“I was so negative about Christmas. It made my mental health get worse. I thought to myself, what am I going to do? Christmas day on the street or in a squat with no gas or electricity? But, thanks to HARP, I got a nice bed and a lovely meal.”
In the build up to Christmas last year, Sophie was sleeping in the doorway of a shop on Southend High Street. She watched on as people enjoyed the Christmas markets with the knowledge that they would be returning to a warm home. Meanwhile, Sophie and her three friends would be huddled together to try to keep warm as the evenings set in and temperatures began to drop.
Sophie slept rough for around a week. In that time, HARP’s Bradbury Day Centre was a life line to her, providing her not just with a safe and warm place, but also with much needed routine. She explained, “I had no stability out there on the streets, but knowing that I could get up and come to the Bradbury Centre - that was my stability. It made me feel a lot happier in myself. I could come here, I could shower, I could do my washing and I could eat. That was my structure - on the street, go to the Bradbury Centre, have breakfast, put my name down for a shower, maybe do a group in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and that’s it, back out.”
As temperatures continued to drop, Sophie was invited to stay in a squat by a friend – where she found temporary security, comradery and shelter, compared to the vulnerability she felt on the street. Sophie continued to come to the Bradbury Day Centre for food, washing facilities and our meaningful activity groups, until one day she received a phone call asking her to come in for a meeting.
Sophie was offered a place in our 18 bed night shelter. She told us, “I was over the moon, ecstatic – I can’t even put into words how happy I felt. I broke down crying because I was so happy, so relieved. I didn’t have to do anymore nights out on the street – I didn’t have to sleep in a squat.”
With just a week and a half to go, Sophie could look ahead to Christmas with the knowledge that she’d be somewhere safe and warm. She told us: “On Christmas day, we all had dinner together. There was so much food, we all ate well - we didn’t go without! It was so nice for the people that were there, it was lovely.”
Sophie has had another tough year, but she is now staying at our women’s hostel, White Heather House and making great progress. She’s looking forward to another Christmas and is hoping to start volunteering in our Day Centre Kitchen, whilst she looks for a permanent place to call home.
You can help people like Sophie feel safe and warm the Christmas time by texting XMAS09 £10 to 70070 to donate £10 or visit www.harpsouthend.org.uk/christmas-appeal-2017