Paula has been supported by Sam Jones a specialist engagement worker from MASH as part of the Housing First scheme, so that she can be in charge of her own recovery journey.
Housing First is all about securing someone a home first and then addressing other support needs around that stable base.
My name is Paula and I’m 50 years old.
Before I met Sam I used to sit in my room all the time. I didn’t communicate with people. I was living in temporary accommodation and using heroin and crack cocaine. I’d been living on the streets and I now know that I had mental health issues including bipolar disorder and PTSD.
When I met Sam, she really brought me out of myself. She took me out for lunch and to different places so I wasn’t sat in my room mulling stuff over. I got to know her for a couple of months.
I didn’t have any confidence to use public transport so this made a lot of difference. She’s so supportive. Because of my drug use I’d lost touch with my family.
I had been put on a methadone script and Sam helped me get back in touch with my family. This is one of the most important things ever.
This led to one of my sons coming to visit me. When my son saw me with my weight back on looking like his Mum again, he was overwhelmed. He looked so happy when he seen me and proud of how well I looked.
A few weeks later he was killed on 26th May.
This was when Sam and I started to really bond. On 17th August, I then lost my partner.
“Losing two people I loved, I know it could have gone another way but I just can’t believe where I am now. The things I’ve done. I’m really proud of myself. I really am.”
I know part of this is through me but part of it is through Sam. My family think she’s amazing as well because of how far I’ve come.
For instance; she got me a tablet and helped me learn how to use the internet. I email all sorts now. Like, if I’ve got a housing problem instead of picking up the phone to Sam I’ll send an email. I even do online shopping and stuff like that, that I couldn’t do before.
She’s helped to get all my proper support for my mental health. Now I’m under a psychiatrist and I’ve got a CPN [community psychiatric nurse].
I don’t know what I would have done otherwise as I felt abandoned by the mental health services. With everything that had happened to me, you’d think they’d be in touch a bit more often.
I’ve got BPD, anxiety and panic, PTSD and also OCD. I’m on strong medication. I’ve lost two people I love in my life. It could have been a very different story or I could have relapsed. I would hate that to happen to someone else.
As part of the Housing First programme, Paula was offered a flat
When I looked at the back and the front of the building I got this warm feeling. When we did get to view it I walked inside and thought oh my God. It just felt right.
I’ve always sofa surfed or lived on the street. So, it was all quite overwhelming. But I love that more than anything. I love putting that key in that door and it’s mine. I can do what I want, when I want, come and go.
When I got the key to the door it was amazing. Absolutely. Because I’ve not had my own property for over eight years.”
“I feel like my partner and my son wanted this, it was like it was right. It helps as well because I’ve moved away from all the badness in my life.
“I just can’t believe I am where I am now. The things what I’ve done.”
Sam has helped me with money like getting PIP [Personal Independence Payment] back pay. I’ve bought a brand new sofa, I’ve had carpets fitted.
It felt amazing to go out, buy furniture and pay for it. I can’t even explain it. I was so proud. Walking out with the receipt. I was so excited. I absolutely love it.
Now, I’m careful with my money. I make sure all my bills are paid. Now if I want something or I want to buy Christmas presents for my family, I can. I’ve got that little bit left still in my bank account. Before I wouldn’t have any at all. It would all just go on drugs.
“I light candles every night. That’s my thing. That makes me happy.”
I’d say to Sam, thank you for all the support and everything that she’s helped me with. Before, with the flat, bringing me out of myself. Always being there for me. When I lost my son, my partner. She really was a big support. She still is.
“Instead of being high on drugs…now I’m high on life. It’s true. It’s better than being high on drugs. 100%. And it doesn’t cost nothing.”
On my windowsill I’ve got a picture of me and my partner in a slate heart. On the other side I’ve got my son in a picture and his ashes in a necklace.
I light candles every night. That’s my thing. That makes me happy.