“I have never spent this much time in the garden before. Now every day I sit and have my lunch out here, it’s so chilled out I love it.”
Hannah moved to Eva House in May, after leaving a different supported housing service elsewhere in Croydon.
“There was no trust, and it didn’t feel safe anymore, so I left. I had turned Evolve down in the past, but then realized that the support is really good and it was where I wanted to be. When I walked in, I remember saying ‘this feels like home’. My parents said the same thing, that they felt safe with me being here, and that they sleep better at night.
“Moving in wasn’t as scary as expected. I made myself sit in the communal area and speak to people, rather than isolating myself. I have been at similar places before and knew what to do. Before long I was laughing and chatting, sometimes until the early morning!”
Not only has Hannah stayed in supported accommodation before, she has also worked in it.
“I used to be a forensic recovery support worker, supporting people with criminal backgrounds and helping them to re-integrate into society. That’s why community elements of supported housing are big for me. That was about 3 years ago – eventually I had to quit.
It has been a very difficult journey. Going back to when I was younger there have been multiple deaths in my life. When I was 13 my uncle passed away from cancer, and then my mum was diagnosed with it shortly after (she is thankfully now in remission). As the oldest sister, I had to grow up quickly. Not long after, one of my cousins passed away, aged 20. A close friend of mine died aged 17, and then one of my aunts did too. A short time later, another one of my friends died.
It was incredibly difficult. I managed to finish school and ended up working in end-of-life care when I was just 19, which is an unusual environment for someone so young. After a while I started feeling mentally unwell and took time off from working.
Later, I became a support worker. I said to myself at the time, ‘give it two weeks, and if you don’t like it leave’, but I ended up loving it; it was really rewarding.
Time passed, and I remember I went on holiday to Tenerife to see my aunt. When I came back to the UK I heard that another of my best friends had died.
This time it felt like I couldn’t recover. I had to leave my job; that was really sad because I loved it, but it was a struggle to drag myself out of bed, yet alone get to work and support people in the way they deserved. I didn’t want to leave but I had to.
After that my mental health nose-dived. Work has always been a way to keep busy, so it was really hard adjusting.”
Hannah did lots of volunteering, and has become a vocal advocate for better mental health support in the UK. Her next goal is getting back into work.
“I’d like to stay in mental health, maybe helping others in the same position as me. I’m interested in early intervention and outreach, maybe helping young people cope with grief. To give kids what I didn’t have, and to be someone there for them who understands.
That’s another thing about moving here. I wasn’t excited about the future before, but I am now – my mindset is changing and I’m more motivated. It’s such a positive place and my mindset has flipped. Often I now think ‘what would Hannah tomorrow appreciate you doing now’. Things like that I never used to do before.
In the past people have been surprised that I am staying here. They have said to me ‘you used to work in supported living, what are you doing here?’. The answer is that certain life events happen. You don’t expect them, and you don’t plan to start living in supported accommodation like Evolve, but things just happen. You can’t judge how someone acted in a situation if you have never been there yourself – that goes for me, and for anyone else staying here.
Places like Evolve are here to give people the support and skills they need to move on, and that’s what I’m doing: looking ahead, and reaching out if I need help. I would encourage everyone, wherever they are, to do the same.”