Families attend The Family Haven for many reasons – some need the basics that many of us take for granted, and look for a hot daily meal, access to our second hand clothing store and use of our bathroom and laundry. Others attend so they can avail of our counselling and advocate service, parenting classes and information sessions. But one thing they all have in common is a need for support at this particular time in their lives. The case studies below describe some of the difficulties facing families we assist. Names have been changed.
Amanda and her three-year-old daughter Serena have recently become homeless and placed in B&B accommodation where there are no cooking facilities so they live on sandwiches and fast food. Serena goes to pre-school every afternoon but apart from that the family was not getting out of the B&B. They now come to us every morning and stay for their lunch.
Mum is starting to make friends here and is coming out of her shell in the parenting classes. We are encouraging her to take part in cooking sessions so that she can take some prepared meals home.
Serena didn’t settle very quickly into the nursery, she was snatching toys from other children and was quite disruptive. She couldn’t sit to listen to a short story, and sitting at the table for lunch with the other children was a big challenge as it was so unfamiliar. Over time she has grown in confidence with the praise she receives from the nursery staff; they set her achievable goals that have allowed her to succeed. She can now listen to a story all the way through, sit with the others for lunch without being disruptive, and she is a much happier girl. The regular routine of attending the nursery has helped her grown in confidence and improved her social skills. The support Mum has received here has made her more open and relaxed, which in turn has enabled Serena to flourish.
Sarah and her two young children, Isaac and Rebecca had recently moved to Gloucester after fleeing terrible domestic violence. Alone and in a new city, they had no family or friends around them to provide support and they had fled with very little money and few possessions.
Sarah explains “I was very alone and struggling to pay for food for the children so The Family Haven arranged a referral to the foodbank and signposted me to other support services to help with benefit claims and housing so we could get back on our feet. They also provided clothes and toys from their second hand store for Isaac and Rebecca, which was wonderful and really helped them have some normality. Thank you.”
Isaac and Rebecca attended two sessions a week at The Family Haven whilst Sarah attended appointments and therapy to help her overcome the difficulty of leaving her violent relationship, she also spends time at The Family Haven where she has started to make new friends and build up a new support network. Isaac recently started school.
When Leah was 2 she was very poorly and had to spend 6 months in hospital in Bristol. For Rachel, her Mum, this was a very stressful time because as a single Mum she also had to look after her 3 year old sister Dinah. She had some limited support from a family member and a friend so we arranged for Dinah to attend The Family Haven 3 days a week to provide respite and consistency during a chaotic time.
Rachel explains “When Leah was in hospital my priorities were split I wanted to be with her but I also wanted to be with Dinah and for her to have some normality. I am so grateful for everyone at The Family Haven they spoke to me regularly on the phone to give me support and once a week I would come to spend time with Dinah and to have a well deserved rest in the parents’ room. Thank you.”
We are helping a single dad with two children. When he first arrived with us John had just taken over care of his children who had been removed by Social Services from the care of their mother. He had been estranged from the mother for some while and had had very limited contact with his children.
John says “When the kids arrived I had very few clothes and no toys for them, and I was sofa surfing with friends. I didn’t know how I was going to cope”.
Housing managed to secure him a place in a hostel and we helped him fill out all the forms for benefits and registering with a GP. We have given him clothes from our free donated clothing store, toys for the children and also sorted him out with towels, crockery, cutlery, etc. for the family. We provide crèche for the children to enable John to attend court to sort out custody matters.
This family will need a lot of support, both practical and emotional, to help them secure a solid future.
The children have settled well into the nursery and attend three times a week, which gives them a good structured routine. It also allows them space to play and let off steam, which is sadly lacking in the hostel they are living in at present.
Fatima and her son came to us last year for support. They were refugees/asylum seekers who had been placed in home office accommodation. Adar was three years old and mum was pregnant with a second when the family first came to us.
We gave Adar the opportunity he needed to socialise with other children and receive some pre school training to get him ready to start school in September.
Mum needed to get out of the house to meet other parents and to have a break from her caring duties; she was getting very tired as her pregnancy progressed.
Shortly before the baby was born the family were moved out of the home office accommodation and were placed in a homeless hostel. At the hostel the family had one room and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, all food and kitchen equipment had to be kept in the bedroom. The family looked forward to coming to The Family Haven where they could relax in a safe place with other families and have space to play. When baby was born the other parents helped out to give Fatima a break.
In September Adar started school and Fatima started a course at Gloscol, getting a place for baby Sarah in the college crèche, so the family were able to move on and have no further need of our services.
Fatima says “The Family Haven has been invaluable in helping give my family a chance to make a good start in our new lives in Gloucester. We can’t imagine how we would have coped without the friends we have made here and the support of the staff. Thank you.”
Wendy and her three children came to us having fled a domestic violence situation in another part of the country. They had been placed in B&B accommodation and Mum was very traumatised from her situation and didn’t know how she was going to cope with all the children on her own. She was not familiar with Gloucester and did not have any family around to help. She was waiting to be housed in Stroud where she has family to provide a support network.
Wendy had fled with very little, so we sorted her out with a good selection of clothes and toys for the children from our free second hand store (from donated items). We listened to her problems and reassured her that she had done the right thing in leaving her violent partner; we also pointed her in the direction of other support services such as the Job Centre for benefits and housing.
We looked after the children James (3), Ben (18 mo) and Tiffany (3mo) whilst she attended appointments and also when she organised her move to Stroud. We then helped her sort out a school for her eldest James who was due to start school in September.
Wendy says “I couldn’t see how I’d be able to cope with life moving to Gloucestershire. The Staff at the Family Haven have made the change for me and my children so much easier. Being able to leave the children somewhere safe while I sorted out where we would live, how we would pay for it, and more, really put my mind at rest and made it much faster to get done.”
Alice is three years old and has been attending The Family Haven for almost two years. When Alice first arrived at the Haven she was a looked after child. Her mum was recovering from alcohol and drug dependency and Alice was not her mum’s main priority, as a result she was very unsettled and insecure.
Through one to one support, Alice’s love of books and music, and lots of love and attention, we have been able to show Alice how valued she is as an individual. She also received Speech and Language Therapy when she first arrived which has rapidly increased her communication skills and her ability to interact with those around her. This also enabled her to communicate her physical and basic needs.
Alice and mum are both doing extremely well and have come a very long way. Their relationship has been nurtured and they enjoy every experience together. Alice is now a very happy, settled and confident girl. She has a very good imagination and loves to include the other children in her play. Her communication skills are continuing to develop well and she is confident to share her experiences with those around her. Alice enjoys caring for the younger children at nursery. It is very evident that the care she has now been receiving at home and at nursery is being passed on to those around her.