Dee talks about her experience of homelessness and overcoming the challenges she faced as a result of her low confidence.
“I became homeless in September 2014. After living in the Rhondda for over eleven years, away from my family, friends and city-life, it felt daunting having to come back to Cardiff and declare myself homeless. I felt distraught. I had no confidence, extremely bad nerves and felt suspicious and paranoid about everyone around me.
Unfortunately there is a system when you declare yourself homeless and you don’t get a room in a hostel overnight. I spent six nights at a busy nighshelter before being moved to an emergency bed at the Sir Julian Hodge Centre in Cardiff, a Wallich hostel. My near future was still uncertain and my options were explained to me – I would stay in the emergency bedroom for the night or until a more permanent place became available at any of the charity-run hostels in Cardiff.
I was worried. At that time, I wasn’t good at talking to strangers as I was very distrusting. Some of the hostels were quite big and I wasn’t sure I would be able to settle in with there being so many new people around. Some of the hostels housed people with different addictions and afflictions, which I didn’t understand back then. Worst of all, I had previously worked at one of the hostels as a Cleaning Co-Ordinator. I felt ashamed.
Staying in the emergency bedroom at The Wallich allowed me to make myself free cups of tea/coffee in the staff office. One of the members of staff gave me a kettle to take up to my room, to save me going down three flights of stairs every time I want a cuppa. That one act of kindness really brightened up my day. I started looking at things more positively.
I plucked up the courage to talk to some of the other residents, people of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone had a different story about why they ended up homeless. I realised you cannot judge others for what they choose to do with their own lives or how they live them – everybody is different. I also realised things could be a lot worse. After nearly two weeks in the emergency bedroom I was given my own room at the Wallich hostel.
Things were looking up and I was starting to see things differently. Staff at The Wallich encouraged me to sign up to the residents volunteering scheme and I started volunteering that same week. I felt like it gave me a purpose, it felt good getting up early and doing something positive. I wanted to give something back – a thank you, if you like. I volunteered four days a week and I even treated it like a real job as I enjoyed it so much.
The maintenance manager and the staff at The Wallich really encouraged me in the work I was doing. Bit by bit, I felt my confidence was getting back to normal. Some days, to be honest, did feel like really hard work – some residents were very messy! With support and compliments from staff – and even residents – it made it all worthwhile. After five-and-a-half months of staying at the hostel, I found my own privately rented accommodation through a bond board scheme.
I’ve now been in my flat for over a year and I’ve continued to receive support and encouragement from The Wallich, achieving things I never thought I could when I first became homeless. I reached five hundred hours of volunteering at the nightshelter, where I was being trained as office administrator back last summer. I’ve now been on a few courses at college (Cardiff University) and I’ve just completed an English course at the highest level. I am about to start an I.C.T course and I’m enjoying volunteering as a cleaner in the Wallich Centre, three days a week. I’m about to become a Wallich Voice, talking about my experience of homelessness so that I can help others, which is something I wouldn’t have felt able to do just 18 months ago. All of these opportunities have helped me to take part in the the WISE Project with The Wallich, a six-month employability scheme, and I’m aiming to gain full-time employment at the end of it.
Step by step, I’ve been able to turn my life around. Thanks to the Wallich, I’m living local in a flat that I love and I’m doing something positive in my steps back to work.”