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!

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