"Getting a guide dog and the right accommodation has made me feel elated"

Southdown Homelessness Prevention and Mental Health Support Service Client

My Support Worker got everything up and running for me for the flat, he helped me with my housing benefit form, my former arrears, and my medications. He also helped me get a higher rate of benefit for my health.

Having her has expanded my world. She’s given me a whole new lease of life, she really has.

She gets me out and about. I get a buzz off her when she’s working. We’re out there, communicating with people.

She’s everything to me. She’s my best friend. She’s the only thing that makes me properly smile. I look at her and think she’s absolutely gorgeous.

It took me 12 months to decide whether to go ahead with a guide dog through the RNIB. I was thinking it might be a lot to take on, a lot to do. It’s a big commitment.

I’ve had Frankie since April 2016. But it wasn’t fair on her because I had been sofa surfing at a friend of mine’s for six years. That’s why I got support for housing with Southdown’s Homelessness Prevention and Mental Health Support Service.

I can’t believe how things have come along for me in the last year – there’s been a big change. A very big change.

It was very challenging having to rely on my friend. It was only a one bed flat and I was just on the sofa. At the time I just had my white cane and my visual impairment was getting a lot worse. I’m registered blind. I have a genetic condition, retinitis pigmentosa, tunnel vision, and the early stages of cataracts.

It was my RNIB Support Worker who put me in contact with Southdown to support me to find more suitable accommodation for my dog.

I met my Southdown Support Worker in early 2017. He would meet me at my flat for regular meetings.

He got me banded on Home Move for social housing. On my first bid I got allocated a flat! Bingo! When the flat came through, I instantly felt a weight lift off me.

It’s brilliant, I love it. It’s easy to move around in and it was all new! It’s absolutely in the right area and what I need. It’s on the ground floor and has a patio so it’s suitable for me and Frankie, and the park’s just five minutes away. It’s meant to be!

It’s amazing. I can’t be thankful enough. I feel more safe and secure. It’s lovely and quiet. I have nice neighbours – they’re really helpful, asking if I want a tea, or they’ll go to the shop for me, or ask if I want to go to the park.

My Support Worker got everything up and running for me for the flat, he helped me with my housing benefit form, my former arrears, and my medications. He also helped me get a higher rate of benefit for my health. It all just came through, absolutely unbelievable!

I have problems opening mail and chasing things up so his willingness to go through all the phone calls was really helpful. He helped me get a cooker, a fridge-freezer, a settee, and a double-bed. He put a lot of paperwork together for me. He didn’t give up. Having that support set me on my feet.

Getting a guide dog and the right accommodation has made me feel elated. I have a secure home and I can go out. It’s panned out really well.

I’m as good as blind when I’m out there. I’m noticing the degeneration and changes – even in the last few months I’ve noticed a difference.

I do find it difficult to sit and focus with people now. It can be quite strenuous especially with the tunnel vision. I see a lot of colours.

I have to be very trusting of people. I can feel disorientated. It’s a horrible feeling, even if I’m just a few streets away from home. It makes me feel vulnerable. I rely on the dog. I trust in her.

We’re forever communicating when we’re walking along together. She’s so receptive to commands. I communicate with a whistle and voice commands. It’s all about tone. On the whistle, it’s one to go, two to come back, and three to eat.

Ever since me and Frankie have been together, I’ve not hit into any poles or bins. She manoeuvers around. She knows to avoid puddles!

She’s not a pet, she’s far from that. When we’re out, she’s working. It’s very hard when people in town interrupt her or stare and take away her focus. The interruption can set them back. But she knows her job, she knows what’s required of her.

She has an outdoor working collar and an indoor collar for her relaxed mode. When she’s indoors she rests. It’s not good to tire her out, to give her too much stress, because she’s been working.

I thought she’d have given up on me because I have low self-esteem sometimes, but the bond is there. It has to be strong. Play between us is one of the ways to strengthen the bond.

The first time I met Frankie was at my friend’s flat. I was in awe! Almost like butterflies. It was brilliant. I couldn’t believe what was happening!

We went to Maidstone for our training and stayed in The Hilton for two weeks. That first morning, she legged it over to my bed and gave me a kiss!

I feel a lot better than I used to. I’m in heaven. I’m really happy.

 

Southdown Homelessness Prevention and Mental Health Support Service (Brighton and Hove) provides short-term, flexible and tailored support to prevent homelessness and improve people’s mental health and wellbeing. This support focuses on our clients’ immediate housing needs, and other areas that are impacting their lives such as mental health and wellbeing, employment, finances, and social networks.