AMAT UK has 23 years’ experience of supporting homeless people with the aim of addressing the complex issues that cause and perpetuate their situation, so they can work towards independent living. Our impact on homelessness in Medway and Maidstone is that during 2019/20, AMAT UK:
- provided accommodation and support services to an average of 290 Residents at any one time
- housed approximately 127 newly referred homeless people
- accepted approximately 25 families into AMAT UK Temporary Accommodation for Local Authorities
- and successfully supported 56 Residents to secure further permanent accommodation and move-on to live independently.
The following are a collection of true stories about people who have arrived at AMAT UK in need of accommodation and support and found a community who have empowered them to succeed in re-building their lives.
Jane became homeless after a breakdown with her family. She then ‘sofa-surfed’ for a few years, but it became increasingly difficult relying on others for accommodation. Arriving at AMAT UK gave her a sense of independence and offering her time as a volunteer for the kitchen was Jane’s way of saying thank you.
The role gave her day a regular routine and crucially a sense of purpose. Juggling her new responsibilities and continuing to job hunt helped to improve her key skills in time management and organisation. After less than a year of volunteering, AMAT offered Jane a job as a kitchen assistant. Whilst it wasn’t a role her education or previous training had prepared her for, she seized the opportunity of paid work and continuous development.
“If I had not taken a chance I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
In time, she applied and secured a role more in line with her education and training, in the Rent & Benefits team. Jane was employed at AMAT for two and a half years, before moving to London.
Julian became homeless after an unfair eviction, following a complaint to his private landlord about damp and mildew issues. Like many homeless people, this created mental health issues for Julian. He was referred to AMAT UK and secured accommodation, and like all Residents he was assigned a support worker. They worked together to identify what his needs and interests were, and his support worker suggested volunteering in AMAT’s charity shop on Chatham High Street, which Julian did and enjoyed very much. He then also would volunteer with Resident events and activities, like Bingo and Board Game nights.
“My time here at AMAT is good and I feel part of the community.”
Julian also worked with his support worker to develop a plan to resettling independently, and was guided through the process of Homechoice bidding to move into his own accommodation. This proved successful and Julian has since moved into his own home and lives independently once again.
Boris became homeless after fleeing his country of origin and travelling to the UK in the back of a lorry. He was referred to AMAT in 1998 through Medway Social Services, and arrived to live in our accommodation unable to speak any English.
Becoming a Resident of AMAT UK meant that Boris could begin to settle in to the community. Working with his support worker, he identified where he could learn English. He gradually built up his confidence in speaking English through a number of volunteering opportunities with AMAT.
“I am very grateful and pleased for the help that AMAT have given me.”
After living for three years as a supported Resident, he approached AMAT’s management team and asked for a job. He was offered a role and after a period of time, he became an AMAT UK tenant so that he could remain housed in the community. To date, Boris has lived at AMAT for 21 years and has been employed for 18 years. He is also now officially a British citizen.
David became homeless due to a family bereavement. He found the experience of becoming homeless and dealing with grief very traumatic and difficult. After being a Resident at AMAT UK for a few months, his support worker encouraged him to volunteer in AMAT’s kitchen and front office, helping with the distribution of breakfast items to other Residents.
This supported David in coming to terms with his grief, especially as he was less socially isolated. He proved to be so dependable and hard-working, that his support worker encouraged him to apply for a role as a late shift/front office worker. He did and was employed in this new position by AMAT.
“I do enjoy the turnaround in my life from being a Resident first and now an employee at AMAT UK!”
David continued to work for us after moving out into permanent accommodation for a few years. He has subsequently found another role and relocated.
Anna became homeless very suddenly after a family dispute came to head and she was asked to leave the family home. Anna knew about AMAT already, because she had been worried about being made homeless, so she contacted the team, despite it being late at night. She was asked to come to AMAT’s front office at 10 Chelmar Road, where she was given use of a common room and a sofa to sleep on, until a room was found. This prevented Anna from potentially sleeping rough.
She was moved into shared accommodation, where she had a bedroom in house, sharing the kitchen and bathroom with three other Residents. Her support worker identified activities which would help her build up her self-esteem and regain her confidence and Anna soon began volunteering in AMAT’s charity shop and helped the Manager prepare the Instant Living Kits that Residents are given when they first arrive at AMAT.
“I really enjoy volunteering and since coming to live at AMAT I have made many new friends.“
Anna left AMAT after 3 years having been reunited with her family and mended the rift. She eventually relocated to the North of England where she is doing well.
Frank became homeless because of a relationship breakdown. Becoming homeless was the hardest thing that Frank had ever experienced, and the impact resulted in him losing all contact with his family. As a Resident at AMAT UK, despite the best efforts of his support worker, he became socially isolated and unwilling to participate in any activities or events.
Undeterred, his support worker finally persuaded Frank to join the new Healthy Eating programme run by AMAT from their 14 Meadowbank kitchen. This really engaged Frank; he produced an excellent standard of food and achieved a Food Hygiene Level 2 qualification. He then started to volunteer in the 411 HUB café, working alongside the Café Coordinator and also helping other Residents volunteering in the café.
“I feel that the 411 HUB and the healthy eating course turned my life around; I fell back in love with cooking and have a real purpose for getting up each morning. I will recommend this course to everyone.”
Frank is back in touch with his family and he teaches his children the recipes that he learned on the course. He helps to deliver the course and actively promotes the programme to other Residents. He is also a peer mentor within AMAT, helping other Residents as they progress through their homeless journey.
Sue became homeless because of rent arrears by her ex-partner. She then ‘sofa-surfed’ with her two daughters for almost a year. She became a Resident at AMAT UK and began volunteering shortly after, first in AMAT’s charity shop and then when the 411 HUB opened, she was thrilled to volunteer there, as she could help out six days a week.
Encouraged by the HUB Manager, Sue was offered the opportunity to become a Peer Mentor. Not unusually, Sue had some worries about saying the wrong thing or people not understanding her but agreed to try it out. A Resident in Sue’s house asked to become her mentee and she has helped him out since this summer. During this time, he has stopped drinking, started volunteering at 411 HUB, become a peer researcher and even applied for funding to set up an AMAT football team. His progress has been a great encouragement for Sue and she now wants to help other residents too as her confidence grows.
“I was always shy, I still am, but it comes out what I want to say. It never used to do that – I was so shy, would always hold my tongue. It’s coming out now, but only because of volunteering here.”
Sue would eventually like her own place, a job with AMAT UK and to be reunited with her daughters.
Michael became homeless after being evicted and his family weren’t able to help or support him. He has felt that since becoming homeless he lost family connections and a lot of friends. After becoming a Resident at AMAT UK and through the encouragement of his support worker, Michael started to attend the 411 HUB, initially just visiting the IT Suite.
As time went on, activities at the 411 HUB offered Michael more opportunities to meet new people and he began to volunteer at the HUB which really built up his confidence again. He still describes himself as getting anxious around groups of people, but is surprised and pleased that he can now talk to people he does not know. He underwent some of the project development and peer researcher training that AMAT ran last year to empower Residents to work as a team and create their own projects and resident-led activities.
This gave Michael a chance to set up AMAT’s Fishing Club, showing people how to gear up and catch Bass from the river Medway. Michael met his wife at AMAT UK and they are signed up to future resettlement classes so they can apply for a home together and return to independent living.
Frances became homeless after a relationship break-up. After sofa surfing for months, she applied to AMAT UK. Frances had worked all her life and found the boredom of homelessness harder to deal with than anything, so her support worker identified a volunteering opportunity at AMAT’s charity shop. Frances worked alongside the shop manager to ensure the shop was stocked, well organised, and staffed. She also engaged with other activities including AMAT’s Choir, Alive & Singing. Frances said these activities “kept her sane”, increasing her self-esteem and confidence. AMAT’s support has resulted in Frances now living in a one bedroom flat within the project, she describes the moment that she got the keys:
“I cried, I was so proud of myself, all of the volunteering I did paid off…. I didn’t think that I would ever be able to live in my own place again”.
During the pandemic, Frances had to stop volunteering and singing. A private Facebook page was established for choir meet-ups and quizzes which really helped her feel less socially isolated. Throughout lockdown Frances spoke weekly with her support worker, who helped her access the medication she needed when the local chemist ran out.
Nathan became homeless after a relationship breakdown and due to PTSD after an army career. He was rough sleeping when he came to the 411 HUB through the Somewhere Safe to Stay project. He took up accommodation at AMAT UK and soon began to volunteer for the Maintenance Team, helping them transform several properties.
Nathan then expressed an interest in Peer Mentoring and began his training to be a Peer Mentor for other Residents, helping them with any issues and concerns. He was also a key project leader in the Men’s Well-being Group which met regularly at 411 HUB and made several podcasts just before Coronavirus pandemic.
In August this year Nathan was offered the role of Peer Mentor & Volunteer Coordinator by AMAT which saw him revitalise and develop the volunteering and peer mentoring programme following the pandemic. Within the first month, he created a new link with a partner organisation, the British Heart Foundation, and successfully placed two AMAT volunteers within BHF, supporting them on their journey to employment.