Jill (real name not used) has been sleeping rough for most of her life. She suffers from mental ill health and has a variety of drug dependencies.
Many services have attempted to work with Jill over the years. Jill’s behaviour is often called “chaotic” and she has been restricted from support centres, services and temporary accommodation due to her “high risk”.
We often saw Jill on the streets and would always offer her food and a hot drink. It took time to build a trusting relationship with her. We were able to start supporting her to access drug services, somewhere she was previously restricted from. This meant she could receive a prescription for methadone. She immediately began reducing her heroin consumption.
We worked with Jill and other services to get Jill her a safe place of her own. When Jill was told that she was being given her own little flat, we were all so excited. But the transition from being on the streets to living in a property is difficult and often underestimated.
On move in day we went with Jill to the flat. We helped Jill furnish the flat and gave her a “Welcome to your new home” card to mark the occasion.
When all the agreements and tenancies had been signed and everyone had gone, we stayed with Jill until she was comfortable on her own. We sat down to create a weekly meal plan together and went food shopping to buy her food for the week. This is something we do often with Jill and it’s great to see her taking an interest in her meals. She likes cooking egg noodles and cake with custard.
We’ve also supported Jill to apply for Universal Credit. Budgeting money is difficult for Jill, who is working on her drug dependencies. We are working with Jill to help her budget her money so that she can become fully independent. Recently, she chose to spend some of her money on practical items such as hair dye, nail polish and a hair dryer.
We are so unbelievably proud of Jill and how far she has come. Jill’s journey is unique and the support we have provided has been person-centred. She has hopes of becoming substance free in the future and she’s smiling a lot more.
We need services, councils, and the government to recognise the challenges women face, and to respond with increased gender specific spaces, support and services. That way we can ensure women are truly supported, and truly counted.
For women experiencing homelessness, please know that support is out there. Our outreach workers can offer support and advice, as well as signposting to services in West Yorkshire that support women. Please get in touch with our team.