REAL LIFE: Charlene can trust again
(pictured right) is slowly healing from the traumatic experiences of the last year, with help from the YMCA Norfolk
team at Throckmorton Yard
and from Cathy
and her support worker at the supported lodgings where she has been temporarily housed.
She was just 19 when her world fell apart. Life had been reasonably steady for a few years, living with her boyfriend and working in a restaurant. But then she fell pregnant and her 26-year old boyfriend and his family refused to support her and wanted the pregnancy terminated. The relationship began to break down under the strain. Finally they had a big row and her boyfriend asked her to leave.
Charlene was six months pregnant, she had no family to go to and she was homeless. She went to the council for help and they directed her to Throckmorton Yard. "I knocked on the door and a lady with bright red hair answered. It was Pat.
She saw how nervous I was and gave me a cuddle; she made me feel really welcome."
Just a few weeks later Charlene suffered a miscarriage. She then had the added trauma of having to postpone her son's funeral at the last minute while the coroners carried out their investigations. "I don't know how I got the strength to cope with that day," she says. "It was really hard." It was another two weeks before the funeral took place and the coroner's report confirmed that Tylah
had died from a lung infection.
On top of losing her home and her relationship, the miscarriage was a terrible ordeal which, thankfully, Charlene didn't have to go through on her own. "It's really hard coming to terms with losing everything," she says. "But I've had so much help from everybody here, I couldn't ask for more." As well as the support workers – Margaret, Luke
and Pat – there was a girl who had been through a similar experience. "She did so much, just talking to me – it's a big weight off your shoulders knowing there are people who know what you're going through."
Charlene describes her upbringing as lacking in support and affection. She moved in with her boyfriend when she was just 16. They had a nice house and Charlene had a good job, and for nearly four years she had what she describes as "the perfect life". But then it all went wrong.
Still grieving for her losses, Charlene has also discovered something she didn't have before – support, friendship and a new kind of hope for the future. "I've never had people around who will sit down and talk to me," she says. "Now I want, not to forget what's happened, but to set it aside and concentrate on the future."
Charlene is now living in supported lodgings on the Larkman estate and she is looking forward to being housed in a flat. If she can successfully maintain her tenancy for a full three months, she will qualify as 'gold band' housing priority and should then get a flat within a couple of weeks. Charlene is impatient to move on, but in the meantime she still spends quite a bit of time at Throckmorton Yard, helping out around the place and talking with the support workers and residents, and she has taken up voluntary work as a youth worker.
Charlene has been so inspired by the team at Throckmorton that she wants to go on and train as a support worker herself. "They've been through things and have used their experiences to help me. Now I want to use my experience to help other girls."
She's planning to enrol for a college course after she's had a chance to recover more fully and settle into her new flat. This will mean two or three years of study followed by a work placement, and then she will be a qualified support worker.
"I never thought I could trust anyone again, but I have," says Charlene. She describes Margaret, Luke and Pat as "very special people" and says "I will never forget the way they saved and helped me."
By Liz Day
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