"I feel a bit more human again"

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Home Works Client

I ended up sleeping in sheds and fish huts. I also slept on mates’ sofas. I was so tired, it was overwhelming. I felt really sad the whole time.

I was homeless until a couple of months ago. For three months I was trying to work out where I was going to sleep every night.

I’ve had a tricky year. It started off with losing my flat and my job. My girlfriend let me stay with her because she didn’t want to isolate by herself during the first lockdown.

I’m an artist and when lockdown happened I got a successive run of mural commissions. I worked really hard with those deadlines, but with the pressure of everything I had a mental breakdown in July. I lost my girlfriend and my home.

I’ve had something up with me for most of my twenties. I got diagnosed with EUPD – Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. I was in the hospital’s psychiatric ward for two weeks, but after I got discharged I had nowhere to go.

I thought I could stay in my art studio and keep my head on track but that couldn’t happen. My sister said I could stay at hers but she ended up breaking up with her partner and had to leave her home.

I had the worst luck. It was probably one of the hardest things ever, especially during lockdown. People wanted to help but couldn’t.

I ended up sleeping in sheds and fish huts. I also slept on mates’ sofas. I was so tired, it was overwhelming. I felt really sad the whole time.

I have a dog and I didn’t want to let him sleep on the streets. It actually made me safer and gave me motivation cos I felt like I owed him a home.

I really leaned on my sister to help me out. She was my advocate. My sister was amazing - I’d hear her on the phone and have no idea what they were talking about or what was going on.

My priority was finding somewhere to sleep each night so that I wouldn’t be on the street. I didn’t have time to chase up other support. It was too much. I don’t think people talk about that enough actually – support might be out there but are people able to access it?

I got support from different organisations and was signposted to different services including Home Works in September.

My Support Worker was really cool. She did everything that actually helped! She was really good at giving advice if I didn’t understand the steps I needed to take. She helped me know how to get from A to B.

Our support sessions were all done over the phone due to the pandemic. She’d also check in on me in between and we would email too. I was doing everything on my mobile and laptop.

Having her explain things to me, hearing me out – it made me feel like someone was on my side. You need as many people on your side as possible. You need someone to talk on your behalf.

When I got offered temporary accommodation by the council and had to decline because they wouldn’t allow my dog, my Support Worker was really understanding.

It’s a mad time. I look back to when my parents were my age and they had a whole house. I’ve done nothing different in my life to them, but now so many of us are squished in and sharing with strangers.

All through this time I was still going to the studio every day, making art every day. I knew that no matter what, even if I had to sleep on polystyrene fish boxes in fish huts, at least I had my studio.

It was a struggle. I was having to find money to keep my studio and at 4 o’clock every day I had to think about where I was going to sleep. When it came to everything else, I was like a zombie. Doing art is the one thing that carries me through. It kept me sane then.

I’ve done a lot of art around Hastings, painted a lot of places. I did a huge stencil for the Coastal Currents art festival on Queens Road.

How would I describe my art? I’m probably the worst person to ask! I do mostly stencil art – more fine art than Banksy. I get my inspiration from Alphonse Mucha who was an art nouveau artist. 

I’ve been cutting out stencils for 18 years! I’ve had a mad obsession with cutting out bits of paper most of my life! My dream would be to paint big walls all the time.

I like that loads of people get joy from my art and it makes them happy – I do it for the community. But I always think I can do better. At the time I’m really happy with my work, but after I think, ‘Why did I do that?!’

With my art I have weeks where I feel worthless, a failure; and then I have some weeks where I say to myself, “Let’s do this!”

Whilst I was getting support from Home Works I put a room advert out on Spare Room and shared it on facebook. I called it ‘Homeless Artist with Dog’. I didn’t realise but it got shared a hundred times!

In October, a miracle happened. I managed to find somewhere for me and my dog to live. A really old mate of mine saw my advert and got in touch with me. She said she had dogs herself. So I ended up moving in with her, just before it got really cold.

I was super lucky. I could have easily been homeless right now.

My story is not a unique one. It’s mad that it took a pandemic for the government to think about taking homeless people off the streets. It’s disgusting.

The friendliest people I’ve met in my life are the homeless because there is a support network in the homeless community. A lot of people have been let down by mental health services and housing.

I feel like I’ve settled in really quickly. I’ve got somewhere where I can just be and I’m focusing on things that reaffirm my life like art. I still have days or weeks that are quite bad, but I don’t have to show face and talk to people. If I’m feeling anxious, suicidal, or depressed I can just stay at home.

I feel a bit more human again.

 

Home Works is our housing support service in East Sussex. It provides focused support to people aged 16 to 59 years. Clients may be single people, couples or families who are at risk of losing their home, have no permanent home or need help to live independently.

To protect the safety of our clients and staff, our teams primarily support clients by telephone, email, messaging and other online means. Where face-to-face support is absolutely essential and in agreement with managers, staff will endeavour to provide this, whilst following stringent social distancing and infection control measures.