"Support from Southdown has allowed me to breathe."
“Support from Southdown has allowed me to breathe.
It’s taken away a lot of pressure. It’s given me a house, they’ve given me a home.
I live in a single bedroom flat. It’s a Southdown tenancy. I see my support officer about once a week. I have huge difficulty with post and general organisation of everyday things, and she gives me a hand with that and getting things sorted. If there’s something wrong with the property, I’ll talk to her and she’ll help me.
I discovered recently that I have autism and she’s helped me see what help is available and helped me get in touch with organisations like the Richmond Fellowship who helped me have assessments, get my autism diagnosis, and support with that.
I was homeless. I’d been working as a gardener but I had arthritis that was getting worse and work was getting less. I’d started living in my van. I was also due for a hip operation but had nowhere to live. It was horrible. I didn’t know what to do. I felt very unsafe, scared.
I went to a clinic for talking therapy and they helped refer me to Southdown who got me a place in temporary accommodation. It was a little flat not dissimilar to this. There was an office on-site and a worker who helped me with problems like debt at the time and setting up benefits.
It was a relief in the sense that I could feel safe which is vastly important to me. But I couldn’t settle there. Even here, I have trouble settling. People say it’s my home but I don’t know what home is meant to feel like.
I was there for over a year and I started bidding on social housing properties. And this one came up. I came and had a look with my support worker. I find it very difficult to make concise decisions – I find it a leap in the dark really. But I’m happy I said ‘yes’. My support officer was pointing out various things at the viewing.
I do like it. It feels safe. I can come back home, close the door, lock it and feel safe. And I can be me. I feel I can only be me when I’m at home.
It’s a freedom within a confined environment. It’s taken away so many pressures and worries. It’s freed up my mind quite a lot so I’m grateful for that.
The support looks at what my needs are and who I am as a person. I don’t feel like a number. My support officer usually meets me at home. We go through the post and have a chat about something. She’s been hugely helpful.
I think I’m not always the easiest person to help. I don’t talk as much as I should. They’ve helped me as much as I allow.
Regarding security and housing, support has helped me hugely. It’s ticked all the boxes.
I find managing finances unbelievably confusing. Even a simple electricity bill can knock me. I can’t describe how huge it is to have a support officer there who can take it off my mind. She supports me through doing it myself. The anxiety’s still there but I have that rope to hold onto. I know it’s not going to progress for weeks and weeks, that it will be dealt with.
I receive ESA and I work part-time. I garden and I dog and house sit for a few people. I look after scotties and labradoodles. I like dogs cos they don’t expect anything – they’re super friendly and nice. The dogs make me happy – maybe more than humans!!
I go to town every day and have a coffee but I don’t really have a social life – I don’t know what to do with people. When I’m around people, there’s so much going round in my head. It’s overwhelming. One-on-one is not too bad but any more than that is impossible – I don’t know what to say. I find it hard following conversation.
I would like more interaction and obviously inside I’m craving it, but I don’t know what to do. I’m lonely as hell. That’s why autism support would be helpful to understand it more and put things in place.
The autism diagnosis is like a double-edged sword. I’ve had to reassess everything but I’ve also been able to forgive myself for things I’ve done in the past because now I understand.
You constantly go through life trying to be neuro-typical – the way you dress, stand, hold your hands. I did this at school. But it’s shallow and can’t progress at any level cos it’s not you, it’s not who you are.
I want to study Fine Art Sculpture at university. I’ve always made things. I am a sculptor. It’s great. It’s the only time I feel relaxed. I find it very difficult to focus on things, but I can with this. I have ideas popping out of my head all the time. I’m very lucky to have that.
My sculptures say something that I can’t. A lot of them mean something but I can’t say what it is, but it’s inside me. They’re like my feelings.”
Southdown provides different types of affordable housing from temporary accommodation to a long-term home for people who have health and/or support needs. As a specialist supported housing landlord the majority of our tenants also receive additional support from our housing officers to help maintain their homes. Alongside them, our floating support officers work to ensure that individuals have the support they need to manage their independence, health and wellbeing.
The West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) is an integrated service that offers a dynamic way of working, greatly benefiting multi-disciplinary teams and their clients, by providing a combination of pre-tenancy support, supported accommodation and floating support as well as some new and innovative targeted services for people at risk of homelessness.