From being homeless and having problems with his literacy to developing key skills, gaining qualifications, setting up local groups and winning awards – Alan Penfold from Swansea is one of a number of homeless people who have turned their lives around for the better thanks to support from the National Lottery funded Streets Ahead project.
Run by homeless charity, The Wallich, Streets Ahead aims to break the cycle of homelessness and address associated health and lifestyle issues through learning, education and activities. Thanks to their support, Alan joined the library last year and was able to read his first ever book and he now has aspirations of progressing to a career in the care sector. . .
When I first engaged with the Streets Ahead project I was living in The Wallich’s Dinas Fechen Hostel in Swansea and was at a particularly difficult time in my life.
As well as housing issues, I was suffering with incredibly low confidence and self esteem, was reluctant to leave my room and socialise with others, and had a real fear of crowds and working in a group.
I attended my first Streets Ahead session with difficulty, and struggled with the group work element, but I was determined to make changes in my life and set out a series of goals with the staff. These were recorded on an individual learning plan and included improving my literacy and confidence, learning to cook, improving my fitness, overcoming my fear of groups and crowds, and preparing myself for future employment by gaining qualifications.
I achieved my first certificate in ICT within a week, which boosted my confidence to study for a variety of other awards and qualifications. As I became more comfortable in the learning group and classes, I plucked up the courage to discuss my limited literacy with the rest of the group and sought support from Streets Ahead staff and my peers to complete written tasks. With their help, I spent hours practicing my reading and writing skills and requested additional work to take home to practice. Earlier last year, I joined the library and was able to read my first ever book!
To improve my fitness I started to attend weekly gym sessions and helped set up a Community Running Club, The Wheezels. In September 2012 I proudly ran the Swansea Bay 10k and raised over £200 in sponsorship money to help support future activities for the Streets Ahead project.
I had a difficult childhood and spent most of this caring for a family member so did not have the opportunity to participate in usual childhood activities. My confidence has definitely improved since participating in social activities and I am willing to try anything that is a positive new experience.
I have also signed up to the RSVP Wallich client volunteering programme where I am a member of the press pack which has involved assiting in writing articles for a client magazine. I really enjoy peer support and am now hoping to pursue a career in the Care Sector.
I successfully moved into supported independent accommodation in September 2011 and am enjoying the independence of living on my own. In December, I was awarded the Cymorth Cymru Service User Achievement Award in recognition of my progress and achievements. I’m so grateful to all the staff and my peers at Streets Ahead for giving me the opportunity to take part in things I never thought I could. I’m really excited about the future.
For further information about the National Lottery Community Fund and how you can apply for funding visit www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk
For further information about The Wallich and their Streets Ahead project, please visit www.thewallich.com
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