In June 2017, Marie was evicted by her landlord with no notice and nowhere else to go. Having already overcome homelessness in the past, Marie knew she could come straight to HARP for help. Now, nearly three years later, Marie has moved into her own council flat, marking an important milestone in her journey away from homelessness.
Marie first came to HARP as a service user 19 years ago, when she was stuck in a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and mental health challenges that led to a chaotic lifestyle. When she suddenly found herself homeless again, she had been clean for nearly three years and had even been volunteering for HARP, so was shocked to find herself needing to use our services again.
To mark World Homeless Day (10th October) and to celebrate Marie moving into her own place, we found out more about her inspiring story.
“When I was suddenly evicted I felt so sick and I was physically shaking,” said Marie. “I hadn’t felt fear like it since being in recovery and just didn’t know what to do. It was a really awful experience. As a recovering addict, my first thought was ‘I can’t do this, I need a drink’ but instead I came straight to HARP.”
We were able to provide accommodation within 24 hours, but getting temporary housing was just the beginning. Though the journey has not been easy for Marie, the HARP team were there to support her through the process.
“After I came to HARP my mental health really deteriorated. I’ve got PTSD and borderline personality disorder and I was really triggered by being evicted. There were times when I couldn’t even come out of my room but the staff would notice this and knock on my door or leave me a note, letting me know they were there for me without overwhelming me.
“But I knew I couldn’t stay in that state – it wasn’t good for me or my recovery. So with encouragement from the staff, I went back to college. This was a big step for me as I left school at 13 and had no qualifications at all.”
Marie achieved her level 1 and 2 functional skills training and has plans to complete her GCSEs. She has also undertaken the training she needs to set up her own project, an abstinence-based recovery group for Southend.
“I don’t believe I would be clean without HARP – and recovery isn’t even this organisation’s specialism, its homelessness,” said Marie. “The easiest thing to do when I was evicted would have been to start using again, but I knew I needed to take action and that’s what I did.
“There is no qualification like lived experience but keeping busy by doing things like studying and volunteering gives you a purpose and builds your self-esteem. So even though my life wasn’t what I had imagined it would be at this stage, I still had a purpose and something to keep me going. I had lots of encouragement from the staff at HARP."
As well as attending college and training courses, Marie continued volunteering at HARP, running recovery focused groups and a women’s group, and also volunteered at the One Love Soup Kitchen.
Attending college also gave Marie the confidence to start writing, something she’s always wanted to do, and she’s had top ranking articles on Google News and The Fix, an addiction recovery website. Marie has been giving talks to local services about her experience with addiction to highlight what works and where the gaps are in local provisions. And she’s done all this from a HARP room!
Marie is passionate about helping others on the road to recovery: “I want people to know that there’s a way out, even people who aren’t ready to make a change yet. You can stay clean and achieve - even if you’re homeless. I have done it with the support of HARP.
"I can’t stress it enough – there is a way out, don’t give up!”
Marie said she is extremely grateful for all the support she has received from HARP: “I can’t praise HARP enough - It’s like a community, I feel like I’m part of something and I have people for support. There’s always someone here to listen and I have never felt like I had to struggle on my own. I am extremely grateful to all the staff and volunteers at HARP!
"Without HARP's support, I wouldn't be where I am today."
“You can come here, sort out your Universal Credit, use the computers, have a shower, do your washing, get fed, and you get new bedding as soon as you walk into your room. This charity has come so far from one night shelter on York Road and a little day centre in a church in Westcliff.”
Find out how you can help more people like Marie escape homelessness here.