An Ipswich resident who spent months homeless before going on to become a voice for young homeless people in Westminster has shared his story as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Marvin Matherson moved to Sanctuary Supported Living’s (SSL) Anglesea Road service in Ipswich in October 2016.
The 20-year-old, who is receiving support for anxiety and depression, had been living at a YMCA hostel for 11 months, before moving to a B&B in the town.
When he moved to Anglesea Road, Marvin drew up a personalised support plan with staff to help address his high levels of anxiety and set his goals for the future.
After settling in well, SSL project worker David Perkins was so impressed by Marvin’s progress that he put him forward for youth homelessness charity St Basils’ Youth Voice programme.
The charity tasked Marvin with researching a speech on the issues affecting young homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and presenting it to the Youth Homeless Parliament.
The newly appointed Minister Heather Wheeler, Parliament under Secretary of State (Minister for Housing and Homelessness) had invited young people to attend Westminster on 27 March 2018.
Marvin said: “It was a terrifying, but extremely inspirational experience; I had a voice in front of very important people who could make a change.”
St Basils Youth Voice Project Manager Tamzin Reynolds-Rosser said: “The Youth Homeless Parliament were delighted to be invited and to meet the new Minister and saw this as a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Youth Voice and partnership with Government.”
Back at Anglesea Road, through regular support sessions, Marvin has been encouraged to engage with people and attend events, taking a Prince’s Trust course in 2017 and later registering for an IT course at Suffolk New College, as well as a Level One in Maths and English.
He added: “I was in a bad place, basically; I think it stemmed from when I was mugged on the way to the B&B. I didn’t want to go out much after that, and I think that’s when my anxiety really started. I literally couldn’t do anything – I couldn’t go out in public and I couldn’t be around people.”
One year on from his arrival at the service, Marvin is now bidding on social housing in the area, with a view to moving on from Anglesea Road and living independently.
He said: “It’s good; I feel I can talk to people much better. When I first came to Anglesea Road, I was afraid to come down and talk to staff – I had to prepare myself to meet anyone. Now I feel much more confident in myself and a lot more self-assured.
“Staff at Anglesea Road are amazing and don’t give up, even when you may want to. They help empower you to try to make the right choices in life and, even if the choices you make are not the right choices at the time, they are still there, which I now really appreciate.”
SSL project worker David Perkins added: “Marvin has made great strides while at Anglesea Road. He has recognised the aspects of his life that he needs to work on and really put the effort in.
“He was brilliant in the Houses of Parliament and with experiences like that and his positive attitude he has a really bright future.”
Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 14 to Sunday 20 May, is organised by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.
The Youth Homeless Parliament was established in May 2013 to enable young homeless people to have a voice and to share their experiences with politicians in Westminster. The work is funded by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and is Managed by St Basils Youth Voice Department and involves a wide range of agencies and young people across England, enabling dialogue directly between Ministers, civil servants and young people who have experienced homelessness, contributing to the development of good practice to support homeless young people across England.