Rachel, 25, spent two years sleeping rough and now works full time to help other people off the streets. At the age of 15, Rachel was unable to stay in her family home and ended up on the streets and living with a serious drug addiction. Suffering with mental health problems and resorting to self-harming, Rachel spent some time in a hostel for homeless people but saw no future for herself. After two years rough sleeping, Rachel suffered severe bladder failure due to her substance misuse problems and spent 9 months in hospital. “This was the time that I was forced to tackle my addictions, but initially this wasn’t through choice”, says Rachel. “I then made a conscious decision to change my life and when I left hospital I was lucky enough to get a place in a hostel and took advantage, for the first time, of the support available from my support worker and the Community Mental Health Team”. Rachel began rebuilding her life and started volunteering and undertaking training at a drug and alcohol service helping people as a peer mentor.
Rachel is now, 7 years after she turned her life around, working for Huggard providing individual support to people using Huggard’s emergency overnight accommodation, many of whom experience poor mental health and substance misuse issues. “I know what it is like to be stuck in a cycle, where you feel unable or unwilling to receive support and I want to help people realise that they not only have an opportunity to move forward but that they have it in themselves to succeed.” Rachel explains, “The pull of street culture activities, such as begging, can often draw people back to the streets, even when they have made good progress away from it. My job is help provide people with a light at the end of the tunnel that outshines the temptations that have reinforced their cycle of homelessness.”
Richard Edwards, Huggard’s Chief Executive says, “We are very fortunate to have someone with Rachel’s experience, compassion and professionalism working with those that need our help. In Rachel’s first week she has helped a young man of 21 who has been discharged from a psychiatric hospital, following a drug induced psychosis, to start accepting support and take up hostel accommodation. He is now looking to move into a specialised young person’s project and is looking at a brighter future. Its empathy and targeted support like this that changes lives.”