A warm and safe Christmas at last

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 this Christmas as a result of Second Step’s help.

Earlier this year Karen, not her real name, moved into her own place in Bristol and will be there this Christmas. 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 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.

Helplines at Christmas

Samaritans – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – National 116 123 or 0845 90 90 90

Rethink – Mon – Fri 9am to 4pm (not bank holidays) 0300 5000 927

Mindline – local: Wed to Sun 8pm to midnight – 0808 808 0330, (Not Christmas Day or Boxing Day).

NationalMindline – Mon to Fri 9am to 6pm – 0808 123 3393 (not Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 27th Dec, 1st and 2nd Jan).

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