“It’s a wonderful life being in charge of your own destiny” – July update

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Over the course of July, the Hard Edges: Lives Behind the Numbers team have been visiting people in the North East and North West of England to hear stories of people who live with severe and multiple disadvantage. It has been a whirlwind of sadness, hardship and tough identity but also laughter, inspiration and aspiration. Meet…


Before she became homeless, Karen was enjoying having a normal life, being a mother to her 4 children, who are now aged 15 to 23. However, after a difficult break-up with the father of her children, Karen turned to drink. Her children were removed from her, and she found herself homeless. Karen says the part of the story she really wants tell is how she found the strength to go back to where she is now – sober, in her own flat, and working part-time with User Voice.


Steve has travelled a lot and spent over 10 years with the love of his life Michelle in Spain. Many of his relapses fall after relationship breakdowns and this one hit him really hard. Despite a successful commission to run a hugely popular sand sculpture workshop series in Liverpool he almost lost everything until Michelle sought him out and found him in a crack den and took him to an emergency shelter.


Lizz defines herself as a happy go lucky lass from Middlesborough, but she is clear from the moment we meet that things weren’t always this way. However, it is only last year that Lizz has been able to get the support she needed to recover her self-esteem, and tackle her depression, but she had to hit rock-bottom first. After years of domestic abuse, and of having to walk on eggshells all the time, Lizz finally feels like she can focus on building a relationship with her 5 children and 3 grandchildren. She loves being a mum and feels a pinch of pride every time her grandchildren call her nana.


Paul isn’t used to talking about his feelings. He was a strong and proud man, living in a good house, married, with kids, and in the same job for 20 years. But recently, he has been going through a rough patch. After a relationship breakdown, Paul found himself homeless, going from bail hostel to hostel to B&B for over 8 months. Instead of a safe roof over his head,he found a world he had never seen before…


James describes his childhood as good and stable, and sees no reason why he should be an addict, apart from the fact that he grew up around drugs. A couple of years ago, James was diagnosed with early onset dementia. He has started to forget things, and feels like his habit has gotten worse since the diagnosis.


Martin seems at first sight an energetic man with a very positive attitude. He speaks with great enthusiasm about his passion photography and the determination he has to not fall back into addiction again. He gives off the feeling that he is much further in recovery than he probably really is. Martin has been released from prison about 6 weeks ago, where he spent the last 3 years on robbery charges. He used this time to reflect on his life and think about what he wants for the future. He has been off drugs for 6 months now, the longest period he has ever been clean.


We are now in preparation for the next workshop, bringing together service users, providers and the like to engage with more immersive, in depth versions of these these stories over a shared meal. Attendees will have the opportunity to converse, relate to one and other about how they stories make them feel, how they strike a chord, and how our system can be designed in a way that better supports people with severe and multiple disadvantage.

Attend our next workshop on 7th of September 2015 in Manchester 

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