Nicola Sturgeon Puts The Spotlight on Homelessness

This year we have been honoured and delighted to have received input from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

In January she visited our Maxwell Drive service and then delivered the keynote address at our re-launch event in February. Her support and personal interest has added significant profile and value to our work.

During her visit to Maxwell Drive, Nicola gave significant time to get to know and be with the women at the service and to really understand their challenges. She listened to their stories of how homelessness has impacted on them and the value they now feel in themselves. It meant a great deal to the women that someone – seen as so important – took so much time to listen to their story. The women felt they really mattered and what they had to say was really worth hearing.

Nicola’s presence and delivery at our re-launch was a fitting endorsement of our shift to a more national focus as Simon Community Scotland. We look forward to growing from strength to strength and joining with others across Scotland to combat the causes and harsh effects of homelessness.

Carly’s Story: From Prison to Presentations!

Carly’s Story: From Prison to Presentations!

Tough Start

Growing up was difficult and quite chaotic at times. I remember feeling really ashamed and didn’t like myself. I saw the world as a hostile place. I quickly learned if I shouted louder and fought better that would keep people away – I didn’t want people to see the real me. I was quite popular and had lots of friends but wasn’t close to anyone. I felt alone. I was always up in arms against the world.

Hard times

When I started using I felt better. Nothing else mattered and I was complete. It was just alcohol and hash at first but I moved on to harder drugs quite quickly and addiction took over. I would do anything for money for drugs which included shoplifting. I got my first remand in Corntonvale when I was sixteen. Life was pretty much a cycle of making money and getting drugs. One day I woke up to find my boyfriend dead beside me from an overdose.

I felt scared, alone and angry. I went into a Detox centre but I didn’t care about anything anymore. I was asked to leave as my behaviour was really bad. Five days later I had a hit of Coke and had a massive brain haemorrhage which led to a stroke. I was paralysed down my right hand side and couldn’t walk or talk. I was 27.

I spent a year in the Southern General re-learning to walk, talk and live again.

New hope, new accommodation and new challenges

After I came out of hospital I went into a supported accommodation place. I had lost my home while I was in the hospital ­– they just changed the locks. I got a new house in the West End that I have now managed to maintain for 11 years. I stayed clean for four years, went to college and on holidays. I was really living life.

Then I had a number of health problems for which I was put on opiate medication. I was off and running again. This time I went into a rehabilitation service. I knew what I had to do: you have to look at your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and make changes.

Volunteering and new work

I do voluntary work now and I’m so passionate because it changes people’s lives.

To become a Peer Volunteer for the Simon Community we did 12 weeks training. The training was brilliant and it helped with my confidence and self-esteem.

I even had the confidence to apply for a Hepatitis C Community Trainee position with Waverley Care. I was really nervous going for the interview. I went to the Simon Community to pick up my training certificates beforehand and was told to “just be myself and that’s what I did. Waverley Care phoned that afternoon to offer me the position: I think I screamed! I couldn’t believe it especially as I thought that I had messed the interview up.

I have been at Waverley Care a couple of months now. I’m working with people affected by Hepatitis and I use my lived experience to help empathise with others. I have fitted in with the staff team and I’m learning all the time. They are also helping to put me through my SVQ3. There have been challenges but I’m facing them and reflecting on what I could have done differently. Sometimes I can’t believe how different my life is.

Brighter horizons

This past year has been amazing. I’m even learning to drive which I thought would never happen as I only have the use of one hand. I can do anything I put my mind to. From a wheelchair to four wheels driving around and from prison to presentations with my work: Now that’s what I call living life!

Sarah Jane: Finding New Confidence And Skills

My first interview

I was working on my recovery when I came across the Simon Community. They were doing interviews for a training programme for volunteers. I was unsure whether or not I was ready to try this because I had never been for an interview before. I realised that only by pushing through my uncertainty would I make further progress.

Learning new things

I worried for nothing! The process was quite informal, helpful and very supportive. The 12 week training programme covered what would be expected of you as a volunteer and also what you could expect from the Simon Community as a volunteer. The subjects included: Child Protection, Adult Support & Protection, SafeTalk, Confidentiality, Boundaries, Challenging Behaviours, and Roles and Responsibilities.

Through the programme I started volunteering in the Hub. This really improved my confidence and self esteem. I went out with the Street Team and saw another side of the work they do.

Experience helps!

In my time recovering in Phoenix and also as a volunteer one thing stands out above all else: people will share their worries and hopes with others who have had a similar experience either in addiction, mental health, homelessness or having come through the Care System.

As part of my volunteering, I was approached by Glenda and Ashley to help with a piece of research around Self Directed Support. I was given the task of talking to service users who had been or still were homeless. This went really well because they could relate to the fact that I am going through the process of being homeless myself.

Taking on new challenges

Through the support and confidence gained as a volunteer for the Simon Community, I put myself forward to be part of a recovery group for the North East. I was able to use my knowledge, skills and experience to benefit this new initiative. In January 2014 North East Recovery Communities (NERC) was established and I became a Committee member for the very first time.

Ellis’ Story: Moving On

Love and loss

I came to Glasgow 12 years ago from Manchester for a two-week holiday. I never went back because I met my future wife and step children. We had a good a life together and a solid relationship for 10 years until the passing of my step daughter.

The strain of this bereavement resulted in the breakdown of our family. Without the network of family and friends that I had enjoyed in Manchester and, having nowhere else to go, I encountered my first experience of homelessness.

Homeless and struggling

I spent my first night homeless sleeping in the reception of a police station. I had presented as homeless at the Council and was advised that I didn’t have a local connection in Glasgow and was sent back to North Lanarkshire Council. They found me a temporary accommodation hostel in Motherwell. However as they were full, an office was converted and I was provided with a mattress to sleep on. I spent two nights there before a room – a shared living space – became available.

During this time my head was all over the place; I couldn’t concentrate on what was going on around me. I couldn’t think clearly about my finances or what would happen next.

Kind help

It was at this time I was introduced to Geraldine, a support worker from the Simon Community. This was such a blessing – it was the first normal conversation that I had had with someone!

Getting through difficult times

A month later North Lanarkshire Council gave me a ‘Scatter Flat’. It was better than being on the streets, but it was damp and freezing. I suffered depression and felt isolated. It was the lowest point of my life. What got me through was the thought of seeing and spending time with my grandchildren.

I also got a new key worker, David. We built a good rapport and he went above and beyond to help me. One day David and I had a conversation about what I had done in my life and things that I had achieved. He suggested that I look into doing “peer support where people who have experienced homelessness become volunteers and work with others who find themselves homeless.

The Simon Community’s Hub (on London Road) offer advice and information to people who are homeless. They were just about to recruit peer volunteers. When the day came to attend the peer volunteer interview I felt apprehensive and anxious. I really didn’t want to be there but, because of the encouragement I had been given from my support worker, I felt I needed to give it a go. I have never looked back!

New confidence

I have been involved in the daily running of the Hub and various training days. Through all this I have built up good connections with the other peers and staff. The Simon Community have helped my personal development and I have taken part in different activities and projects, including speaking at the AGM and conducting interviews with service users as part of the Self Directed Support Pilot for the Scottish Government. During these interviews, I used my lived experience to make people feel at ease. All this has built my confidence and encouraged me to get involved in other projects.

I now have a better understanding of homelessness and all the issues that come with it and that no two people are the same.

Making a difference

The experience has truly made me feel like part of something and valued. It also made me realise that I want a career in Social Care. I am currently seeking employment within this field. I could not have got here without the hard work I have put in and the achievements that I have made whilst working with the Simon Community.

Personally, life has got better and better. I recently moved into my own flat and I feel settled. Volunteering has built up my self-esteem and confidence. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I may not have all the answers but I can certainly try! I enjoy learning new things and I am starting to feel like I make a difference.