Claire became homeless during the pandemic, having spiralled into class A drug addiction. She lived in the woods before Launchpad helped her rebuild her life.
“I’d used drugs in the past but when I progressed to crack and heroine, it was like dominoes. Everything falls apart extremely quickly – far, far quicker than you would ever realise,” explains Claire. “I thought I could handle it, like everyone stupidly thinks they can. But my partner and I lost our jobs, and any money we did have went on drugs.”
30-year-old Claire and her partner weren’t keeping up with their rent payments and were evicted from their home in July 2020, just a few months into the outbreak of COVID-19. With nowhere to go and keen to start their recovery, they lived in a tent in the woods.
“We were on methadone scripts while we lived off grid in the woods. It was incredibly important we removed ourselves from the drugs community. The only way to do it is to cut all of those ties so there’s no temptation.”
They washed their clothes in the brook, and collected wood for fires so they could keep warm and heat their food for the day, which would be a tin of soup that they’d share. Once the weather started turning colder, Claire and her partner moved into the back of a broken-down van.
“I couldn’t afford tax on the van and I was always worried it would be taken away with me in the back of it. I was on a friend’s driveway for a time and then moved it to a car park. At this point, my boyfriend left me and I was on my own. It was scary. It was then that I got in touch with St Mungo’s.”
Finding a safe home and keeping it
Claire was put in an emergency B&B over Christmas, and she started working with St Mungo’s and Reading Borough Council to find a more long-term home. She managed to secure a studio flat via the Rent Guarantee Scheme and was referred to Launchpad in February 2021 to help settle her into the new home. A nationwide lockdown was in place, so while she wasn’t able to come to Launchpad’s drop-in service and receive support face-to-face, Claire was in touch with Wayne, a Launchpad floating support officer, over the telephone.
“Our aim in floating support is to prevent homelessness and it was important we supported Claire to rebuild her life – so she can maintain independence and sustain her tenancy,” explains Wayne, “Once I assessed Claire to ascertain which areas she needed help with, we agreed a personalised support plan to address her financial stability; poor mental and physical health; and her isolation and self-esteem.”
Wayne worked with Claire remotely over the next few months to help her access the benefits and discounted utilities she was entitled to, and Launchpad provided food parcels so she was eating well while she straightened out her finances. He helped Claire to source clothes, toiletries and items for her home, and access additional support from local voluntary organisations. Wayne also referred Claire to Launchpad 135, our work and life skills centre, to improve her confidence and reduce her sense of isolation.
Combatting isolation and building confidence
“During the pandemic I was incredibly lonely, and I had cut contact with everyone I knew so I’d go days and days without speaking to someone. This has a massive impact on your mental health, especially when you’re trying so hard to rebuild your life. I started doing art classes at Launchpad 135, and meeting new people and doing something creative really helped. Being at the centre made me realise that I’m not the person I used to be and that I’m now a functioning member of society,” explains Claire.
Claire says Launchpad has empowered her to make positive changes in her life: “I’ve been given the guidance and the tools to help myself and if you feel like you can help yourself, it gives you self-esteem and that feeling that you can move forward. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for a long time, but Wayne gave me the confidence to access support from mental health services and start medication to make sure my condition doesn’t negatively impact my life anymore. The old proverb is true – give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
A safety net in Launchpad
“To know Launchpad is there to support me is fantastic – it’s like a safety net and you don’t feel alone. Wayne is understanding and non-judgemental, and I was able to open up to him about aspects of my life I’m ashamed of. It has meant everything. I hope that by telling my story I can help somebody in a similar situation, because there have been people – including Wayne – who have helped me and I can never repay them.”
Claire has been drug free for 18 months and off methadone for just over a year – and is settled in her new home and feeling positive about her future.