We want to end youth homelessness and we’re tackling the problem locally by providing a home and support to over 100 vulnerable young people in Norfolk and Suffolk every night. We give them a stable home and the skills they need so they can leave us and forge an independent life.
We provide support to help shape futures, so we are always pleased to hear about the progress of young people when they have moved on from our services. So when Dee* joined our staff as a Support Worker with our Norfolk team, we knew she would bring a unique perspective and understanding to the role. Here, Dee tells her story:
“In 2010, relationships at home broke down and the result was I had nowhere to go. I stayed with some kind friends and my boyfriend at the time, but this could only be temporary. I then ended up in a local B&B for around three weeks. My boyfriend and his Dad dropped me off there and as soon as they left I sat on the bed and cried. I felt so vulnerable and embarrassed to be so unwanted; I was in a very dark place. My mental health was plummeting and my relationship suffered because I was so unstable in myself.
I managed to get a mini-fridge which was big enough to hold a small milk and some butter, and I had a cardboard box in which I kept my food. Nothing felt real anymore. Living like this wasn’t something I had ever thought I would have to deal with in my life, let alone aged just 17.
I didn’t know what to do with my days as life was pretty empty. The owner of the B&B wanted me to be out of the building during the day and only be there to sleep and have breakfast. Thankfully, he allowed me to stay in the room as my anxiety was through the roof. I was so relieved as I would have had to walk the streets, aimlessly.
That’s when The Benjamin Foundation came along.
I moved into one of their accommodation centres and although I found it difficult at first, I soon settled in and made some friends with the other residents. They were people I would not have spoken to before, so it was eye-opening to get to know people who had different experiences to me. The Manager at the time was firm, yet hilarious and kind. We all went to a local museum together and I went on a Prince’s Trust photography course.
I was shown opportunities I didn’t know existed.
At the centre, we had our own chores to do and we had to respect the house rules. My first bedroom there was Room 1, which is now the staff sleep room. It was strange sleeping in there again on my first few shifts as a Sessional Support Worker! I then moved to the biggest bedroom upstairs which felt like the best thing ever at the time. The Manager found me a humungous TV (one of those ones which had a huge back and were ridiculously heavy) and I remember having to pay for my own TV license – the first bill I had ever had to pay.
I was a bit of a nightmare at times. I remember calling staff near to midnight to say I wasn’t coming back. They weren’t impressed as I did this a lot! Now that I am in their shoes, I can now see why that wasn’t so amusing! I now have the pleasure to work alongside those who used to support me, as well as other phenomenal Support Workers and Managers. This is so surreal but I truly love it. It was a real picture when they put the pieces together and realised who I was!
After a couple of months of living there, I found out I was pregnant with my eldest son. I was in the downstairs bathroom and couldn’t believe it when I saw the two lines on the test. I put it up my sleeve and tiptoed back to my room. The first person I told was one of the staff. I don’t know what made me tell him in that moment but the words just fell out. I felt able to confide in him the most, but I knew all the staff would support me no matter what I chose to do.
I now am a very proud Mum to three beautiful children, and I am a Support Worker with an insider knowledge and appreciation for what our young people are going through.
Of course, every young person’s situation is different, but when I look at them I know that I will do my best to support them in the best way I possibly can, just as I was supported. The Benjamin Foundation were there for me when I had no one else. I will always be grateful to them for the time I spent at the accommodation centre, as without them, I undoubtedly would never have made it this far in my life or grown to be the person I am.
The irony is, I only went on the Benjamin Foundation website a year ago to say thank you for all the support I was given, and now I am that support. I am immensely proud to be a Support Worker for The Benjamin Foundation.”
*Name and image has been changed