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South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Thames Reach – Psychology in Hostels project has been announced as one of the three winners of the 2018 London Homelessness Awards. In partnership with Thamesreach and the London borough of Lambeth, and with support from the Guys and St Thomas’ charity, they bring a therapeutic environment in hostels, allowing residents to access their help and progress. We asked Ian, a former resident of Graham House, how he had found the support.

When I landed in Graham house I wasn’t really connected to anything, especially myself. The world around me felt a million miles away and I thought I would be left floating around in that state of mind forever. Part of me didn’t care about that prospect and part of me was just terrified of it. The staff at Graham House immediately made me feel human, I don’t know why but I half expected to be thrown in a corner and left to my own devices which at that point had absolutely no direction. Any staff I encountered I could connect with and felt that there was no judgement towards me and the mess I had made of my life; there was no pity and I wasn’t made to feel helpless. As difficult as hostel life can be I felt empowered by the people I met and the engagement of my keyworker Dave Angel. Sometimes it baffled me but I never felt that I was on my own or that I had no one to turn to. If I needed something that would help with my recovery and circumstances then Dave did everything to get that or point me in the right direction. The availability of the onsite psychology team was not something I expected either but without this I feel that I might have struggled to find my direction again. Having access to the team made me feel safe, I felt that I could leave the world outside and focus on rebuilding myself and recovering my mental health. Being part of the art groups brought back a lot of my love for that kind of expression, and I don’t mind sounding corny when I say that it helped me to reconnect to myself. The guys structured the sessions with themes and I can see the purpose of that, I liked it so much that when I started my own art group I stole their approach as a blueprint. Instead of staring at blank paper or just doodling there was something to visualise and the more I did that the more sensations I could feel and appreciate. It gave me a place to go to when I felt overwhelmed and helped me to feel normal; all of that fear, feelings of defeat and invisibility could be mapped out and managed or just felt and let go. For me the inclusion of a creative outlet broke the feeling of disconnection, it helped me to feel less afraid to look inward and express that.

Since leaving Graham House I have gone on to complete a diploma in fine art and I am about to go to university to start a psychology degree. I am forever thankful for all of the people at Graham House for not letting me forget that I am a person worthy of my own attention and care and that I have a future to look forward to.

The final order of the top three, and the allocation of the prize money (£30000, £20000 and £10000), will be revealed at a very special event at City Hall on 18th October, with the prizes presented by James Murray, Deputy Mayor. For more information go to www.lhawards.org.uk

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