"Support is paramount. Without these services, people will die, and people will take their own lives"
I should hit Santiago in about six weeks. The walk is over mountains and goat paths. I have my mum’s ashes with me – that’s what keeps me going.
I was found unconscious in my flat on the 14 February. I had been a recluse for seven months, hadn’t had any contact with anyone, and hadn’t eaten for two months.
I was taken to hospital and that’s where I met my Floating Support Officer (FSO) from Southdown. She was humanity to the core. She explained everything to me. She was patient. I didn’t know anything. I was a mess.
I couldn’t return to my flat because the building was condemned and I was the last tenant there. My FSO organised for someone in Housing at the Council to see me in hospital to see how serious my situation was.
She organised and set up my Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) beside me whilst I was lying in my hospital bed. It was all new to me. I’d never been on benefits before. She also helped me buy a coat because I had nothing, and was the only contact I made there that looked at my mental health. She’s an angel.
I went into temporary accommodation thanks to my FSO. And during that time she kept in contact with me once a week where we would meet up for a coffee. She helped me apply for permanent accommodation. She was giving emotional and materialistic support.
It was a minefield of paperwork. My mental health being as it was and me being hospitalised - I don’t know what I’d have done without Southdown. I was 100% getting better because she was so supportive. That extra care went a thousand miles.
Right now, I’m sharing my story from the Camino di Santiago! I started the pilgrimage a few weeks back at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. It’s something my mother and I always wanted to do.
Unfortunately she died in April, but just before, we shook hands and she said, “Go and enrich your life.” I had been in temporary accommodation for a couple of months but with the promise I made to my mum, I gave up my place and off I went.
I should hit Santiago in about six weeks. The walk is over mountains and goat paths. I have my mum’s ashes with me – that’s what keeps me going. I’m not a church-going person but I entered a church three nights ago and cried my eyes out.
I still have depression and anxiety. I still struggle. I’m on medication but I’m weaning myself off them on the pilgrimage.
It’s been a huge challenge. It’s hard-core. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve lost two toenails already! It’s good though, it’s fantastic! I’m staying in hostels and the pilgrims all share stories.
I wouldn’t have done this pilgrimage if I hadn’t had contact with Southdown. I also wouldn’t have had the confidence. I don’t know where I’d be.
I believe that during this trip and after this trip, I’ll be able to move forward and be able to ask for help.
I have put some money to one side to get established when I return and I intend to do support work and social care like my FSO. I want to give back what I received - from the hospital, the police, Southdown, and my worker. She was amazing, absolutely amazing.
Support is paramount. I never thought I’d be in hospital or homeless in a million years. Without these services, people will die, and people will take their own lives.
Without support from Southdown, I wouldn’t be here now. They’re angels in true form.
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.