“I didn’t realise there was so much more help that you offer… I started chatting to Penny and she offered help with [my eldest son’s] PIP claim. I wouldn’t have been able to do the form without this.”
Emma’s* story shows how people’s lives can be turned upside down by events beyond their control. It also shows how having a strong support network and a good employer can be vital in helping people to get back on their own two feet.
Emma, a single mum and fitness fanatic, was living happily in Epsom with her two sons, when her landlord decided he wanted to sell his property. Unable to find anywhere else that was affordable on her income, she was forced to go on the council’s homelessness register and was relocated to emergency accommodation in outer London.
Moving away was very hard on the family, as the children were still at local schools and Emma’s job was local, too. They were getting up at the crack of dawn to travel to Epsom each day: “Moving made me realise that I do want to be near family and friends. The boys were literally stuck at home in the evening and at weekends – didn’t see anyone”.
Emma has suffered with depression since having children and being so isolated made it much worse: “I went downhill after moving and started drinking, and then hit rock bottom. I started using it as an escape route when it got too much. I wasn’t seeing anyone or doing anything.”
Travelling to and from Epsom was also very expensive, adding to the pressures on the family. That is when a friend told her about the Foodbank: “I wouldn’t say I relied on it, but it helped me every now and then… My mum and dad are really good, but I don’t want to have to rely on them all the time.”
Initially, it was just the food, but then she was given additional support: “I didn’t realise there was so much more help that you offer… I started chatting to Penny and she offered help with [my eldest son’s] PIP claim. I wouldn’t have been able to do the form without this. It’s so nice to have someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
Emma, who works at a local gym, is fortunate to have a supportive employer. When she needed time off last year at her lowest point, her manager was really understanding: “She said to take as much time off as you need. Knowing I could go back to work after was great.”
After writing to her local MP about her situation, the council offered her temporary accommodation back in Epsom whilst she waits for a permanent home, about a year after becoming homeless: “It’s so much better for the boys than living in . My son can see his friends and come and go he wants.”
Although Emma still worries about her eldest son, she is happy and already making plans for the future, including taking a level 3 fitness qualification with help from her employer: “I hope that I can go further in my fitness career and stay at the club. And I hope my children get into work, something they like doing.”
*Name changed to protect identity