“Don’t give up!” is the message a former resident of HARP, Southend’s homelessness charity, sends to those facing homelessness on World Homeless Day, Thursday October 10.
Marie Edmonds, has recently moved into her own council flat, marking an important milestone in her journey away from homelessness.
Marie first came to HARP as a service user 19 years ago, when she was stuck in a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and mental health challenges that led to a chaotic lifestyle.
When she suddenly found herself homeless again in June 2017, she had been clean for nearly three years and had even been volunteering for HARP, so was shocked to find herself needing to use their services again.
“I don’t believe I would be clean without HARP – and recovery isn’t even this organisation’s specialism, its homelessness,” said Marie.
“The easiest thing to do when I was evicted would have been to start using again, but I knew I needed to take action and that’s what I did.
Since staying at HARP, Marie has achieved her level 1 and 2 functional skills training and has plans to complete her GCSEs, having left school at the age of 13 with no qualifications.
She has also undertaken the training she needs to set up her own project, an abstinence-based recovery group for Southend.
Marie has continued to volunteer at HARP, running recovery focused groups and a women’s group, as well as volunteering for other local homelessness related charities.
Marie said: “There is no qualification like lived experience but keeping busy by doing things like studying and volunteering gives you a purpose and builds your self-esteem. So even though my life wasn’t what I had imagined it would be at this stage, I still had a purpose and something to keep me going. I had lots of encouragement from the staff at HARP.”
Attending college also gave Marie the confidence to start writing, something she’s always wanted to do, and she’s had top ranking articles on Google News and The Fix, an addiction recovery website.
Marie has been giving talks to local services about her experience with addiction to highlight what works and where the gaps are in local provisions. And she’s done all this from a HARP room!
Marie is passionate about helping others on the road to recovery: “I want people to know that there’s a way out, even people who aren’t ready to make a change yet. You can stay clean and achieve – even if you’re homeless. I have done it with the support of HARP! I can’t stress it enough – there is a way out, don’t give up!”
HARP is currently inviting people to take part in The Really Big South Essex Sleep Out to raise awareness and funds to support their vital work with homeless people in Southend. It’s not too late to sign up. Find out more and make your difference at: essexsleepout.org
You can also find out more about HARP and how they support homeless people in Southend at www.harpsouthend.org.uk