Kate's story. "I went to a really bad place."
Kate was a very creative child and enjoyed art and music. She went on to study Fine Art at university and then music in Brighton. While at university, Laura experienced mental health difficulties and she didn’t receive any support. She kept busy working in bars, playing music and going out.
“When you’re 19 or 20 you can get swept away in all the fun and excitement, nightclubs and bar work and everything. I wasn’t drinking heavily, but that’s where it started from.” When Kate’s mum passed away from cancer, it was extremely difficult. Her mum was her best friend. Kate struggled with the huge loss of her mum and had difficulties with alcohol. She didn’t get any help with bereavement or alcohol addiction.
“If you don’t get help, you escape from what’s going on inside you. That’s what I did, and I left to move to another city with a lot of sadness. My alcohol addiction escalated. I went to a really bad place.” Kate didn’t receive any help.
“Although I did live in a shared house in London for 4 years, I was mainly sofa surfing between cities for between six months to a year. It made me feel really anxious and quite depressed. There was a lot of worry about what the next day would bring. “I was very lucky as I had a lot of people that looked after me and offered me a space in their house and a roof over my head.
“But it always felt so temporary. I was living on someone’s sofa in their lounge, in their environment. I had no base and it was really hard, not a nice feeling at all. Although everyone I’ve ever stayed with has been lovely, you think ‘why am I on this sofa? Why am I not in my own bed?’ It's quite heart-breaking, I’d say. In the end I moved back to Birmingham and lived in a bedsit."
By then her alcohol dependence had increased so much that she went into withdrawal one time when she didn’t drink for a few hours and was rushed to hospital after having a seizure. She ended up going to rehab after a doctor recommended that she needed this type of support. In rehab, she finally received the counselling support she had needed for a long time, to help her with anxiety, depression and bereavement. She also was supported with medication to safely stop drinking.
When she was due to leave rehab after four weeks, she didn’t know what to do. “I was homeless after leaving rehab, because I actually didn’t have anywhere to go to.”
She thought her options were to sofa surf and go to the Job Centre, but the rehab centre advised her to go to a dry house for women. “I’ve never been on the street, but I’ve been homeless in that I don’t rent a home. I would be sofa surfing again if I wasn’t in the dry house.”
After a few weeks living in the dry house, she heard about Crisis. “It was the best thing that ever happened, because it’s lovely to have courses in the dry house. This brain still wants to learn something. It helped me to get on a different and healthier path.
“In the dry house I saw people’s lives change. Just from being warm and having an internet connection, people can really sort a lot of things out. Having support from staff. Being able to have a shower in the morning and go to the Job Centre, sort out Universal Credit. You can’t do any of that if you don’t have a home. I’m really into exercise. I’ve gone back to the old Kate that I used to be, the sporty one, the healthy one, and I’m so excited for the future. It’s incredible to feel healthy. It feels even more amazing that I thought it would ever feel."
“My coaches at Crisis have been incredible. They’ve understood everything about my background. They’re being hugely amazing with one-to-one support, and helping me to apply for a grant scheme so I can train to be an illustrator.”
“My illustration is my baby at the moment, and that’s the way forward for me – to be creative. If it catapults some sort of career, I’d be over the moon. If it’s just therapy, then I’m happy."
It has now been over two and a half years since she has had a drink and she is very proud of this.
Kate has now moved into her own place – a lovely one-bedroomed flat with the help of Bourneville Village Trust, Crisis and the dry house. Crisis helped pay for her costs of moving and arranged a moving-in pack of furniture from the City Mission (including a bed, mattress, cabinet and table) as well as white goods (washing machine, fridge freezer and cooker).
“My coaches at Crisis have been absolute angels. They’ve helped me to sort everything out. Having my own place means I can work and be creative. I have now been awarded a £2,500 self-employment grant by Crisis which is helping me to work on my illustration business - I would like to design gift cards and wall art. I’ve used the money to buy materials and do courses. In the future I would like to have a part time job whilst I am building up my business. Having a job and that support behind me is so important. Crisis have always had that belief in me that I could get back to work. It’s so important for your self-esteem and your self-belief."
My coaches at Crisis say to me, ‘We’re always here for you’.”
By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.