Emma* came to Homeless Oxfordshire after escaping an abusive marriage. In one of our community properties, Emma had a safe space to recover and rebuild her life. With our support, she went back to work as a teacher and moved into privately rented accommodation.
“I’ve been homeless twice in my life. The first time I was just 14. Myself and my siblings lived with our mum in one bedroom in a hostel after escaping our violent dad. I felt it was my job to protect my brothers and sisters and to provide a safe, stable future for them all; I had to make a decision early on whether I was going to survive or not. So I tried hard at school and I was the first person in my family to go to university. I trained to be a teacher.
In my early 20’s I began to fall into bouts of manic depression. But eventually I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Over time, my partner became abusive. He was controlling and violent. I became emotionally unstable and eventually I had a breakdown.”
Numbing the emotional and physical pain
“For the next 20 years, I carried on living in the abusive relationship whilst battling with my disorder. I turned to drugs and alcohol for relief. But I became more and more dependent on the quick fixes. My addiction led to recurring bouts of psychosis and I felt completely hopeless and could not see a way out.
I felt like I was on constant treadmill, not being able to get off, but I realised I had to make a choice; either leave my relationship and recover, or stay and sink further into the cycle. It wasn’t easy to believe I could live life without drugs or alcohol. They were the solutions to numb the emotional and physical pain I felt.
But I found a drug and alcohol recovery service and completed the 12 step sobriety course. At last, I felt I had found a way to get out of the cycle of addiction and looked forward to getting my life back on track. Once sober, I realised I needed to get out of my relationship before it was too late. I’m not sure how I found the strength but I left. I started sofa-surfing around my friend’s houses but my partner followed me and threatened my friends so I began sleeping in my car.”
Moving on from homelessness
“I came to Homeless Oxfordshire and went straight into Community Housing. I was given a place in sober living accommodation to keep me on track. Dependence is the hardest thing to talk about and it’s even harder to ask for help. As an intelligent, educated and articulate woman, I felt that I should have been able to deal with my situation. I was so grateful to have the one to one support of my key worker – it gave me consistency and helped build trust in my relationships with people.
Homeless Oxfordshire gave a space to recover after all I’d been through, and my key worker supported me to get back into employment. I have now been sober for 18 months. I am working again as a teacher and am dating someone who treats me as an equal. Life finally feels good.
Homelessness is something that society views as self-inflicted, which is simply not the case. I, as a professional, middle-class woman, would never have dreamed I’d become homeless again. But I did. Homelessness is an uncomfortable subject because it reminds us all that our lives are finely balanced. It only takes one or two circumstances for us to find ourselves without a home.”
*Name and photo have been changed to protect our client’s identity.