Having outside help was good because they listened without judgement. They didn’t have preconceived ideas. That was nice.

“I feel positive about the future”

I was depressed and down. I was anxious. I was lonely. I wanted to be part of things.

I lived in the family home on my own and my PIP (Personal Independence Payment) went to my brother who handled my bills – I had moved out in the past but it didn’t work. I felt anxious and they were frustrated. We knew I needed help outside the family – I needed to go outside to find a solution.

I’ve always been different. I was diagnosed with autism about seven years ago. It answered a lot of questions. I really struggled with fitting in and understanding social rules. I’m useless at them.

A lot of things like asking questions and feeling anxious can come across as aggressive to neuro-typical people. We don’t hear the tone of our own voice or know our facial expressions. When there’s pressure to respond I go into meltdown – I become loud but I’d never hurt anyone.

I think I was in shutdown for years. My parents gave me my own space but I wasn’t understood. People always told me what I should do, but I needed someone beside me. It was lonely.

It took me five years to get a Social Worker through the council – my sister-in-law helped me. I was still working at the time. I was a ‘temporary millionaire’ – I filled cash machines!! I reduced my hours to two days but that didn’t make things better. I had to give it up. I was being bullied at work. It was because I was different. People can’t handle differences – it was like that at school. I was always pushed away.

When I needed my social worker again, I found out that she’d signed my case off. But I got a new social worker and they were brilliant and really looked after me. They knew my housing situation and that my mum had passed away, and they knew my financial situation and that I needed some kind of support.

We took a trip to the council and spoke to them about housing and that’s when Southdown came up! They accepted me onto the supported housing scheme through the West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) and found me a one bed flat!

I also received financial support, housing support, and help with calling different utility companies and account renewals from my Southdown Support Worker. She understood my case, she understood who I was. She was prepared and that’s what made her good. I could trust her.

My Support Worker visited me once a week to make sure I was okay. Being able to talk to someone who wasn’t my family was good – it took the pressure away.

One time my Social Worker said I’d need a lot of things to happen to change, but actually all it took was outside help. And now I can talk to my family without anxiety. My family relationships are brilliant – the best ever. I know my brother is proud of me.

My finances are better too. When I was down I spent money on things and I would owe thousands in loans. Now I’m better at money management and have separate accounts for different things.

I gave up smoking six months ago and I lost 11 stone in weight over a year by sensible eating and walking. Walking has got me out! I walk somewhere to get a coffee. I feel so much better and it gets me fresh air! People don’t recognise me!

Next year I will take part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and trek over three hills in a day for the National Autistic Society.

I like driving people to places if they need it. It gets me out and I meet people. I also do photography and sometimes go to The Hub to socialise.

I’m still anxious sometimes. I find the social side of things hard. I like being around people but I need a break. It can be tiring.

I’ve always known what I needed to do – but when someone puts doubts in my mind, I don’t do it. Having outside help was good because they listened without judgement. They didn’t have preconceived ideas. That was nice.

Support from Southdown is stopping because I don’t need it anymore. I’m okay with that because I’m not a burden to my family, I can go to them now. I can go to The Hub and the jobcentre to get help. I know where to go now. A big part of it is having the confidence to go.

I feel positive about the future. Life is about taking a journey and being proud of your achievements.

The West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) specialises in providing responsive and tailored support to vulnerable people with complex needs at risk of homelessness.