, and I was expected to make up excuses or just stay in the house, so no one noticed. I started to abuse drugs when I started to feel pain as I realised feeling numb worked for me. 

One day after a particularly rough day with my ex-partner, I waited for him to go to work and decided enough was enough. I cooked my favourite food, bought my favourite wine, and overdosed on medication; I knew putting an end this nightmare would make me free again. As luck would have it, my ex came back early and found me. I was taken to hospital and I am not sure what it was, but I ended up telling the nurse what I was going through. I am still not sure what made me do it. 

The nurse did a safeguarding referral. A part of me was hoping she did and the other was scared, my ex-partner was not going to take this lightly. He was going to retaliate. And he did. I was placed in a shared home, which was not a great place, but I had my own room. My ex-partner found me and told me I must go back to him otherwise I would not like the consequences. He kept scaring me, I felt I had nowhere to turn and so many things in my life that were; this was also an issue. I was abusing drugs and drinking to cope on a regular basis. My keyworker at the place I was staying learnt of my ex-partner and said I had to move – again! My only solace was my ex-partner was given a restraining order. I was safe – for now. 

I was moved to Mary Seacole Housing. When I arrived, I met my keyworker; my understanding was they were there to support you with your basic needs – room, benefits and complaints. I was quite shocked when this keyworker at Mary Seacole Housing, came to ‘settle me in’ to the house. This place felt homely, there were only a few ladies there. It did not really matter as I knew, I would have to move again, and I would not spend too much time there. 

The place was nice, but I still felt empty, so I went back to doing what worked for me previously, partying and finding men to validate me. However, this time there was one difference, every time I went out, the keyworker would be there in my ear. It was so annoying, she slowly started to get in my head; about my ‘unsafe practices’ and how there was another way. The constant talks compelled me to think.

Suddenly the unexpected happened, I was raped by a man I knew! I was so shocked, he claimed to be my friend. My keyworker rang me as she always did to check on me and I told her I needed to see her- she was the only person in my life I now trusted. She came right away, I told her what happened. She was so supportive, listened, did not judge me and reported it to the Police. 

She then focused all her energy to making me feel like I mattered, I was valuable and no matter how hard I pushed, she would still be there to pick up the pieces.  She helped me talk through my choices, my behaviours- and why. 

My keyworker helped me with aspects of my life, my risky behaviour, my substance misuse, my lack of support network, my lack of self-esteem; if she could not provide the support, she knew someone who could and supported me every step of the way, even came with me to my appointments. 

My keyworker never gave up on me, she helped visualise something I had stop thinking about; what do I want? Her passion must have rubbed off on me, I wanted things to change, I wanted some of my old life back. 

She managed to keep me busy in the initial stages after the rape and slowly but surely, I stared to feel like the me, before the drinking/partying. I told my keyworker I wanted to get my career back. She made a plan with me, this included me proving I was managing with my life, I was engaging with the drugs/alcohol recovery workers, spoke to my counsellors and when she was convinced I was; made a plan to get me a job. She worked with me to make CV, helped me find courses in house at MSHA to help with getting a job, such as first aid. She prepped me for interviews and then it happened! I got a job! I was successful in becoming a care worker supporting the elderly in the community.

This was my turning point, for the first time since leaving my ex-husbands life I felt safe. First time since my early teens, I felt a sense of worth. I did not need to use alcohol as a crutch anymore, this month marks the anniversary of a year of sobriety and my keyworker has worked with me to complete a housing application. But the best part of it all is, through the support network that I have developed at MSHA, my ex-husband has started to allow me to have contact with my children. I am now able to see them every weekend and talk to them daily – I have my heart back! 

Hayley’s Story

I was born In Essex and met my ex-partner and moved to London around 5 years ago. My life was going just as any one would expect. I went on to have 3 children, then one of my children passed away. This is when my journey went from good to a really difficult. I was not able to manage with losing my child and I started drinking to block out the pain; it started off with one drink and gradually escalated to the point where I was dependent on alcohol to just function.

I lived with my ex-partner who became very controlling, he was physically and emotionally abusive to me. The relationship very quickly turned into violence and I hated my life. I had lost my daughter and now this man punished me for everything. I just had to get away.

My relationship with my partner became turbulent, he began hitting me. I was scared. I did not have any one to support me, and where I was drinking; I was also not a priority in my eyes but I knew that I needed to get away or I would end up in a really bad state.  I came to Luton to flee domestic violence not knowing where or who will be able to help me; all I knew was I needed to get away.

When I got to Luton, the council could not help me as I am not from Luton. I was now homeless with nowhere to go and no one to support me other than one friend in Luton. This friend happened to mention a service that she knew of called Mary Seacole Housing Association. I was very weary, did not know what to expect from Supported Housing, not knowing what to expect made me uncomfortable but I knew I had to try something to better my life. I was very sceptical. A woman of my age to move into a hostel! I felt I should still have my independence and thought this was being taken away from me. Due to the relationship I was in I had a problem then with alcohol and really thought I would not last a long time at MSHA. But above all I needed accommodation, so I thought I would go and see what this place was about.

I moved to Mary Seacole Housing Association in June 2016, I moved from stage one to stage two and remained there for a long time. During this time I was focusing on myself and with support I had managed to get control of the drinking rather than the drinking controlling me. I was starting to feel like me again, I was focusing on my health, I was volunteering at a charity shop and really enjoying my time there. I was working on my mental health issues that came as a result of losing my child. I was actually in a place I was content with for the first time since the turbulent phase in my life.

From it seems nowhere; things started to slip out of my control. It did not happen in one go, but slowly I was losing grip on the things that made me content and my mental health started to deteriorate and I started making some life style choices that were not so clever.  In my eyes one of the biggest difficulties in my life involve alcohol dependency and previous domestic violence; I also have always struggled with losing my young daughter. Everything after that falls on after the other, with depression I can no work or train, my health deteriorated and my mental health also. I just came into a huge rut. Staff recognised this and moved me back to stage one where I could get more support.

My journey thorough Mary Seacole has been a roller-coaster, I have had very serious ups and downs and even been issued evictions at some points but with the support I have turned those lifestyle choices around.

Thinking back, when I am asked whether I had any coping skills, if I am honest it had always been alcohol. But whilst at Mary Seacole Housing Association I was supported to engage with external services with the support of staff attending with me as I did not feel comfortable on my own. Near the end of my journey my coping skills began to change into just positive thinking and being able to manage being alone. I always felt I needed someone else’s company and being in Mary Seacole Housing Association helped me with this, I was learning to be alone but also knew that staff and other clients were only next door and this helped me to feel at ease.

I got through the process by setting myself goals. One of these were to get a job in a charity shop as I love those. I did manage to do this and worked with a friend volunteering once a week, now I have left Mary Seacole Housing Association, I still go there and spend time with them at the shop, they also helped me to get things together for my flat.

My main goal was to move on into my own accommodation. I just wanted to settle down and have my own space without having to rely on a male. I never wanted to be in the position again where a male can tell me to leave, I needed something for myself, my own space!

My weakness was alcohol and relationships. I just didn’t want to be alone and staff supported me to see that I did not need to depend on either of these things.  I am very thankful for all the support I have been given.

Thinking back on my time at Mary Seacole Housing Association, I managed to overcome a lot of personal matters, I also helped out at the community fun day one year, it was so great to see the joy on other people’s faces and giving back. I gained my job volunteering and then took on a cleaning incentive job within the hostel where I gained vouchers for my rent for cleaning once a week which I used to really enjoy.

Now, with hours and hours of support from staff, I have gained my own accommodation which I really felt I would never get back, I now have my independence and own space back.

The Complex Needs Staff put up with so much and I really thank them for it. I know at times I wasn’t the easiest of clients but they spent hours talking to me and building me up. They believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself and that meant the world to me.

I also made a few friends and am just thankful for the support I have received and that staff pushed me to my end goal when I really didn’t think I would make it. What is great though is that I know they staff are only a phone call away even though I do not live there anymore. I am truly thankful for my journey with Mary Seacole and could not have made it without them.

Since moving out from Mary Seacole Housing Association, I have gained a job within a Thai restaurant where I help out now and again. My goal that now I have also made contact with my family and I do plan to make arrangements to take a train to Essex when I build more confident to go and see them. I still get to work in the charity shop once a week. My long term goal is to eventually get an exchange and go back to Essex to my own family, but taking using my techniques learnt to face one thing at time, and that is to build confidence to go on the train.

My parting comment would be to say a big thank you to all the staff for believing in me and I would not have made it without them. I am really, really happy now and want to enjoy this moment.

My accommodation!

Thank you very much to Mary Seacole!

Mr A’s Story

My name is Mr A, when I came to the UK I was a child; but back home, children my age have already been through what most adults here cannot imagine. I grew up in Sudan, my childhood was what everyone sees in the news, the civil wars had left the country in such disrepute. I was surrounded by poverty, there was no safe housing, family and locals made the best of what they had, and tried to keep us safe; however, any real shelter in my country was an opulence that I was not privy to. Hunger was a part of my daily life; food was a luxury that was rarely available.

Then we come onto entitlements, such as free education which is considered compulsory; however, I have seen this is far from the truth. It is probably more accurate to state that maybe half or fewer children go to school. I, myself always wanted to have a career and aspired to get an education because I had seen what happened to those that do not have the privilege of this.

When I turned 14, my parents came to me whilst I was out playing with my friends and asked me to come in as they wanted to talk to me. When I went in, they sat me down and explained that I was getting married. I went into shock. When people talk about forced marriages a young child bride usually comes to mind, but I had seen this was not the case back in my country.

One day my family and all got together in a room, I wasn’t fully prepared for what lay ahead. The mood in the room was sombre, there were only a few people in the room. This made me uneasy but I was told we were gathered for dinner. Eventually, some man came into the room with a mobile phone, and said that ‘the bride was ready!’ I looked around the room for answers and very quickly became apparent that the groom was indeed me. I just sat there numb, with my thoughts going all over the place and my stomach doing somersaults: this is not what I wanted my life to be. I pleaded with all of those in the room and said that this is not what I wanted, but quickly came to the conclusion that there was not much point in resisting. I was now married and had never met ‘my wife’ prior to our online wedding. I knew very little about ‘my wife’. All I knew was her name, where she was from and that she was 14 years old. Then we all went home. It was not something that would be considered a celebration by anyone’s standards.

That night whilst I lay on the floor, waiting to go to sleep, I could not help but imagine what other horrors lay ahead of me. Would I also be recruited and be forced to serve the army like many others that I had seen before me? To me this was becoming a real possibility and not a price I was willing to pay.

A couple of weeks had passed, and there was no real mention of ‘my wife’ coming to live me; I carried on living my life as I did prior to this. I used to make a living my smuggling gasoline through borders, however on this occasion, I was caught and I know this meant a possible imprisonment – for life!

At first, the officials had locked me up with several others, some boys were so much younger than me. I was chained to a wall, sometimes I can still feel the chains on my legs as though there is an iced snake pulling you. The days consisted of beatings, for what seemed like no apparent reason. This lasted for six gruelling days. As soon as I was released, a man I had never seen before approached me, offered me an escape route from the country. By this time I knew this country was not able to offer me the life I wanted so I agreed to meet him the following day and planned my journey to leave Sudan.

The journey from Sudan was through Libya and then onto Lebanon before arriving in France. We took a number of transportation routes buses, trains cars. We also took a small boat, and looking back at it, it was probably suited for approx 10 people. There were more than 30 people on this boat. The worst part was one of the boys that were travelling with me and I had gotten fond off, fell off the side of the boat and drowned. This instilled a fear of water in me that I have up until this day.

We finally arrived at a migrant camp in a French jungle. This was an awful place to be. There was no sanitation, nowhere to wash, nowhere to get food. Everyone around me was always sick and looked really cold and unhappy. I had to keep the goal in my mind of coming to the UK where I would be taken care of. The day came when I was advised that I had to get into the back of a truck, where we were advised that we needed to put bags over our heads near the crossing so that the officials did not detect any carbon dioxide in the truck and run the risk of us getting caught.

We arrived in the UK. The journey feels like a bit of a daze. All I know is being split up from the people that I had travelled with and being told that I was going to see something called a Social Worker. One thing was apparent straight away, the language barrier was going to be a big issue. I did not understand most of what these people were trying to tell me. This made me feel really uneasy with everything.

At first, I was moved to a place in Bedford but within a few days, I was moved to Luton. My new Social worker said she had a place for me to stay at a place called Mary Seacole Housing Association. She said this place had other people my age living there and there was someone there 24 hours a day to support me.

When I first came to the UK I felt like a frightened child and did not know what to expect from living in the UK. Life over here was completely different from what I was used to. However, I liked the idea of living with residents that are around the same age, and I noticed that there were other Asylum Seekers that I could relate to. Knowing this, my mind was put at ease and knew I would be looked after and settle in along with others.

I remember my first night at MSHA: I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief when I lay my head on the pillow. This place was going to be somewhere where I could finally call home, feel safe in and realise my dreams on my own terms.

Within days of me moving in, I asked for support in regards to my health. I had developed itching on my leg since my stay in France. It turned out that I had interacted Scabies: a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. This was so scary for me, however, staff had supported me to receive the appropriate treatment and I made a full recovery.

Another health concern that I had resolved was I needed to undergo primary immunisations in the UK as without vaccines, I was at risk to exposure to epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases that may occur in the future. However, I always refused to receive immunisations, due to a trauma of needles that stemmed from when I was beaten in prison in Sudan and the prison officers carried out a procedure by stitching the bottom of my leg without anaesthetics which left me scarred and traumatised. However, after months of encouragement, I recently agreed to get the immunisations completed.

I also used to struggle with insomnia when I first moved in. I often stayed up late thinking about my family in Sudan and especially my brother which I was very close with. I think that the lack of sleep was due to the on-going issues in his home country and I came to find out that things at home have indeed become calmer: this has made me feel at ease and in turn has reduced my migraines significantly.

Since my arrival at MSHA, I have been enrolled in an ESOL course at Barnfield college, where I am currently developing English skills in reading, writing and listening. This is something that I will never take for granted.

In addition to this, I also obtained relevant documentation with the support of MSHA in obtaining his Biometric Remain Permit card which is now valid for 5 years and expires in 2022. I cannot fully describe in words what this means to me, this is my ticket for me to realise my dreams finally. I now have a national insurance number, so I do not have to smuggle gasoline for money. I have a provisional driving license so that I can drive and gain independence. I have travel documents to go on a holiday, set up a current and savings bank account which enables me with financial stability.

MSHA has also supported me with such an array of formal and informal training such as fire awareness training and a pathways booklet during key work sessions which enabled me to learn how to look after myself and live independently and this proceeded in completing a housing application to submit to Luton Borough Council.

I learned so much during my time at MSHA and not just basic skills such as cooking and cleaning, but how to manage my money, how to use my time wisely, what activities I enjoy and learn to be at peace with myself.

During my time at MSHA, I received continuous support and encouragement from staff clients and management. I  felt safe and well looked after throughout my stay at MSHA, I was able to achieve everything I desired to and feel encouraged to progress and develop further with the skills and knowledge I have gained from my stay at MSHA.

With the support of MSHA I now have my own place, this is a little daunting as for the first time in my life, I will be completely on my own, and that feeling in itself is somewhat bittersweet. I am so proud of my journey and that I am capable of living on my own but there is also a sense of sorrow for all that I have left behind.

My focus is now living my life on my own terms and I am so thankful that I am one of the lucky few able to do so!

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.


Read more real stories from Mary Seacole clients and the people supporting them>

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.”



Read more real stories from Mary Seacole clients and the people supporting them>

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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