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Moving On

It has been a while since my last blog, but I have a good excuse. I have been busy moving. I have finally moved out of my parent’s house and unlike university this time it is hopefully for good. This is something I have wanted for ages, but I did not think it would be possible for me in the near future. All it took was for me to have a kind of mental breakdown and to feel utterly miserable for months.
I now live in supported housing for those with mental health issues.
Supported housing helps people to have somewhere to live independently, but with support when they need it. There are various types of supported housing depending on need. There is supported housing for those with learning and developmental issues, those with more physical issues and of course for people with mental health problems.
I live in what can be classed as a low support house with staff in weekday nine to five and no staff at all evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Those who need more support may live in a house with staff in evening and weekends, and for those with the highest need there are houses with staff who even sleep in the house just in case they are needed.
The support staff here can help us with things such as benefit and money issues, getting to appointments by helping us work out the public transport to somewhere or even giving us a lift if necessary, helping us organise volunteer work or other things to do, making sure we are getting the help we need with our mental health issues and generally keeping an eye on us to make sure we are safe and managing ok. In some types of supported housing I imagine there is more support with everyday things like cooking and shopping.
One of the main reasons I did not leave home sooner was the cost. Private rent is very expensive, hence so many adult children still living at home with their parents well into their twenties and even thirties. I had looked into social housing (what is now council housing), but it looked almost impossible for me to get any. I then learned there was another way into social housing in the form of supported housing and with my current mental health problems it sounded like it might be a good idea for me rather than jumping straight into living totally alone. Here the costs per person for rent and bills are kept down due to sharing the house between six of us. Most of my rent and bills are covered by housing benefit, with me paying a little bit extra each week on top of that. My main expenses are on food and transport on the bus or train.
So how do you get to live in supported housing? For me it was a case of being honest with myself about having mental health problems that had reached the point I was no longer really coping and going to my GP for help. I was not holding out the greatest hope as I had been to doctors previously about my mental health and they had just upped my medication which I did not seem to help. However last year I changed surgery and this one was proving a lot better for me, so I thought I would see if they could help. My doctor booked me in for a mental health review with a specialist, and actually seemed to take my problems seriously. The mental health specialist came out with a number of suggestions including passing on my details to the local mental health housing guy. It was agreed that living with my parents was not helping me. Part of it was issues with my parents, but also being both jobless and living at home was making me feel stuck, like I had hit a wall and was not able to move forward any more with my life. I needed a fresh start and this place was suggested to me. After visiting the house I had a couple of days to think about it, but I knew almost straight away that I wanted to move in. To live here you must have a statement of need, which for me came from the NHS mental health specialist. Another way into supported housing is through a social worker, but I am not exactly sure how that works. There is also an element of luck in that a space in a house has to actually be available, which sometimes can mean a bit of a wait, but luckily for me this house had a vacant room.
The other great thing about this particular type of supported housing is that after about two years they help you move on into independent housing. The simple fact of having lived in supported housing for more than a few months means you get more chance of social housing in your own flat. The support workers here help you with finding and securing a place to live on your own, with working out things like how to pay and budget for bills, furnishing the place and with the move itself.
This house has space for six residents, all of whom have some kind of mental health problem. It helps to live with other people who understand what having mental health issues can be like. We all understand that mental health issues such as depression can come and go and some days will be better than others. The residents offer peer support to each other, listening and talking together and trying to help when problems arise. Most supported housing seems to be mixed sex and mixed ages, which I find makes life more interesting. You learn more about different ways of living life and how to cope if you have a more varied mix of people.
Before I was offered this place, I did not even know there was such a thing as supported housing for those with mental health problems. I had heard of supported housing for those with learning and developmental issues before, but had never considered supported housing as something that would be suitable for my needs. I thought it was all about helping those who could barely even cook a meal or do their own laundry. Having low support needs I thought I was one of those borderline cases, too special needs to get a job and leave home, but not special needs enough to get any support or help from anyone apart from my parents. So when this place was mentioned I was quite surprised and unsure what to make of it. I did not want to end up feeling institutionalised or like I was back to being labelled as special needs again. I still want to get a job one day and feel like I am contributing to society rather than just existing and sitting around doing nothing all day. I was told it was low support with no staff at all evenings and weekends which is what appealed to me most. They trusted us to be left alone and be independent, but did not totally abandon us.
Before I moved I did of course worry slightly. Would I get on with the other residents, would I get on with the support staff, would I cope living without my mum and having to do more for myself? However I figured I would not know unless I tried and I knew I would regret it if I did not do it. Having now lived here for my first month I am very glad I made the move and feel very lucky to have a place here. It was the right thing for me to do as it has helped me to feel more of an adult, making my own day to-day choices about things and doing far more for myself. I also feel like I have taken the next step with my life and am finally moving forward.

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