“It was terrifying. The first night it was completely unknown. It was very scary, it was dark, it was cold. I was brought up to be scared walking home late at night on my own, let alone sleeping, so I didn’t. I just didn’t really sleep at all.”
Evie chose the park she slept in because it was close to her college, and she was focused on attending even through this tough time. It was winter, so she had to take measures to keep warm.
“I’d always buy a hot drink before leaving college, just keep me warm. I took a bag of clothes, and thank God it was winter, because it meant I wasn’t second guessed when I went into college in thick jumpers. Probably the part I was really most ashamed of was having to wash, brush my teeth and everything in college.”
Evie left the park when a friend found her there.
“He was like, “come on, let’s get a warm meal in you. It’s a Sunday, it’s a roast. There’s plenty of food, we’ve always got leftovers.””
She went over to her friend’s house, and once she was there, he had a chat with his mum about her situation. Her friend’s mum was understanding, and for a few months Evie lived with them, before having periods of sofa-surfing between her friend’s home and a relative’s home.
“It was very difficult. I was switching between the two. During this period, my mental health was very, very bad. It caused quite a lot of effects that I still struggle with now. My mental health was so bad that I couldn’t leave the house for 3 months, and looking back now, I realise it was because I was so scared of stepping outside, and not being able to get back in again.”
From the age of sixteen, Evie’s housing situation was very unstable. She went from sofa-surfing with friends and relatives, to living in an unhealthy environment with a partner. The relationship broke down, and once again she was left with nowhere to go. At this point she spoke to a friend about her situation, who was able to point her in the direction of help, and eventually ended up being referred to Caring in Bristol.
Caring in Bristol are a charity who work with young people experiencing homelessness. St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity provides funding to their Project Z, a floating support service for people aged 16-25 who are experiencing multiple difficulties around their housing situation. Through Project Z, Evie met Shanta.
“They made a very good choice. We got on like a house on fire.”
“All the staff at Caring in Bristol have all been so kind and understanding, non-judgmental and relatable. It is such a comfortable place to be. Even as someone who once suffered with anxiety to the point I couldn’t leave the house, I can now come here and help with different activities and meet all these new people, which is exactly what I like to do.”
At this point, Evie was living with a relative, but it was not a positive environment. Shanta was able to offer her support through this in various ways, from teaching healthy coping mechanisms to best manage the situation, to eventually helping her move on into different accommodation. She received help in understanding and communicating her own emotions, which had a positive impact on her relationships at home, and her living situation. The wide-ranging support that Project Z offers young people like Evie allows them to gain confidence and independence, as well as practical skills – all of which are needed to take the journey towards a stable home.
For Evie, the benefits of Project Z have been wide-ranging. She chalks a lot of these benefits up to Shanta.
“Words can’t express how thankful I am to her. Without her, I would not be in in a position where I could succeed in anything. I wouldn’t have found healthy relationships, I wouldn’t have mended my relationships with my family. She’s always been so understanding and so encouraging and supportive. Words cannot express how thankful I am to have her and people like her in the world because she really does make it a better place.”
And in a more practical sense, engaging with Project Z’s food group allowed Evie to save up the money to move into a new place. Caring in Bristol’s food group gives young people the opportunity to access fresh food, basic essentials and toiletries.
“My life has changed drastically since walking through those doors three years ago. I now have a safe space and a stable environment to be in. I’ve gained confidence. I’ve figured out the career path I want to go down.”
Evie is now living in a stable home, and her relationships with her family have massively improved. She’s in a job that she loves, and she’s looking toward the future.
“When I think about the future, I feel confident in it and strong in it and that I am on the right path to kind of getting where I need to be and where I want to be.”
Speaking to Evie about how far she has come, her support worker, Shanta, said:
“I am so proud of you. I never had a doubt though that you wouldn’t get to where you are. That’s one thing I knew the moment I met you, that you can do this. You’ve got this.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.