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11th Apr, 2014

April Awareness Month - Case Study 2
by James Mitchell on April 11, 2014 11:18


Sean was just 19 when he hit his lowest point. He’d left school with no qualifications, going straight into a job, but got heavily into drugs and became homeless. He spent the next five years moving between friends’ floors, squats and the streets, his life made more difficult by bouts of depression. He didn’t want support from Wintercomfort or other organisations. “I was living in a dream world with no idea and no interest in where my life was heading.”

Finally Sean woke up and decided that he needed to turn his life around. His younger brother was heading down the same path and Sean needed to be a better role model. “I overcame my addiction and found somewhere stable to live, somewhere I could feel part of the real world. Then I remembered how Wintercomfort had tried to help before, so I came back.”

Many hot breakfasts and warm showers later, Sean decided the time had come to battle his dyslexia. At Wintercomfort he was able to take English lessons and try some sessions with a volunteer Life Coach. The result: increased confidence and a sense of purpose.

Now 27, things are looking up for Sean:  he’s free from drugs and is back in employment. He’s three months into his apprenticeship as a Project Worker with Wintercomfort, continuing his English lessons and even thinking about dating again. “I never thought education was important, but now I want to learn. I’m learning every day.” Sean feels a career with homelessness and mental health charities beckons. “It’s all I want to do. I’m confident that I’m learning the right skills to help people.”

“Wintercomfort picks you up from the bottom and treats you like a real person. People guide you rather than just tell you what to do. I’ve taken control of my life. I no longer live in a dream world but one where the dreams are real and achievable.”

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1st Apr, 2014

April Awareness Month - Case Study 1
by James Mitchell on April 1, 2014 11:27


Our Aim in our April Awareness Month will be to share a Case Study of the work Wintercomfort does for the Cambridge community. More to follow!


Imagine living a full life, rich in different experiences. You left school at 15 to work as a Silver Service waiter before serving for 12 years in the British Army – in places such as Germany and Northern Ireland. Where would you see yourself at 60? Celebrating your birthday surrounded by family and friends? Looking forward to your retirement? Sleeping in a wartime ‘pillbox’ along the River Cam with no-where else to go for food or shelter?

In 2012 Adie fell behind with his rent and was thrown out of his home. He camped out for a cold eight months between September and April. “When you’re homeless you are at the bottom of the pile and the only way is up. If you can’t change things, at least you can try to improve the things you can. But you can’t do everything on your own.” And that’s where Wintercomfort comes in.

People say that Wintercomfort acts as a signpost to the many other homeless services in the city. Adie started coming to Wintercomfort for breakfast and after meeting an old friend who works for the Street Outreach Team, he was interviewed for Cyrenians’ accommodation: a perfect example of joined up services working together to help someone.

“Wintercomfort is a godsend, if it’s used as it should be. It points people in the right direction but you have to be prepared to ask for help.” For many people it can be hard to know where to turn when they become homeless. Practical and approachable, Adie has found that people talk to him when they arrive at Wintercomfort and that he is able to suggest which person to approach for advice and support.

Imagine being faced with the terrifying prospect of being homeless. What would you do? Give up? Close yourself off from the rest of the world? Find yourself being awarded a certificate for being the most positive person at Wintercomfort?

“I like doing, being busy, helping out wherever I can”. At Wintercomfort Adie has volunteered in the food4food café; he’s involved in Friday cookery classes and the City Rangers gardening project; and he makes a point of attending every service user forum. “I’ve been at the bottom, and I’m going up.”

Notes: Adie’s rent is currently £125 pw. If he were to work he could lose his housing benefit, end up with less money and be unable to pay his rent.

When on JCA Adie was applying for up to 30 jobs a week. He volunteered for 25-30 hours at a charity shop with the prospect of a job at the end of his time there. The Jobcentre felt that he was not doing enough to look for work.

Adie’s landlady lost her husband and in order to keep her business would have had to have work done around the building totalling approximately £7,000. Her tenants got together, estimated the materials needed would cost £500 and provided the labour for free. 

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