Michelle’s story

07 Dec 2022

Due to rising living costs, Michelle (36) was unable to afford her rent, so she moved in with friends

Unfortunately, the friendship broke down, meaning Michelle had nowhere to go.

Michelle now lives and works full-time from home, as a call handler, at a Wallich hostel.

These are unprecedented times. The people who ask charities like us for homelessness and financial support is changing.

Read Michelle’s story

Michelle's story - working full time but living in a homeless hostel in Wales. Cost of living crisis.

Feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis

“I’m homeless.

The cost living [at the hostel] while working, is reasonable and manageable. It’s cheaper than your own place.

Private rented, obviously there’s no way I’d get anything, everything is triple the price right now.”

A change in circumstances

“I don’t want to go into too much detail and, because there’s other people involved, I think they deserve some privacy.

I couldn’t afford the property that I was living in, so I moved in with friends, unknowingly putting myself in a volatile situation. If I stayed there, I more than likely would have got hurt.

I phoned the council in the morning, by three o’clock in the afternoon, I was getting a phone call to say the hostel is available.

They offered to pay for a taxi to move me and my stuff. By eight o’clock that evening, I was moving in.”

Working full-time and living in supported accommodation

“I work from home as a Call Centre Agent for an energy provider.

The Wallich have been absolutely fantastic. We did have a little bit of difficulty when I moved in trying to get the internet sorted but The Wallich supported me in getting that sorted. Now I’ve got Internet in my room, and I can work not a problem.

We do fire alarm tests once a week. I ran out of my room thinking it was a proper fire, put the customer on hold, as you know I can’t do nothing, I gotta go!”

To combat the disruption to Michelle’s working day, an agreement was made with staff that they can enter Michelle’s room when she’s working to give her the nod that it’s just a fire alarm test. This made a huge difference to Michelle.

“To me, that’s going that extra mile for me.

Everyone is different and everyone needs to be treated like an individual and on their own merit.

In my job, I help people when they’re building up lots of debt on their energy account and help them reduce it.

Because of the cost of living crisis, it’s all changed. I’m now asking people ‘how much can you afford to pay’ rather than this is how much you need to pay.

Due to the confidentiality, I can’t go telling customers, ‘you know I can completely relate to what you’re going through, because I’m going through exactly the same thing’.

When I’ve helped a customer, it makes me feel great, because I’ve helped them, they can now sleep easy at night without having the worry that they’ve got to sort their energy out.

Female service user stood in doorway of homeless project in Bridgend

When asked how if Michelle’s employer been supportive, she said:

“They’ve been absolutely amazing.

Really showed concern when I first moved in here – because obviously the stigma of a homelessness hostel.

I explained ‘I’ve got a secure room, I am safe, I am OK’ but they are concerned for my health and my wellbeing.”

Practical support

“The Wallich has helped me with emotional support.

The fact that staff are allowed to bring their pets onto project, I think it’s absolutely amazing, it helps residents.

It helped me the day I moved in, just stroking Billy [a staff member’s dog], it calmed me down and stopped me being so upset.

The Wallich helped me with my financial situation. I sat with one of the support workers and we phoned every company, went through my credit file, found out exactly how much I owe.

They signed me up for the Housing Jigsaw Portal and the Valleys to Coast register within the first three days of me being here, so you know things do happen quite quickly.

A lot of hostels you think ‘they’re staff’. They’re not staff when you go to a Wallich hostel, they are support workers and they try as best they can to help you in anyway.

The staff are absolutely brilliant. They get to know you, they actually talk to you.”

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Building a community network

“There’s a lot of stigma when you’re living in a homeless hostel – it’s dangerous, nothing is safe, there’s drugs going on, alcohol, things like that.

I can honestly say we’ve become a community in this hostel. Everyone knows everyone, everyone wants to help everyone out.

Me and one of the other residents will cook food in bulk so that we can actually offer to the other residents.

Michelle takes pride in helping the other residents when she can

“One of the other residents here, she’s just absolutely beautiful, it actually puts a lump in my throat – she gave me a thank you card because she said, I appreciate everything you do, thank you so much.

I don’t do it for that. I just try and do anything I can to help people.

It’s silly things like that, that I mean we are like a community, and we appreciate what each other can help with.”

History with mental health

“From the age of 17, I’ve been dealing with depression, on and off.

It’s been seven years of nothing, no medication. I’ve used my own methods to bring me out of that dark hole.

I can honestly say, smile on my face, the cloud is gone. You know onwards and upwards, as they say.”

Looking forward

“I think it’s a pipe dream, but I want to have my own land and live like a gypsy. I have got gypsy heritage.

I wouldn’t have to worry about a cost of living crisis or anything because I’d have my own crops. I can have solar panels for my electric. That is my dream.

I had a painting and decorating company for three years. Through Covid, everything was fine, but then I slipped a disc in my back and unfortunately, I’m now call centre agent instead.

I’d like it to start again. Whether I can or not, we will see.

Get my own place. I don’t care where; I don’t care what. I just want to have my own little space.

I want to be able to get my driving license and go on holiday abroad, I haven’t done that since I was 15. I’d like to go anywhere warm, that I can just lay on the beach.”

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