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Nick had recently left the care system himself. He became a client of the Life House shortly after his baby daughter had been taken away from him for adoption. He found this very distressing. His partner used drugs and their relationship was unstable. He was unemployed and felt that he had few prospects in life. The Life House provided for his immediate practical needs.

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Over the course of three years, the Life House then worked with him to rebuild his confidence and teach him how to interact positively with others. As a result, he was successful in gaining permanent, full-time work in an industry that he loved, and is now in a much more healthy and stable relationship. When he and his new partner decided to leave Birmingham, his employer was pleased to transfer his employment to the new location and he has continued to work for that company ever since.

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Donna was a teenage mother who came to us having just escaped from long-term sexual abuse. Her abusers had confined her to the house and she had became pregnant by one of them, but she escaped soon after giving birth and turning 18. She and her child were placed in emergency temporary accommodation, but it was very unsuitable. A relative brought her to the Life House, and we were able to find her and her child a suitable place in a women’s refuge, into which they moved that same afternoon. The refuge had specialist support to enable her to reïntegrate into normal life and learn the life skills that she had been denied the opportunity to learn as a child. We also provided her with food and some essential baby items, which she would otherwise have been unable to afford.

 

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Astrid had ended an abusive relationship and had agreed with her ex-partner that he should see their son regularly. He rarely invested time in their son but, when he did, he was emotionally abusive, neglectful and sometimes violent. Astrid came to the Life House with some paperwork that she didn’t understand. We informed her that her ex-partner had applied for partial custody and that the case was due in court the following day.

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We were unable to find a solicitor at short notice and Astrid was not eligible for legal aid, but we coached her through representing herself* and accompanied her to court. We helped her to work out an outcome that was in her son’s best interests and accompanied her to three subsequent hearings. With our support, she was ultimately successful in achieving an outcome that both protected her and benefited her son.

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 Joseph was a rough-sleeper who was addicted to drugs. He had children, but had been denied access to them because of his lifestyle. The Life House supported him to sell the Big Issue and encouraged him in his work to come off drugs until he became drug-free and secured basic temporary accommodation. A local business noticed his improvement and hard work selling the Big Issue outside their premises, and offered him a job. We helped him with the practicalities he needed to take up and sustain the job. He now works full time and is able to pay his own rent from his own salary. Because of his stable and improved lifestyle, he can now have his children visit his home whenever they want. Joseph attributes his transformation to the support provided by the Life House and Christian Life Church.

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A young family in poverty was nominated by their school to benefit from our free school uniform initiative. The family consisted of a mother and father and some young children. The mother came to collect the free uniforms, bringing her children, who enjoyed the activities provided at our family fun day. Meanwhile, we discussed with their mother whether we could assist in any other way. During a follow-up appointment, we were able to identify that the young family was at risk due to criminal activity. The family was at risk of continuous threats, vandalism, regular theft of their money, serious neglect, physical violence and exposure to drug- and gun crime. We were aware that the same patterns of criminal behaviour had recently contributed to a death elsewhere. With the mother’s permission, we referred the case to social services, and worked with the family and social services to alert the family to the extent of the danger and to assist them to extricate themselves from the situation.

Their financial outlook immediately improved, and the father found permanent employment soon afterwards. When we last met them, the family felt that they were prospering.

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 Sita attended our drop-in lounge. She had learning difficulties and a mental illness and was vulnerable to sexual exploitation. She became pregnant by her on-off boyfriend, and repeatedly demonstrated that she was very excited to have the baby. However, following an incident of self-harm, she was hospitalised. We visited her in hospital and discovered that she was under severe (and illegal) pressure to undergo an abortion. Sita was unable to consent meaningfully but, despite her vulnerability and lack of capacity to articulate her wishes, the abortion was due to proceed and nobody was challenging it on Sita’s behalf. We were not at all convinced that an abortion was really in accordance with her wishes, and we challenged it with social services. The abortion was then cancelled. We offered her support with parenting prior to and after delivery, and she gave birth to a healthy baby. Unfortunately, she did not engage with the parenting support on offer and her child was fostered. Nonetheless, when she was better able to express herself, she told us that she had been opposed to having an abortion all along, and she thanked us for ensuring that she had the opportunity to bring her child to full term.

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 Yusuf came to the Ark for financial assistance because he was in unmanageable debt. He was severely depressed and felt that he would never be able to work again. We assisted him with food parcels and referred him to Christians Against Poverty, a specialist debt advisory charity, lending them our facilities to work with him. (He felt that his home was unsuitable because his depression had prevented him from maintaining it).Gradually, his confidence built to the point where he was able to do short-term seasonal work. We then assisted him to take advantage of some local educational opportunities. When we last met him, he was debt-free and much less depressed, and he had been offered a place at university, to which he was very much looking forward.

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 Jon had learning disabilities, and a violent incident of sexual assault in his past had left him with permanent physical disabilities and PTSD. He had approached various organisations for help with certain needs, but nobody had the full picture and this made it difficult for any agency to help him effectively. With Jon’s approval, we called together the various agencies involved in supporting him, and Jon attended the meeting. Jon allowed the participants to share their knowledge and to divide responsibilities for his care. Each agency now better understands Jon’s needs and how it can best support him. Jon has now received some significant financial compensation for his ordeal, to help him to manage the ongoing physical and mental effects of the trauma he experienced. He continues to receive support from agencies that are now able to better work together.