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Essex residents share supported housing stories

27 August 2019

A trio of Essex residents have shared their experiences of supported housing to mark Starts At Home Day 2019.

Sanctuary residents share Starts at Home storiesFormer Sanctuary Supported Living resident Kaylah with her daughter

The three residents – who have all been living at services owned and run by Sanctuary Supported Living – have come forward in support of the National Housing Federation-led campaign, which champions the value of supported housing.

Chelmsford-based Anne-Marie McDonald, who lives at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Savernake Road, credits supported housing with bringing happiness to her life.

Anne-Marie came to the service, which supports adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, in May 2018, after a long-term stay at a local night shelter.

The now 38-year-old had spent most of her life suffering from anxiety and depression. Following the death of her mother when Anne-Marie was a teenager, she spent several years sofa surfing and living in unsuitable shared houses, before finding herself homeless.

Anne-Marie said: “I was very aware that moving to Savernake Road would be my last chance, so I was determined to make something of it.

“It’s made a huge difference to my life, mental health and general wellbeing. To me, supported housing means having people around if I need them, which gives me a feeling of safety and security.”

Homelessness also led Jason Cannon to Sanctuary Supported Living. The now 29-year-old had spent time in prison and at a night shelter, before fleeing a difficult situation at another Essex location.

When he arrived in February 2018, Jason was struggling with his mental health and needed support for a range of different issues. Staff worked with him on maintaining a tenancy, and earlier this year he moved on to another Sanctuary Supported Living service for people with lower support needs.

Jason said: “I spent around 10 years on the streets – once you’re in that situation, it’s so difficult to get out of it.

“I’ve got no doubt that without the support I had from Sanctuary Supported Living I would have been homeless again when I left the night shelter. Having a base, somewhere I can call my own, has made a huge difference to my life.”

Young people can also access Sanctuary Supported Living’s services. Kaylah Neil came to Southend Young Parents’ Support Service early last year, after having a little girl at the age of 17.

The teenager had previously been living at home with her mum, but overcrowding led her to look for a place of her own. Kaylah thrived at the service and, in spring 2019, moved out with her daughter to live independently.

Kaylah commented: “The support on offer is great. As a teenager, I had no idea how to set up things like utility bills, so for me, the advice around practicalities was especially valuable.

Living in supported housing really helped to build my confidence as a person, and as a mum.

Kaylah Neil - Former Resident

Jane Knights, Sanctuary Supported Living’s area service manager for Essex, said: “Anne-Marie, Jason and Kaylah are just three examples of Essex residents we’ve been able to help through our supported housing services.

“I’m thrilled we’ve been able to make such a positive difference in their lives. Starts At Home Day has given us a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the value that supported housing has.”

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