Story on Sheffield client Laura Fieber, who was one of the hidden homeless
For six years, she rarely knew where she would be laying her head that night.
She slept on friends’ sofas and lived out of a holdall, seldom unpacking her possessions; no point when at any moment it could be time to move on again.
Troubled by the depression which had first struck when she was just seven, Laura Fieber survived by appealing to the kindness of friends.
“I was one of the group they call the hidden homeless,” she says. “I didn’t have a place I could call my own, I was constantly on the move, but I was never on the streets because I managed to beg and borrow my way through life.
“I crashed on people’s floors; on good nights, their sofas. But it was a really unsettling and unhappy way to live. Everyone needs a home and a place for their belongings.”
Today, thanks to Talent Match a programme run by local youth charity Sheffield Futures, at 24 she not only has a cosy flat in Nether Edge, but a job that gives her purpose and enables her to use her past experiences for good.
Laura, who had an unhappy childhood in Scunthorpe and was suffering mental health issues and in foster care by 16, became homeless after coming to Sheffield at 18 to live with her boyfriend.
When the young couple grew apart, she stayed on in their room in a shared house. But when the rental contract ran out, Laura didn’t know what to do or where to turn and found herself homeless.
Her mental health problems had worsened by the time she was found by the homeless charity NOMAD.
Says Laura: “My support worker pushed me, got me into volunteering with Mencap, then with NOMAD itself. I got a place in a training flat for six months to teach me how to be a good tenant, and was introduced to Talent Match, which supports vulnerable young people out of long-term unemployment.”
Talent Match, run by local youth charity Sheffield Futures, supports young people furthest from the job market to take steps towards employment. With the support of Talent Match coach Saudat Adinani she landed a paid role as a NOMAD Project Support Officer.
She was kept on in employment but when funding ran out, Saudat refused to let her go backwards in life and found her a new job to apply for with Sheffield Foundations., which supports adults who have mental ill-healtth with issues ranging from homelessness, rent arrears and eviction to community involvement.
Says Laura: “Saudat has been in my life for 10 months. She has been wonderful. While I was with NOMAD she encouraged me to study for an NVQ, helped me with my time planning and spent hours typing up my essays for me.
“She told me about the job with Sheffield Foundations, helped me with my application and we practised interview skills. She even helped me to get some suitable clothes for when I started work.
“I get emotional support from her too. She listened to how I felt and got me a counsellor.
Without Saudat I doubt I would have gained enough self-confidence to get myself a paid job.
I get a lot of self-esteem from working. The money I have is what I’ve earned and after so many years on benefits, that feels good. I am earning my own keep and contributing to society and that enables me to have a home and a stable relationship,” says Laura, who with her partner got the keys to a flat two months ago.
“I never thought my life would be where it is now. And it’s so good to know I’m helping people,” she adds. “The organisation I work for provides floating support for people with complex mental health issues, who I have real empathy for.”