My experience: from William Collier to independent housing

In 2016, I was placed in emergency accommodation, having been without stable housing for over 3 years. I was there for 4 months, then referred to YMCA William Collier House in December, 2016. At that time, I frequently had suicidal feelings and acted on these impulses on several occasions. I felt isolated and hopeless.

Seeing my key-worker, however, began to make a huge difference to me. Having someone to share my thoughts and feelings with was the first step towards a real change in my life. Gradually, my confidence grew and I began to engage with other members of staff. I was now in more control of my life and felt less isolated. Knowing that I had previous experience of volunteering in the community, my key-worker suggested that I become a ‘resident representative’ for William Collier House, as well as the coffee bar team leader. Both roles were rewarding and allowed me to support others and use my own experiences in a positive way.

I also attended the YMCA LifeSkills course run at George Williams Centre. I really enjoyed attending the course – its social aspect was particularly rewarding, as was the daily structure it provided.

In the Autumn of 2017, I spoke to the YMCA move-on coordinator about my housing options. He explained that most clients at William Collier House work towards lower supported accommodation, but that I stood a good chance of bidding successfully on the HomeMove scheme because of my ‘accepted homeless’ status. I knew at that time that I wanted to return to full independence as soon as possible, having successfully sustained tenancies in the past. We registered on the scheme and bid for properties every 2 weeks. About 2 months later, I had a viewing for a one bedroom flat. I accepted the flat and spent the next couple of weeks preparing for my move. My key-worker and the move-on coordinator continued to work with me throughout this time. There was so much to do, but having people on my side who understood the process and the steps to be taken really helped.

I am now preparing to become the first BYMCA ‘Move On Peer Mentor’. This will be a great way of using my experiences to support others with the sometimes stressful business of moving homes!

Finally, I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the members of staff at WCH, especially my key-worker of course. I hope my experience at WCH can serve as encouragement to others – engaging with support is definitely the best way of seizing control of one’s life again!