Women’s stories

Names have been changed.

Melanie

Melanie is a black woman in her forties. After a neglected childhood she was homeless in her teens. She spent the next 20 years in a cycle of homelessness, psychiatric hospital and prison, exacerbated by drug use and all that goes with it.

Wish has been supporting Melanie for 2 years, during which time she has been in hospital once and prison twice. Due to the length of time Melanie has been homeless it was very difficult for her to make the mental adjustment to being housed and having regular money from benefits. It was also difficult for professionals working with her to understand the impact this has had on her and see that what appeared to be little progress was in fact major change for her.

Melanie now lives in a hostel and sleeps there 5 nights a week – a major change. Melanie has not used drugs for 9 months, has money in her pocket and is up to date with hostel charges. She has signed up for a beauty course, has undertaken voluntary work at Wish and
attends all appointments with agencies.

Wish has looked for creative ways to encourage her hopes and ambitions. For example, when told by probation she would not be able to sell cosmetics because of her 70 previous convictions, Wish procured funding for a small starter pack of cosmetics and arranged an in-house evening event for her to demonstrate products. This has led to sales and raised her self confidence and showed her she can succeed.

Melanie has benefited from the consistency of support as Wish was able to see her every week whether she was in hospital, prison or the community. Wish has also accompanied her to court. This has been a major factor in her recovery as it is perhaps the first consistent relationship she has had. She said:

I was expecting you to give up on me when I went back into prison again. Thank you for helping me to believe in myself and treating me like a human.

Jules

Whilst in prison, Jules suffered greatly from losing contact with her children, and also experienced a relationship breakdown with her mother. She had been affected by emotional abuse as a child, and had been in an abusive relationship as an adult, being sent to prison for threatening behaviour after she was goaded by her husband. Wish helped her to go through the courts to gain contact with her children, which her husband had been trying to prevent, and also helped her work through her relationship with her mother via counselling.

Through our ongoing support, Jules came to recognise that her relationship with her husband was coercive and abusive. Jules undertook two Alternative to Violence courses, with Wish helping her to see that there was a life outside of her abusive relationship.

Because of her husband’s manoeuvres to try and prevent Jules from seeing her children, she thought she would never have contact with them again. But, following our Community Link Programme, Jules now has good regular contact with them, including them staying with her and them all going on holidays together. This has been just a small part of the massive self-development that Jules has gone through, with her also having found voluntary work and then secured a regular job with an NHS Foundation Trust.

Rose

After experiencing signification abuse as a child and in her marriage, Rose was later diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Mental & Behaviour Disorder and Depressive Psychosis. When she was sent to prison for assault, Rose met one of our Community Link support workers.

And through this Community Link Programme, Wish offered emotional support to Rose, who had always felt that she was often stereotyped as a loud, black woman. We also worked with Rose to make her feel more comfortable with her sexuality, which was fluid. As well as helping Rose to feel heard and believed, Wish also provided practical support. This support was vital when Rose faced eviction by the Housing Association due to a dispute with a neighbour who then continually called the council with made up incidents. Wish liaised with the council and the court, ensuring Rose could keep her property.

Following our Community Link programme, Rose’s behaviour has greatly improved, with fewer outbursts and no police confrontations or fights. We have also seen a big reduction in her alcohol consumption and marijuana use, with Rose now looking forward in her life, having stopped shoplifting and started saving money.

Yolanda

Yolanda had been in the care system as a child and had later been adopted. During this time, she experienced neglect, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She also had faced sexual and financial abuse as an adult, and had issues with serious self-harm, with a possible diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

With Yolanda, Wish provided intensive support to help her feel a part of society again, by teaching her how to manage her emotions on a day-to-day basis and also working to secure Yolanda a flat.

The psychiatrist Yolanda had previously been sent too had been very negative and was actively discouraging, preventing Yolanda from moving forward and perhaps perpetuating her experience of gendered abuse. But Wish helped her to stand up to him and feel equal as a human being. Wish arranged for different psychotherapy appointments, and supported Yolanda in completing them by waking her up and accompanying her to these appointments.

Unfortunately, following a specific traumatic incident, Yolanda did return to prison as she saw it as the only way of making herself feel safe. But Yolanda has now been out of prison for 5 years and, with support from Wish, her relationship with her family has improved, and there has been a huge reduction in her self-harming. She has completed courses in creative writing and Italian, and Yolanda is now planning for the future by putting money into savings while she also carries out voluntary work.

Zahra

Zahra had been homeless for 25 years, and had Schizoaffective disorder, having spent time both in hospital and in prison for theft and burglary. Our Community Link worker supported Zahra with legal help, by writing reports for court and by liaising with solicitors.

It was important to have Wish fighting Zahra’s corner as professionals had expressed the opinion that she ‘wasn’t trying’. But for someone who has been homeless for so long, it is very difficult to make the change in your mind that you are no longer living on the street.

Through Zahra’s work with Wish, we were able to show in the CPA (Care Programme Approach) meeting that she had made progress. This helped her secure accommodation. Though Zahra later relapsed, Wish continued to support, which helped ensure that she got back on track.

Throughout the process, Zahra engaged with the mental health team, and also undertook voluntary work in the Wish office. Since leaving prison, she has created a life for herself, which included setting herself up as an Avon representative. It has now been four years since she offended or took drugs.