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Real Life Stories


I moved to Hemel Hempstead in the late 80’s and set up a nail salon.  Business was booming and life was good.  I had 3 adorable children, and everything was going to plan; in fact, everything was perfect!
Then lots of salons were popping up everywhere. My takings were down, and with 3 children to look after, it was becoming impossible to keep afloat. During this time, I noticed I was drinking more. Drink had become my way of dealing with troubles.
My debts continued to rise and eventually, when I had nothing left to sell, I was declared bankrupt. I lost my house, I’d fallen out with family, the friends I had were just drinking buddies; there was nobody to turn to.  Soon after, my marriage hit the rocks and by 2017, I had absolutely nothing to my name. In 15 years, I had managed to lose everything.
I felt completely alone. My depression started to take a grip and I couldn’t see any hope. I took some pills and alcohol and woke up 4 days later in hospital. Later on, after another failed suicide attempt, I was back on the ward. I knew the only people who could help me now was DENS. A few years ago I’d been living in a beautiful home with my beautiful children and here I was, about to move into a hostel.
At first, I was scared but I soon felt safe and supported. The Elms hostel staff were incredible, they built me back up and helped me see a way forward. I was allocated a key worker and also attended a 12-week 1-2-1 therapy program which was so beneficial for me.
DENS helped me rebuild my life. I now have a place of my own, a place to call home. I volunteer at a community café giving me a routine and more importantly, a purpose. If it wasn’t for DENS, I’d be dead, it’s as simple as that. DENS supported me through my darkest time and helped me when I was at rock bottom. Life now looks very much brighter.

Gauvin came to DENS following a severe motorbike accident, which left him unable to continue in his employment as he was self-employed.

Subsequently Gauvin lost his private rented accommodation which he was unable to afford.

Gauvin’s main hindrance was that English was not his first language and he didn’t understand the benefit system. Although Gauvin was mentally capable, his injuries impeded him from being able to attend appointments.

DENS Support workers gained written form of authority to act on Gauvin’s behalf and assisted Gauvin to apply for Housing and other benefits to which he was entitled.

As Gauvin recovered from his accident, his aim was to return to work once fully recovered, but this would require a refresher of his current qualification.

DENS contacted a charity which provide grants to people qualified in this trade area and they agreed to fund Gauvin’s refresher course and to provide funds to pay Gauvin’s first month rent and deposit for their move on accommodation.

Gauvin was able to find private rented accommodation due to the financial help from the grant provider and is due to return to work next month having successfully completed his refresher course.

Martin's Story

Martin came to DENS following a relationship breakdown. The property was in his partner's name so once the relationship broke down he had to leave the accommodation almost immediately. Martin had a number of health issues that were gradually getting worse. Martin was retired due to ill health and his age. His low income made it very difficult for Martin to find suitable settled accommodation and he came into DENS Emergency Accommodation where his health continued to slowly deteriorate.

A DENS Key Worker ensured that Martin had all the benefits he was entitled to, this involved assisting Martin to apply for PIP (Personal Independent Payment) which then in turn paid the mobility element of this benefit which enabled Martin to purchase and run a car.

His Key Worker then helped Martin to apply for a Blue Badge to assist with parking. DENS Move On helped Martin to register on the housing register and began supporting him searching for rental properties and to bid on social housing properties

DENS Key worker completed the DBC medical form with Martin and took this to the GP for them to complete their section. Some GP surgeries charge to complete the medical form, this charge ranges from £10 - £30 even if clients are on low incomes. DENS stepped in to pay the £25 for the completed form.

Martin’s was awarded medical points and was now eligible for sheltered housing. Martin received an offer of accommodation within weeks. The property was ideal, however social housing properties are supplied without white goods

Move On now turned its attention to how we could help Martin to furnish their new property. Speaking to Martin, we discovered that he was previously in the Armed Forces. His key worker contacted SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity and they came out to assess Martin for assistance. SSAFA provided financial assistance to Martin to enable him to buy all his white goods and furniture. DENS key worker had also applied to a number of other charitable grant providers and secured enough money for Martin to buy essential items such as curtains.

Martin is now living in a safe and settled sheltered accommodation with a introduction tenancy and his health is stable.

Benjamin came to The Elms on the 22nd May 2015. He was originally placed by the council at a local hotel in temporary accommodation. His story starts with a relationship breakdown and having nowhere to stay. Due to disabilities the council agreed that he was in need of a place to stay. Before they could find somewhere more permanently he would be staying at the hostel which is where I met Benjamin.

Now, to introduce myself. My name is Sue and I work at The Elms as a Support & Resettlement Worker. I met Benjamin when he moved here back in May 2015. My role was to help Benjamin with paperwork, benefit issues and liaise closely with the council with regards to moving him on. I was also available for anything that was worrying Benjamin. After a long and sometimes frustrating period of time Benjamin was offered a property. However, there was a further wait whilst the property was adapted.

Finally Benjamin moved out of The Elms on Monday 14th March 2016. I helped him get some furniture from the DENS Furniture Warehouse and a foodbank voucher for a food parcel. My role within DENS is to support people out in the community so to begin with I visited Benjamin once a week to make sure that all paperwork was in place and he had done the changes of address with the district nurse/GP and registered with utilities.

We have now agreed to fortnightly visits as his confidence has risen greatly. Benjamin is currently struggling with many issues, which includes his physical health but he is now in a place where he is dealing with this issues virtually independent of myself.

At 49, Andy was comfortable in his life in Worcestershire with a good job, a house, and a wife and daughter. 3 months later he was out of work, at the start of a divorce and homeless. After returning to Hemel Andy found a temporary job, and when his contract ended the council placed him and his daughter in an emergency accommodation flat. 

When life seemed to be settled again for Andy, the council decided that since he still had equity in a house he wasn’t entitled to housing benefit, and so would have to sell the house. As Andy’s ex-wife was living there and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Andy refused to sell and was given three days notice to leave his council property. With his daughter living with his parents, Andy himself was left alone and with nowhere to go.

When he was sleeping in a skip and feeling at his lowest point, a friend recommended that Andy visit DENS. When he arrived, he told his sad story to a support worker, where upon he was given a bed, a meal and a shower, as well as the promise that he would receive all the further help available through DENS. After he’d finished his maximum stay, Andy had to leave and he bought a tent to sleep in.

Having found a new job, Andy faced the problem of having nowhere to keep his luggage and having to carry it with him to work. While the situation with his house meant that he couldn’t have a full place at the Night Shelter, DENS offered Andy a bed whenever there was one free, and a place to keep his belongings during the day. DENS continued to support Andy with food and use of the shower facilities, as well as help with his deposit and advice on finding accommodation.

“Every single person that gives up their own personal time for DENS is a truly unique and fabulous person. Each one of them has a welcoming smile and not one ever judges. Without the help of DENS I honestly believe my depression would have spiralled down further and I may have possibly reached a point that I wouldn’t have wanted to return from. In other words I truly believe that DENS saved my life.” 

- Andy

I became homeless for the third time in my life on the 23rd of March 2016 due to a split with my girlfriend. As I had nowhere to go I immediately went to Dacorum Borough Council and they kindly contacted The Elms who immediately offered me the crash pad for the night. Fortunately I had just enough funds for a B&B for the night so I stayed there and contacted DENS again and was extremely surprised and happy to find that within a few hours I was allocated my own room and made to feel welcome.

Understandably, as a sufferer of anxiety and panic attacks I initially felt quite overwhelmed by the whole situation but with the kindness of staff and other residents it took no time at all to feel at home and settled and I must add also very safe. At the time of my arrival it was a bank holiday but I was allowed to settle in and after approximately 5 days I was allocated my keyworker. From this point onwards I really started to feel I was ‘getting somewhere’ with regards to my future. In less than a week my whole attitude had changed - it went from standing in despair outside the council to happy, secure and believing in a new beginning.

My honest opinion of the Elms (DENS) is simply fantastic. I have now been here approximately 3 months and with the assistance of my keyworker, my GP, the council, all the staff and residents at The Elms I can honestly say this is one of the happiest times in my life and in only a few weeks from now I shall be moving into my brand new own council flat. To be honest, though I believe my stay here has been a great opportunity you do have to put the work in yourself and then the rewards are fantastic. I have been through a lot in my life with addiction, depression, anxiety etc. and there are many similar stories here but it’s a lovely, kind environment where everybody is so understanding. There is also a great work / training / activity program here which I have made the most of by completing and passing my Fist Aid at Work course as well as arranging a new CV and applying for various volunteer positions. There is and unfortunately always will be a stigma attached to homelessness but within DENS there is a great future to be had and many opportunities available.

To sum up, the staff, the residents, the opportunities since my time here have been amazing and I truly made some genuine friends for life. The accommodation is wonderful too and all I can say after 3 periods of homelessness is DENS in my opinion has to be the way forward.

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