When Cassie first approached homelessness services, she was assigned a Depaul UK support worker through an outreach programme. Her support worker “helped her to see the light in her life” and supported her to access benefits, get a gym membership, apply for jobs and find a council property to live in.

She has volunteered as a mentor at Depaul UK for the last 16 months. This has boosted her confidence, given her purpose and helped her decide to pursue support work as a career. She is now applying for jobs in support work.

“I was 19 when I got kicked out of my family home. I was living with my mum and dad. Two months prior to getting kicked out, I was admitted to the mental ward and diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. When I got discharged from the mental ward, my dad was like, “Go get a job, get a job”, and I was like, “How can you get a job when you’re poorly?” People just don’t get it if they’ve not been through that.

“I’d been a very happy, confident girl at school. English and Maths were my favourite. I got mental health issues around 17, and that’s when it all went downhill. I had anorexia. Then I had depression within that. It was very confusing, so I used weed to numb it. It didn’t help at all. I robbed from my own family to pay for it and that’s how I got kicked out. I don’t hold grudges on my family, it made me the person that I am today. I quit weed three years ago. I can manage my feelings a lot better now.

“After my parents found out about me robbing them, I had a day to get out. I was sofa surfing for a week and a half, until I thought, “I need my own space”. Citizens Advice said I should go to the library for help. They told me a hostel had a bed open for me. I was living in hostels for about 18 months.

“I was lost. I was just walking dead, really. I just wanted to numb everything with drugs. I was a girl on benefits, no job prospects. I just wanted love, but I didn’t love myself. I made a plan to overdose, but I thought, “It’s not fair on my mum”. I decided to live for her, for as long as I could.

“That was when I met Alan, a support worker from Depaul UK, as part of a community support programme. He was my support worker for two years. He made me see the light again in my life. He believed in me. I could open up to him. I used to call him my granddad. He never judged me, whatever I said. When you have depression, it’s hard to go to appointments, get out the house and stuff. He helped me with applications, or with my benefits, or he’d take me to the benefits office and go into the city with me.

“I still had my eating disorder. I thought, “Oh, if I get better, I’ll get fat”. But Alan got me a gym pass. I got positive role models that were eating and were fit. I thought, “Oh, they’re eating, so I can eat”. I started thinking not of calories, but about nutrition. Alan was there when I needed him. Now, I want to be someone’s Alan!

“I started volunteering at Depaul UK as a mentor. I could use my life experience to help other people. I never thought I’d see the day where I was well again, but I’ve got there. So it’s nice to give back and give people hope. I’ve got a counselling qualification, some coaching experience. I won an award. And giving back helped me, it boosted my confidence. I’ve been volunteering for 16 months, and I’ve started applying for paid jobs now, in support roles.

“Eventually, I was able to bid on a council flat and I’m still living there, three years later. It’s one bed, all to myself. I got a little dog when I moved in. It’s quite near my mum’s house. Things are better with my mum now. We speak every day. I think she just sees me because I’ve got the dog. She loves him like a grandson! My mum is my best friend, I love her. I’d like to eventually buy my council property, sell it on and then use the money I’ve made to get a mortgage. I just want a little garden for my dog!”

  • Please note that stand-in photography and pseudonyms may have been used to protect the identity of this client.
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