Life is better now

Not long ago, James and Liam were both homeless. They were experiencing family trouble, were in debt and had low self esteem. They referred themselves to our hostel on Shakespeare Street. Now “life is better” and they are living in YMCA Transitional Homes. These are a step towards independent living as part of our Stage Progression programme. We met to talk about their move from Shakespeare Street Hostel into Transitional Homes, and how their lives have changed since

Liam had spent 4 months on the streets before finding us. “I was in £700 debt. I didn’t eat. I didn’t drink.” By working with Heather, Youth Tenancy Sustainment Officer at Shakespeare Street hostel, Liam has managed to turn things around. “Heather’s really helped me with that, learning to budget. I’ve paid all my debts. I’m in credit with my rent.” James also took advantage of the support that was offered to him. “I had support [from a key worker] and just got on with it. I used the gym quite a lot.” Resident members who are in credit during their time at the hostel are able to use the YMCA gym.

As well as lacking in energy, Liam was hugely lacking in self-confidence when he moved in with the YMCA. “One to one sessions really helped me with that, it brings you out. I can talk to people normally.” As well as benefit and employment support, key workers help identify resident members support needs. Professionals offer support with reading, writing, cooking, cleaning and emotional needs. James had a counsellor during his stay at the hostel, “that’s helped a lot” he says, “I owe her a thank you.” We aim to work towards sustained independent living by using Stage Progression. At stage 1, resident members engage in high levels of support. As they work through the stages they need less involvement from their key worker. They are encouraged to take part in activities and voluntary work and to build up their skills base. This helps provide the solid foundations to work on to find employment and sustain their lifestyle in Nottingham.

Both men felt comfortable at the hostel and felt they had achieved so much by being there. They were unsure about moving out into Transitional Homes. These are small shared houses in communities around Nottingham. “I’d made friends,” says Liam, as James adds “I’d never lived by myself.” They were worried that the change would be hard, that they wouldn’t cope with the extra independence. A few months on, they are happier, healthier and feel positive about their decision to move on. “There’s a lot of people in the hostel”, explains Liam, “in the Transitional Home you can just talk to everyone, it’s smaller…more like a community.” James explains that it has really made a difference to how he feels, and his relationship with his mum. “All the pain then… I didn’t speak to my mum for ages after I moved out. Now I go round to see her every weekend and it’s good. [Transitional Housing] makes a difference, because first you get all the support and then the chance to live independently.”

Now that James and Liam have created foundations for themselves again, they’re planning their future. Both are hoping to get their own flat in the city. For Liam especially this is a huge step. “With the confidence I’m feeling now, I really feel like I can do it by myself. I can clean, I can cook, I’ve paid all my debts. 6 months ago I don’t think I’d have even been able to do this interview to be honest. I just wouldn’t be able to. Now I’m happy, I’m living my own life.”

James is hoping to go to college to do his Level 2 in Carpentry and Joinery in September. In the meantime he’s on a Learn Direct course in Maths, English and IT. He’s also considering an SIA course (Security Guard Training). “I just know I’ve got to keep busy and build my skills up” he explains. Liam is considering a course through the Prince’s Trust at the fire station and is also hoping to get some extra help with his reading and writing. These are all things his key worker will be able to help him with.

They would both really recommend the YMCA to anyone who finds themselves as homeless. Both men agree that you get out as much as you put in. “Life is better now.” Liam tells me, and James echoes this, “yeah, I’d really encourage others” James told us, “just go for it, this is what life’s about. People should go for it.”

To find out more about Housing and the other work we do at Nottinghamshire YMCA click here. Have a look at our career and job opportunities here.