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Maura’s Blog 6- Sparkling Moments

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I never thought that the blogs would be so far reaching and people are stopping me to say that they connected with some issue I wrote about, people are amazing aren’t they? I have been told this week the blogs have been inspiring. So my final thought is this; your actions, words, deeds and behaviour are like stones in a pond causing ripples. You have no idea how far they will go or who they will reach, nor can you control them once they have begun. So whatever you are doing today make it count. Do something amazing, be amazing, be yourself.
Well I am nearing the end of my blog residency for January at Chai Times and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for all your encouragement and positive feedback. This week I have been in the big smoke to attend a meeting with a national homeless charity and other partner agencies to look at current issues for people who are homeless. For some months now people in the sector like me have been waiting for government direction on proposals to abolish Housing Benefit for anyone aged U21. More recently the announcement that Housing Benefit is also now to be restricted for U35s to a weekly amount of £50 meaning all social housing becomes out of bounds as the average rents for most single flats is around £70 a week.
The aim is to make sure that people are working, in employment and paying their own rent or if still relatively young remain at home. There is a push to develop shared housing which will become the only affordable model if this goes through. Shared housing works for some and I have done it in the past but it is not easy if the people involved have high support requirements. The problem with these principles is that life just isn’t like that, is it? The young people that we work with at Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme are not living on our scheme for fun. They are homeless because of a variety of reasons including:-
• Parents have severe substance abuse issues, deceased, in custody or have mental health issues
• Parents are or have been abusive
• Parents ask the young person to leave because they have no income
• They are leaving the care system
• They have done something to displease the parent or guardian e.g. theft, left college, disclosed they are gay, taken drugs, disclosed they no longer want to follow the family’s religious background – it is not our business to judge whether this is acceptable or not.
• There is a row or an incident that results in relationship breakdown
There are many more and the bottom line is whether it’s permanent or temporary; the young person is homeless. Now you may or may not know I was a goody two shoes at school, Head Girl and proud of it. But, the summer I left school I met a man. A man I fell in love with and someone I always loved until he died 10 years later. But he was 12 years older than me and I knew best and started being a prat; staying out drinking, staying at his flat and generally thinking he was the centre of the universe. He didn’t encourage this; it was me. But obviously this upset my mum and quite rightly she reached a stage where she was fed up of it. There was a confrontation and rather than listen or back down I flounced off into the sunset and said I’d sort myself out. I wasn’t being told what to do.
The point is I was 16. That’s what 16 year olds do; they rebel, they are arses. It’s their job. It’s all part of growing up. Hopefully as a parent you hope that whatever they are doing passes without incident and you all stay friends until puberty or growing up is over! I don’t think I was a total arse but enough to cause my mum a load of heartache but it passed and I adore her. When my daughter started her “arsiness” period at 16/17 I was complaining to my mum and she said “Don’t worry love it will get better when she’s about 28.” Yea right thanks Mum.
So underneath this drama I had a good grounding, brought up knowing right from wrong and with a foundation of decent values. So eventually I got a grip and things moved on. And many of the young people we support are like this, they are in education, doing well, are fairly independent and something has happened that just turns their world upside down. This can include being a victim of a crime and their emotional needs just escalate and can’t be managed at home. This has included parents who have met a new partner and the partner no longer wants a teenager living there so they are forced to leave or even worse a row occurs and the young person is assaulted or in some instances the young person assaults the new partner. The various scenarios are endless.
I met a young woman this week, Alex, a current resident who seems fairly similar to me. Good head on her shoulders but is in fact homeless and living in temporary accommodation – rather than me tell you her story here it is in her own words. I have not edited this in any way.
Alex’s mini blog.

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“Everyone’s situation as to why they end up homeless is completely and utterly unique. Maybe their parents are drug users or alcoholic, maybe their parents are divorced, sometimes it’s just that disputes are unfixable and maybe they just don’t know where to turn to next.
Here is my story. I had recently moved back to my hometown, Bolton, in 2013 after problems which had arisen in North Wales whilst living with my Step-Mum. When I moved back I went to live with my Dad, someone I hadn’t lived with for over 5 years, the situation was new to both of us and that’s what caused the problems.
I like to say I am extremely independent and very opinionated which is exactly what my Dad is like to so the initial clashes began there, our personalities were too similar. The big difference was out behaviour and our choice of life style. I was extremely clean and tidy, he was not, I was a Christian and he was not, he liked to go to the pub at least four times a week and I didn’t like it and eventually, our relationship began to fall apart. After months of trying hard to get on with him and also trying to manage my college work, I gave up after exhaustion. After all, he is a man… that was a problem in itself.
Alongside trying to battle with the situation with my Dad and trying to present him with ways of being “a good Dad” I was talking to teachers and a counsellor in college. They were very supportive, offering me support as and when I needed it, providing me with free school meals so I would not go without food and all in all, they were supporting me with my studies, encouraging me and telling me I can achieve anything I put my mind to. This proved a success when in August 2014, after my first year of A-Levels, I came out with a good foundation of grades at A, B, B and C (I’m reluctant to mention the U I got in Chemistry, but I had lost hope in achieving any better. After all, who needs to know about the structure of molecules and what the electronegativity of a molecule is?)
After receiving the support from Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme, my life has been changed. I now have a support worker who is there to support me whenever I need the help, which is so encouraging. I have also developed more friendships with people who are/ have been in similar situations to myself. As cheesy as it sounds; if Bolton Young Persons Housing Scheme hadn’t have helped me then I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now, I genuinely think that I would have unperformed on my exams and my relationship with my Dad would have deteriorated to the point of being irretrievable. I am so glad that I had the support and help that they gave me, I am now well on my way to achieving good A-Level grades and pursuing my dream career at university.
Thank you!”
Thank you Alex….. a remarkable young woman.

The proposed changes to Housing Benefit would put BYPHS at risk. If BYPHS disappeared right now the impact would be incredible. The financial and human cost would be immense. We currently have 103 young people in residence. 12 of whom are currently and frequently self harming. 32 have been victims of domestic or familial abuse. 22 have parents whose own issues present risk to their children even though they are young adults, 45 have a diagnosed mental illness ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. We have 8 young people actively coerced by older males in sexual exploitation and being supported by professionals in keeping safe. They are all at high risk or harm. Imagine how being homeless would add to that risk.
Aside from the young people 40 staff could lose their main source of income with jobs at risk. Bolton could lose a resource that keeps young people safe and brings a significant amount of income into the borough that supports the local economy. BYPHS commissions local services in furnishings, decorators, carpet suppliers, food, training, contractors, office supplies and much more. BYPHS are likely to be exempt ( I hope) and we will carry on but every announcement like this causes fear, anxiety and wastes resources we need in the sector.
In the last 4 years as CEO I have met some incredible ex residents some of whom are my friends now in Facebook and doing brilliantly. They are all grown up, some working, some married, some with children. In particular we had Laura who spoke at our AGM in October 2015 about her experiences of domestic abuse and how that led to her becoming homeless. She is now a solicitor in a local firm.
There are 12 ex BYPHS residents on my personal friends list on Facebook. They are all inspirational and changing the world in their own ways. They are all wonderful people. And being homeless at some stage in their life didn’t and doesn’t define them it was just an obstacle like many others they have overcome. 3 of them work at BYPHS as support workers. I met another young person this week on a trip to theatre and she is also a keen writer and I asked if she fancied putting something together for this blog. She did.
“20 years old was living on the street
Freezing cold and scared with nothing to eat
No place to go no place to call home
Sick of always being all alone

What’s the point of even trying no more
When no one cares they just shut the door
What I’d do for a nice hot bath
And not having people point and laugh
Feeling depressed and lonely every day
Praying someone will help me today
Feeling useless and unloved
This is was my life and I’d had enough
Then one day I read a poster about young persons housing scheme

Nervous and excited the feeling was extreme
They found me a place id be out of the cold
Could have been warm sooner if I had been told

Bolton young persons saved my life
Now I look forward and to this I can strife
staff I can talk to when I need to
this I never thought I could do
They helped me build my confidence, I’ve got back my life
don’t have to be on the street scared someone will have a knife
If you’re reading this and have nowhere to go
you might think I’m waffling but there’s one thing I know
if you only make one decision today
get in touch with Bolton young persons they will help you in every way. “ JH 2016
Another remarkable young lady and very talented.
But what about those young people without some education, those who have no confidence, the ones that can’t read, the ones already in debt, the ones who have been abused, exploited and bullied, the ones with an addiction to alcohol, cannabis, gambling and prescription medication. In 4 years I have only met 2 young people I knew we couldn’t succeed with no matter what we did and that’s because they had no expectations at all, they actually did not care or worry about what might happen to them. No amount of consequences or risk registered with them at all. My biggest fear is that a young person like that will one day be found dead; they take such risks. The 2 that worried me the most are alive and I consider that a successful outcome.
Successful outcomes are something we are not short of at BYPHS and it’s thanks to the staff teams. They are tenacious, persistent and above all absolutely dedicated. The next few weeks we have some young people are about to move on into their own independent accommodation. One of them was talked down from a motorway bridge a couple of years ago, our work is sod all about housing really. What price can you put on that? Providing the accommodation is only the tip of the iceberg. What we do is value people, try to find out their strengths because they all have them and steer them in a direction that makes best use of those strengths.
So in order to help the young people this month you can do one or more of four things:-
1. Help the HUG IN A MUG CAMPAIGN by donating a mug with a small pack of tea bags or coffee, small bag of sugar, long life milk and a biscuit or chocolate bar. We will distribute these to all our residents as they move into the accommodation. It is a British constitution, nay an entitlement to a brew and a biscuit! The young people have made it this far and we want to make it as pleasant an experience as we can. To get started with ONE brew would need around £5+ depending on the brands you buy. This is literally not affordable for you young residents.
2. Support the SNUG AS A BUG campaign by donating any new or used but unmarked age appropriate single bedding. A clean warm bed should also be something that’s made readily available, how great is it when you jump into your own clean freshly made bed? We don’t want 16 and 17 year olds to think that sleeping bags, tents and emergency bag packs are a solution or an option. We need them to be safe and snug as bugs and accessing safe accommodation.
3. You could make a cash donation to the donate one hours salary campaign by texting BYPH16 £5 to 70070. The campaign ends on the 5th February. This money goes to our crisis fund direct to young people in need.
4. If you can’t do any of those things then just tell someone about us; share my blog. Raise awareness.

I am going to finish the month off with two sparkling moments that have happened as a direct result of my blogs. Firstly a friend of mine paid me the ultimate compliment by telling me that following mini strokes she was saddened by her inability to read like she used to. An avid reader she could no longer concentrate or remember everything so reading became distressing. But reading my third blog she realised that not only had she read it all but had enjoyed it and could have continued making her realise that it wasn’t that she had to give it up completely but need to adjust her reading material. My blogs had brought her this. I found this incredibly moving. I feel extremely privileged. She told me “I am overcome because you have given me so much hope…….”
Secondly my daughter, Leah, also had some kind of epiphany reading the blogs and I think that this is going to lead to a better relationship between the two of us. I don’t what it was but something resonated with her making her see me not as the nagging moaning get but as a person, like her, who has struggled and just done the best I can which is all any of us can do.
I never thought that the blogs would be so far reaching and people are stopping me to say that they connected with some issue I wrote about, people are amazing aren’t they? I have been told this week the blogs have been inspiring. So my final thought is this; your actions, words, deeds and behaviour are like stones in a pond causing ripples. You have no idea how far they will go or who they will reach, nor can you control them once they have begun. So whatever you are doing today make it count. Do something amazing, be amazing, be yourself.

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Love Maura x

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