I was 16 when I was homeless. Despite securing a permanent home, the belief that I was "damaged goods" remained and escalated to numerous failed relationships, cocaine, and alcohol.
This all changed when I was introduced to a book by Sydney Banks called “The Enlightened Gardener”. Within three hours I was sobbing and felt a wave of relief.
Something I read triggered deep inside and I saw for the first time that I wasn’t broken.
From then, my life has changed in ways I never dreamt possible and I started to share my story. When volunteering with “The London and Slough Run” on a bitterly cold night in Waterloo in London 2017, the cutting wind chilled me to the bones despite the layers of clothing I had worn… I watched the man walk away towards his home on the streets and as he turned around, he smiled and said: “keep spreading the good word”.
I saw at that moment that I could help others, by sharing what had transformed my life. The first 18 months were tough, I wanted to share this new transformational approach which I “knew” could empower individuals. But I had to show the outcomes from this approach which included the Modello housing project in Florida and the work of Beyond Recovery in Nottingham, where Jacqueline Hollows had been using this approach successfully in prisons. I struggled to find an organisation who wanted to work with me so I decided to start delivering programmes myself so that I could generate further evidence.
Introduction to Watford & Three Rivers Trust
Jacqueline Hollows introduced me to Lilliana Bellini, Susan Marmot and David Saunders who offered to support me. Our first programme took place at the Holywell, Watford in September 2018. This was also our "test" research carried out by Jeanne Catherine at 3PRC and the results were encouraging. A big "thank you" to Quaker Homeless Action who kindly paid for the hall hire which allowed us to carry out two programmes.
Around the same time, my path crossed with Bob Jones (CEO of W3RT) and our conversations began…For nearly a year Bob held my hand and guided me to a space where we could establish and deliver our services in partnership with W3RT.
In March 2020, Covid-19 descended upon us and our programmes had to move online which proved difficult for our participants. We patiently waited to see what would unfold.
Coventry University Research Centre & NHS
Since June 2020 we have been working with Coventry University Research Centre to measure our impact and outcomes.
In August 2020 we heard we were being funded by the NHS for a pilot programme in Watford working with people who have experienced poor mental wellbeing as a result of homelessness or Covid-19.
I’ve met some incredible people throughout this journey who I will always be grateful to for their ongoing support and picked me up when I felt defeated.
Rabi Martins (Councillor and Mental Health Champion for Watford Borough Council), Malcolm (London and Slough Charity and Slough Homeless Forum). Shin from Slough Outreach. Wenzels, Asda, Sainsbury's, Tescos, Watford Sikh Gurdwara and Watford Ahmadiyya Muslim Association who have all donated food for our programmes. Daniel Levy at The Grove Hotel for our first corporate donation and Waitrose and Asda for their financial contribution through COVID19.