I can close the door and feel safe – Karen’s story

Karen describes the last two years of homelessness as a living hell, so it is uplifting to picture her in the sanctuary of her own home as a result of Second Step’s help.

Earlier this year Karen, not her real name, moved into her own place in Bristol in November 2016. She said: “Even now I have to pinch myself to believe it is mine. It is warm, I can close the door and I feel safe”.

Karen’s life started to unravel rapidly when she lost her job and then her flat; perhaps unsurprisingly her mental health declined swiftly too. When the engine of the camper van she had been forced to live in blew up, she realised she needed help.

Two years of living hell

Luckily she was allowed to park her van in the garage of her mechanic friend, but her living conditions were grim especially in winter, and plunged her into two years of deep-seated depression. Feeling a burden to her friends she gradually withdrew from them.

Karen did have some support through her darkest days, from fellow van owners that provided her with a sense of community and from her loving family and her one constant companion, her dog. However her family couldn’t offer her a home and it wasn’t until she met Lynne and Jason, support workers from Second Step’s South Gloucestershire support team that her life started to change.

Going out for coffee

Lynne got the ball rolling through taking Karen to doctors’ appointments and helping her to apply for social housing. Karen told us how the simple act of Lynne asking her to go for a coffee meant she became more confident about leaving the refuge of her van. Jason then continued to fight for Karen: advocating on her behalf with the council, organising appointments and providing her with “a calm presence” throughout the turmoil.

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