'Homelessness really can happen to anyone - even to me'
Ewa, a grandmother and former primary school teacher, was made homeless when she lost her job and her house was repossessed. She is proof not only that homelessness really can happen to anybody, but also of the effectiveness of the supported accommodation services provided by Framework.
Immediately after losing her home Ewa moved in with her partner – a man she had hoped would help her in her time of need. Instead she became the victim of domestic violence and had to flee the couple’s home.
Becoming homeless was a very frightening experience for me to deal with. Your home is your security, so when you lose your home you also lose your sense security
Homeless and with nowhere to go she was referred by the local council to Framework’s Elizabeth House supported accommodation in March 2012. Once there she was helped to address her finances and her increasingly problematic alcohol use, which had to be addressed before she could begin her journey back to independent living.
She explained: “Becoming homeless was a very frightening experience for me to deal with. Your home is your security, so when you lose your home you also lose your sense security. I think people have some very negative stereotypes about people who become homeless but this experience has taught me that it really can happen to anybody – even to me. I had a secure job as a primary school teacher before this but things just happened.
“I had a long period off work ill and was also drinking too much at the time. Eventually I lost my job and could no longer pay the mortgage. At first the bank was very understanding but then their attitude changed and they threatened me with repossession. I was embarrassed by what had happened and just buried my head in the sand; I stopped opening my post because I didn’t want to face up to what was happening to me.”
Ewa was offered accommodation at one of 15 self-contained but supported flats at Elizabeth House where she lived for two months.
She added: “The support I received at Elizabeth House was really good, but I was very nervous about moving in there. I suppose I expected to find a typical hostel with communal dormitories and shared bathrooms but I was pleasantly surprised when I got there. It was nothing like I imagined it would be.
“The level of support I had from staff wasalso really good. One of the first things they did was to make me open my post and to get me to face up to the situation I was in. They helped me with my bank, with my benefits and I had regular key working sessions to help me set out and achieve my goals. Above all Elizabeth House made me stable again and gave me the space I needed to get on top of my problems.”
Before moving into fully independent accommodation Ewa spent a period of ten months at Framework’s Villa Street accommodation in Beeston – a “step two” or “move-on” service designed to fill the void between supported accommodation and truly independent living in the community. She is now living independently in a flat in Kimberly but still has close contact with Framework – as a volunteer.
She added: “When I first moved to Elizabeth House somebody suggested that I got involved with volunteering, which was a good idea for me because I wanted to ease myself get myself back into work at my own pace. I had also developed a great empathy with Framework and felt strongly that I wanted to use my skills to give something back. I am doing about 16 hours four days a week – mostly with the Skills for Independence service, which teaches people the skills they will need to live independently in the future. I really enjoy the feeling of helping people, which is one of the best things to come out of this whole experience.
“I really don’t know what would have happened, had I not been referred to Framework. Certainly I would have been very lonely and vulnerable and it would no doubt have taken much longer to sort out my issues. I have come a long way in just 12 months and I have sorted out my alcohol problem and now lead what most people would describe as a ‘normal’ life.
“I am now much more sympathetic to people who are homeless or have substance misuse issues as this can happen to anyone, as I know to my cost. My hopes for the future are to get into paid employment, hopefully within Framework and to spend quality time with my grandchildren. I can ask for no more.”