"She’s more than a pet, she’s my best friend. When I was homeless she guarded me. She was part of my recovery as well"
The support was invaluable – there was no other support out there like that. With the [WSHPP] service I felt more calm and more confident, knowing I didn’t have to do it on my own. It felt good to have someone out there that can help you.
I was known as ‘the woman who sleeps under the pier with the dog.’
I was lucky, very lucky. Homeless people become part of your community. The old timers on the streets made sure I was okay. It’s extremely respectful. You do look out for each other and stick up for each other.
I didn’t feel danger at all. I should have felt terrified but I didn’t. But I introduced myself to everyone on the street and that helped. And of course I had Ellie.
I coped really well with being on the street. I was able to survive – no responsibility, no bills. I’d read, I’d knit, sitting in the park I learnt the rules of bowling! It was like a camping trip as a child, that’s what it felt like to me.
I knew where I could get food, I sourced sleeping bags. I found shelter under the pier. When I found money, the first thing I bought was always dog food.
She’s more than a pet, she’s my best friend. When I was homeless she guarded me. She was part of my recovery as well – she’s more like a working dog, bless her. I can’t go out on my own. With her, I have to go out. She gives me responsibility.
I have repetitive depressive disorder. I’ve suffered with it all my life. The first time I tried to commit suicide I was eight. After each episode, even when I recover, I don’t get back to the same level of mental health as before.
I have a tendency to isolate myself. I feel safer on my own as I find it overwhelming to be around other people. So it’s me and my dog.
I didn’t go out in the daylight for three years. I always feel more comfortable in the dark – I had a horrible fear of daylight. The agoraphobia started then. I lost my old home through not claiming any benefits and not paying rent. That was when I was ill.
Now, life feels settled and secure. I rent from a private landlord. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the [WSHPP] service.
Without the service, Lord knows where I’d be. The first contact I had with them was in March 2015.They helped with access to housing and all my benefits because I’d lost all my ID. Without an address and any form of ID there’s nothing you can do. It’s like a catch 22 when you’re homeless - “I’ve got no money cos I’ve got no home. I’ve got no home cos I’ve got no money.”
The support was invaluable – there was no other support out there like that. With the service I felt more calm and more confident, knowing I didn’t have to do it on my own. It felt good to have someone out there that can help you.
My Floating Support Worker would help fill out forms and explain letters to me. She helped me open an account at the Post Office. She was amazing.
I didn’t realise how many benefits I was entitled to. Without the support I couldn’t have moved into my own place. I was able to pay my deposit, my furniture. I have a big peace of mind knowing I have enough money to live. You get a sense of pride and it’s nice not to have any worries.
The biggest struggle is my mental health. I want people to realise that because you’re homeless it doesn’t mean you’re a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a deviant. I was on the streets because of my mental health.
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.