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Time to Change (West Cumbria) Project.
A few months ago I was asked the question "Why don’t they just get off their backsides and get a job?" I said "Would you give him a job?" to which he replied "Would I ek!!!". This got me thinking about looking at the situation we have in West Cumbria, the unemployment, the homeless and the crime and anti-social behaviour levels.
I came up with an idea of a project that would not only provide cheap accommodation, but would focus on employment and work skills. I began to think about all the cuts that had been made and how we have fewer services provided by the council. I thought "Why don’t the people in the project gain the social and work skills they need by providing services to the community?". This project is not about hand-outs, it will not rely on large amount of "tax payers" money. Many of us live on low incomes in this area and I hear many people feel it is unfair that they "work hard for a living" when others do not. In this project residents will be financially better off working two hours a week than not at all.
Our residents and volunteers will read the electric and gas meters weekly. If these increase, the food budget goes down and vice versa. These are real life budgeting skills and times are hard. Time to Change is about looking at our society locally and changing it for the better. I would rather see unemployed gaining work skills and experience by working voluntary on community projects than not at all. Quite honestly, they would too. Wouldn’t you?
I want to point out that only a minority of referrals will be from prison. The majority will be from the homeless departments at Copeland and Allerdale. Here is a quote and something to think about in relation to people who leave prison.
"When someone leaves prison, we send them back onto the streets with £46 quid in their pockets. Back to the same streets. Back to the same groups of people. Back to the same chaotic life styles. Back to the same habits as before. So why are we surprised when so many commit crime all over again? It costs the economy at least £9.5 billion a year. It blights communities and ruins lives. It’s a national scandal."
Rr Hon Chris Grayling, Secretary of State of Justice
"I would like to say the following about the referrals.
Referrals for the Project will mainly be directed from Copeland and Allerdale's Homelessness Department. These will be people who are not entitled to temporary accommodation as they are not deemed "priority need" for whatever reason. Any referral will be police checked and tested for alcohol and substances on arrival and no-one under the influence will be permitted to enter.
Referrals from prison will only be accepted if the resident is deemed to be low risk and has a local connection with a recommendation that our project would be suitable for them. Prisons house prisoners. We provide accommodation for people.
Our Project is short term support to help people who fall on hard times to get back on their feet. Anyone who is in need of long term support will be referred on to the appropriate agency.
Referrals made from the village of Distington would be our priority.
I would ask anyone who has any concerns to contact me as I am happy to meet up to discuss and worries anyone may have.
Please email me or call me and I will make contact."
I am 33 now. Married with two children. I have been in employment for over 10 years now and own my home. I wasn’t always so lucky. I have had over 20 addresses in my time, leaving home at the age of 15 I have struggled with addiction and mental illness. I was fortunate enough to meet people in my life who helped me and enabled me to achieve the better things in my life. Without these people I am certain I would not be here today to tell my story. Please read a few statements of people who knew me around the age of 17- 19 when I was homeless and when I feel I was at my worst.
“As Rachel's best friend at school it was very hard for me to watch her going downhill so quickly. She ended up moving out of her home and sinking downhill into alcoholism. She went from drinking just at the weekends to getting up in the morning and starting the day with a drink. She started turning up at work drunk and would wake me up banging on my door in the early hours of the morning begging me for money. She drank so much that she started getting problems with her liver and would get horrendous withdrawals trying to stop drinking. We both applied to go to university together which I was very excited about but she was in such a mess she didn't' seem to even know what day it was. I made the tough decision to go to a different university alone and she later told me she couldn't even remember anything about university at that time in her life. I watched Rachel sink into such devastating depressions that I feared for her life. It was horrible just watching her sink lower and lower and not be able to do anything about it. Her friends changed, she just wanted to hang around with people who were also getting wasted all the time. I just felt so helpless….
I think the turning point for her was when she got pregnant. It was such a difficult time for her but she eventually turned her life around for the sake of her son.
Now I'm so happy that she's back to being the Rachel that I knew and loved from when I first met her. She always cared so much about people, always generous putting other people first. I'm so proud of her setting up this hostel and I couldn't think of anyone who is more perfect for this job than Rachel. She's got such passion and knowledge about what it's like to lose everything and be able to get yourself out of that situation and make something of yourself. I'm so glad she's able to use her own experiences for good. She's a totally different person now, confident, helpful, sensible, caring and the best friend you could ever hope for!" Katherine – School Friend.
“Rachel at the time was aimless and searching for something, often in the wrong places, people and forms. She had a desire to help people but ultimately ended up being the person needing the most help of all. Since the birth of her children; the building of a wide supportive network; a loving marriage; and volunteering and being employed in various health and social action projects; Rachel has achieved what in the past could not have been thought possible…..” Carl – friend and co-worker
13/06/99 – rented box room in house in Manchester by Rachel Holliday
“...back in this room again...not like a home in anyway....more another pit stop. Outside is miserable and dull. The foul stench of the streets blow in through the broken window. The stale smell of this small room can be detected from the outside.....once a dream to be here has turned into a nightmare I hope to escape......”
15/06/1999 – Smithfield Unit Manchester (by Rachel Holliday)
“...although surrounded by others I feel so alone. So anxious and scared of what will happen. I don’t feel like I belong here......I see the faces of fellow “clients” tormented and lost in their own thoughts. Do these people really feel like I do?..........
18/06/1999 “....I feel tearful and antisocial. Worse than I did yesterday. I’m so scared now I don’t feel like I want to be anywhere, no where’s safe”
22/11/1999 Room in a shared flat, South Manchester.
“I feel so empty and alone, I feel no amount of people in this flat would make it feel full. This room echo’s the silence or the blare of my radio. I can’t live alone, isolated.......”
I’m not from Whitehaven but when my boyfriend who I met on a night out in Blackpool asked me to move there I jumped at the chance. I settled in well in Whitehaven and got a job straight away as a barmaid. We had our own place and I was really happy. I really enjoyed working behind the bar and met lots of friends there. It was like a night out for me because after work I would drink and have fun like everyone else. I got extra hours and soon worked 5 nights a week. Now I was drinking every night not just after work but during. I put it down to loneliness cause my boyfriend worked away a lot so when I became pregnant months later I was the happiest person alive. I stopped drinking straight away and loved pregnancy. When I held my beautiful baby daughter in my arms I cried tears of happiness. She was so perfect. Motherhood was hard sometimes but I loved it so it wasn’t long till our wonderful son came along. My boyfriend proposed as it wasn’t long until not only was I a mother, now also a wife.
4 years on I started drinking again with my husband and friends cause the kids would be staying out at Grandma's and that was when I started taking amphetamines. The feeling was great and a lot of people were doing it. At first it was just at the weekend cause the kids were stopping out and then came the cocaine. I would take that with my husband but didn’t tell him about the amphetamines. I loved being a mother and adored my children but it wasn’t long until I was taking speed every day (if I could get it). And also I drank alcohol with it.
I would lie to my husband and kids and hide drink all around the house. I hated what Id become and even tried to get help but I just couldn’t stay off it for long. After years of battling this my husband had had enough. He told me to go for good. He'd gave me enough chances. I was an absolute disgrace and couldn’t believe what I had done to my children, what I was putting them through.
This was the start of the worst year of my life because I lost everything. I had no money, job but most of all my kids, who I loved and adored. I thought I was going to die and sometimes wished I had cause life without my family unit was the worst pain I had ever gone through. Now I wont even try to guess the number of places and different houses I stayed in over the next few months but it was more than 10. I went from friend to friend and so on but I was never wanted. Who would blame them as they had their own lives to live. The council couldn’t house me cause I had to be put on a list. They did put me up in different hotels or B&B but I was never wanted there cause they knew my situation and one of them even told me not to come out of my room if any guests were there. I have never in my whole life felt so humiliated and I would just cry myself to sleep. What had I done and what had I become. My life was a living hell. It was about then when I got a number for a charity and I was given a support worker. She was the only one I could talk to properly and tell her what my hell of a life was like. For the first time in months she listened and didnt judge me as she had been in the same situation years before because of drink and drugs.
That was when her words sank in when she said “If I can do it you can”. She looked so happy and seemed to believe in me. I cannot thank her enough for what she did. She took me everywhere to get help. She spoke to my husband who agreed to let me see the kids. It was only for 15 minutes at their home. I will never in all my life forget the pain in their eyes when I seen them. I got to see them every week for no more than an hour and still when I wasn’t with them I was drinking and taking drugs. I was totally addicted. I couldn’t go like this. So when my support worker suggested I went back to Scotland to be with my family, I agreed. I needed help, I was an alcoholic and an addict and life couldn’t get any worse.
Looking back now I should have left Whitehaven when my husband through me out, but I didn’t want to be that far away from them and thought I would never see them again. I know know I'd been doing more harm than good.
My family back home were so supportive and got me into rehab straight away. Apart from hurting my kids, it was the hardest thing Id ever done, but also the best. For the first time in my life I opened up about my addiction and spoke the truth. No more lies. I couldn’t believe these people still listened and didn’t judge me. I stayed home for another 18 months before I came back to Whitehaven because I needed to be clean and sober.
I hope I can help somebody out there who might be going through similar to what I went through. There is help out there for addicts. Just dont be afraid to ask for it, youre not alone. There are people out there that can help you. My councillor once said something to me while I was in rehab and I never thought I would say it and mean it.
I’ve come out of the battlefield and into the meadow.
If you have taken the time to read my story, then thank you. If you feel you have a problem then please don’t leave it too late. Ask for help.
Now I’m not going to tell you that it is easy and life’s perfect again cause its not. What I am going to say is that today I am three years clean and sober. I’ve got the kids back in my life (even though they don’t live with me). They are gaining my trust back, they are very happy children and we talk about everything. I hope they can and will forgive me someday as addiction is an illness.
I have now met the most amazing man who has been my rock. We have been together 3 years. He recently proposed to me and we are getting married! I have so much to thank him for. I am back in work and we have a lovely home together.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. I am proud to volunteer for Time to Change Project.