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Kath thanks Derventio for helping her turn her life around

Kath Gill was once homeless and jobless. Her children had been moved away from living with her.

Now two years sober, and proud of her own home and job, she tells her story and of how Derventio Housing Trust – with kindness, patience and understanding – helped her get back on her feet and better still, get her family back in her life again.

When Kath was around 15 years old, she began a relationship that was to dramatically affect the course of her life.

It wasn’t with a person. It was with alcohol. Now 61, Kath remembers:

I was brought up by a single mum. My dad was a lorry driver and he was here and there. My mum did the best she could with what she’d got, but although I went to school every day I didn’t really have a great education and I wasn’t given the chance to sit my exams as I left school early. I remember I left on a Thursday and started work the following Monday.

It was then that it started. I used to go out with my dad to the pub at weekends. I’d just have a half pint but I got a taste for alcohol then and that’s when my problems began.

Alcohol was quite literally to rip Kath’s life apart. It led her down a tortuous, destructive pathway of abusive relationships, to having to give up her children, and eventually to losing her home.

But then Kath encountered an organisation that was to change her life around. She was introduced to the services of Derventio Housing Trust, which not only offers housing to people who have recently been made homeless, but also has a range of other support services to help people get back on their feet and see the positives in life once again.

Not only did Derventio help Kath by putting a roof over her head, but through its services she found something equally as precious: a future.

Kath was able to forge a path ahead through two schemes Derventio runs: Employability and Growing Lives. Based in Ilkeston, Growing Lives gives people the chance to take part in a range of activities designed to offer skills they may be able to use to get back into the world again. These include woodworking, growing food, working outdoors and repairing bikes.

But Growing Lives offers even more to those who go along: it gives people the warmth of a supportive network of friends, of a family. As Kath puts it:

When you’re on Derventio’s books they like you to participate in the projects they run. So I went along to Growing Lives every day. What was good was that the people there never judged my addiction. They helped you. I really enjoyed the outdoors projects in particular, like our visits to Shipley Country Park. I’m an outdoors person.

At Growing Lives we would just talk to each other. If you were having a bad day you could talk to people about it. I came to see the people at Growing Lives as like a family. They were just there for you when you needed them. I still go when I can, when I’m not working.

They helped me through some really tough times. When I couldn’t afford a proper meal they used to give me food to help me out until I got paid. I just looked upon the people at Growing Lives as people I could turn to, people who would listen to me instead of judging me for my lack of education.

As a result, I felt comfortable with them. I got things done with them. They sat with me. If I had a problem they would resolve it with me and we’d get it done together.

Then a friend and I did a six-month course on peer mentoring. I knew I could do it. I’m good with people. It really helped give me confidence.

At the employability service they helped me get a job in a care home. I had to get two buses to get to work, so Derventio helped me get my own place – a beautiful little bungalow. I only needed one bus to get there.

Now Kath has a been sober for two years. She is seeing her family again and feels proud of what she has achieved with the help of Derventio and its staff.

I’m feeling good now. I know how destructive alcohol can be. I watch other people now and I sit on the fence. Once drink gets into your system you start making a fool of yourself. You’ll do anything for a drink. It makes me sick to think that’s the person I once was. I nearly lost contact with my children altogether through alcohol.

But I now do alternative things with my free time. I spend time with my family, making up for the time I should have spent with them before. Now I’m back on track. And it means a lot because all my family and especially my kids are so proud of me for doing what I’ve done, and how far I’ve come.

If it wasn’t for Derventio I don’t think I’d be where I am today.