“If Housing Support hadn’t helped me, I’d have stayed homeless”
Last year I had a stroke. Half of my body was gone – I couldn’t move. After a week it slowly slowly improved.
I was a taxi driver. It happened when I was driving on the motorway. As I was driving I found my left arm was going weak and I had no control. I stopped the car and called the ambulance. It was frightening. I was crying whilst I was waiting for help.
Straight away I was taken for an MRI scan. They sent me home after 24 hours without support. I was basically living on my own. I stopped working for nearly 20 days.
I had to reduce my working week from six days to two or three. Physically, I couldn’t do it. I was getting tired, a numbness in my brain, and forgetting addresses. It has affected my memory. After ten years I had to start using the phone’s navigation system again. It was really upsetting and it put me down so much. The illness made me hate my job.
I carried on managing on my own until three months ago. I started to get pain in my left knee and after a scan, my GP signed me off and told me I wasn’t allowed to work anymore.
I had a bad time because I wasn’t working properly for a year and then suddenly I was told I wasn’t allowed to work. It’s difficult because all my life I was working. I started when I was 16.
It’s really difficult to do nothing. It made me feel that I’m not good enough, I’m dumb. It made me feel like I don’t have a purpose.
I didn’t want to go into the jobcentre or ask for help with the benefit system because it felt bad to me. I’ve lived in the UK for 18 years and for all that time, I didn’t need support – I was working, constantly.
It took me three weeks to apply for benefits and when I did it was really hard – I had no idea what I had to do. The council officer contacted Southdown’s Housing Support services because they saw that I didn’t know what I was doing. The next day the service called me.
I wasn’t sure they could give me that much help. That changed at the end of our first meeting!
If I hadn’t had help from Housing Support, I don’t know where I’d be. We had a meeting to see what I needed. I needed everything because by that time I was homeless and sleeping in a car because I couldn’t pay my bills. I couldn’t have a hot meal. I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I was just surviving.
The worst thing was the night-time because I had to find a safe place to park and sleep. I was worried. I was trying to avoid dangerous situations.
I was breaking down. I had had depression and been suicidal before, but I took medication which meant I was fine. But the depression became worse because I couldn’t work or remember things.
I was fighting with suicidal thoughts – of going into the middle of the road and pouring petrol on myself. It was constant. It was so horrible.
Support has made a 100% difference to my life. My Support Worker does everything she can. She helped me find accommodation, and get a loan for the first rent payment and deposit. She helped me with the Universal Credit application too.
We text each other and arrange to meet up in a café. The time it take depends on the problems! The first time we met for one and a half hours, the last time we met for 20 minutes. It depends on the paperwork and what we have to do.
Anything I need, Housing Support helps me out, step by step. My Worker sits down, helps me with forms, accompanies me to appointments, tells me how the system works, what I am entitled to, and explains what I can do. She has been 100% there for me.
People like me, who weren’t born here, don’t know the system so it makes it harder to navigate. We can also feel like we won’t get help if we ask for it. That can come from feeling like we can’t trust the system – and knowing our place.
But I belong here. This is my home. I was working. I have lots of friends. I know the public. This is my community.
If Housing Support hadn’t helped me, I’d have stayed homeless.
Having housing helps my mental health so much, but I’m carrying some effects still from sleeping in the car. I was always worried about what was going to happen.
Even now, every morning I wake up worried. This means I don’t want to leave the house. I have to force myself to leave.
I don’t need that much help anymore, but it’s scary that we are coming to the end of working together. The next step is applying for mental health support.
I look forward to the future but I know life can suddenly change. I had a home, a job, a life. And in less than 24 hours, it changed. I lost everything. In a blink of an eye you can lose everything and it affects you so much.
Money is a struggle because Universal Credit isn’t paid weekly. After ten days, my money is gone because everything is so expensive. I don’t have a pillow and I don’t have duvet covers – I can’t afford it. I’m not eating properly. I’ll eat one day, then the next two days I’ll eat a biscuit or something. I go to the food bank if I need to but I only use it in emergencies because I want others who need it to use it too.
The support from Southdown felt personal. Anytime I picked up the phone for help, they were there. They said “yes.” It was so friendly and made me feel so relaxed. It was so welcoming.
It’s important for me to continue to study – it’s important for me to be good for something, to do something for the future. I have a strong mind, a strong will.
I go to college everyday – I am studying GCSE English and after that I want to take a course to be an MOT Tester. That’s the plan. I love cars! I can’t leave them alone!
Housing Support has helped me move from being homeless and suicidal to going to college and planning for the future.
Housing Support gives you the power to help you find your way. It’s like fuel for an engine.
To help people feel secure and keep safe, find affordable housing and avert crisis, we provide a range of housing and homelessness prevention support across East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove. As well as focusing on immediate housing need, we also address other issues that are putting the security and stability of housing at risk, for example, poverty, mental health challenges and domestic abuse. All our services are free and available for people aged 18 and over.