My Life – Cheryl

In August 2019, after 25 years living and working in Brighton/Hove, privately renting for many years and always paying the rent on time, I found myself abruptly and unfairly evicted. My rent had tripled overnight, so suddenly I was unable to continue my tenancy.

“In the blink of an eye my life had completely unravelled – I was homeless.”

A friend at the time invited me to stay in her home as she had a spare room. Within the first week I realised it had been a mistake to move there but I didn’t know just how hard it would become and how our friendship would deteriorate. My friend’s mother also lived there, and she made me feel particularly unwelcome – she even locked me out of the house once. The house was always ridiculously cold; it was hard to sleep at night it was that cold. There was condensation and black mould which ruined the few belongings I did have, and there was no hot water. It wasn’t at all a healthy environment. It eventually reached the point where I was unable to stay any longer – after 18 months I had to leave for my own sanity – it was a hellish place to live and because of the way my friend and her mother treated me I just felt paranoid and anxious all the time.

Fearful of what my future held, I went to Brighton & Hove Council for support. While they looked into my case, I firstly sofa-surfed between friends’ houses for a while, often sleeping on floors, sometimes in homes which already had six or seven people living there. I never wanted to stay too long; I felt like I was a burden. Also, because things had broken down so awfully with staying at my friend’s house, I felt like I could not trust anyone. During this time, it was also a challenge keeping my stuff together. Many of my possessions were still at my friend’s house but I had been locked out and couldn’t retrieve much, only what I could grab at the time of departing. The uncertainty each day brought – really took its toll. I must say it is times like this when you find out who your real friends are.

I was then placed into emergency accommodation which I stayed in for around 5 months. Although I was grateful to have a roof over my head, I never slept much there as I feared what was happening outside my door. Sadly because I had made myself ‘intentionally homeless’ there wasn’t much that could be done. I just felt so distraught. I had no choice at the time but to leave. I felt like I had no options – I couldn’t believe it.

Once again I had nowhere to stay. I felt like a failure, and I was dealing with the shock of essentially being unable to access much support because I had made myself homeless. It was too much to deal with and then I received the news that my dad had passed away from oesophageal cancer. At that point I just wanted everything to stop – I overdosed and ended up in hospital.

After being discharged I visited Worthing Council, and was again placed in emergency accommodation. I will forever be grateful to the young man working that day who immediately organised a place to stay. He showed kindness – people forget what a difference that can make to a person.

Shortly afterwards, the Council referred me to Turning Tides, and it is here my story gains stability. After an initial few weeks at Lyndhurst, I moved into the charity’s longer term accommodation. This is where I currently live and it is here, with the help of Turning Tides, that my life has got back on track. They have supported me in setting up universal credit and I have received counselling to help me come to terms with what has happened. I now can see a future for myself. I have a key worker who has really taken the time to get to know me and help me develop. I attend workshops run by Turning Tides such as the cookery group. Most importantly, they have given me the security of a roof over my head. My cat Ebony lives with me – my only companion who has been through it all with me.

“Turning Tides saved my life and I wouldn’t be here without them. l can finally feel relaxed where I live;
for so many years, as I moved from one place to another, I just felt unsafe and on edge. Now I feel hopeful about the future.”

My next step is to move into my own home. It won’t be easy, but I feel more able to work towards my forever home. I have various health issues to contend with – an injured rotator cuff and curvature of the spine (Scoliosis) both of which leave me in considerable amounts of pain. But I no longer feel so alone, I know the staff at Turning Tides are here to support me every step of the way. I really want to go back to work and get motivated to do more with my life.

I started to take up running again – I have always loved it and I am so happy to have continued this hobby whilst living in Turning Tides’ projects. It has really helped me in so many ways – physically and mentally. The sense of achievement from completing a marathon is like nothing else. I feel the limitations my body imposes can be overcome in the moment of running. I at last have the sense of freedom I crave. I have bags of medals that I hope to put on display when I move into my forever home.

After the pandemic I decided I would really live life to the fullest. I have decided this year I am going to commit to more running events than I have ever done before. It means a lot of training and at times I am worried that I won’t be fit enough. I attend Park Run and enjoy running alongside others and it has helped to meet new people in the community.

If I ever have a wobble about whether I can do a running event – I just remember what I have been through and how far I have come. I am also doing it to raise money to support the incredible work Turning Tides do every day for people like myself – that is enough incentive.  I’ll next be taking on an ‘Ultra 50k’ – a big challenge for me but one I can’t wait to tackle!

“I hope to keep running for good causes for as long as I can because I know how truly valuable and life saving their work can be.”

If you would like to sponsor Cheryl as she takes on four half marathons this Spring to fundraise for Turning Tides, you can do so on her JustGiving page