Gorwel on hand to help – a tale of two who reached out

Many of us will be opening our warm and safe homes to welcome family and friends over the Christmas period. But for an increasing number of people, the Christmas holidays bring money worries and fears for the future.

Gorwel is one organisation that is helping support people at this time of year.

Gorwel is the part of Grŵp Cynefin housing association that provides quality services to support people who have lost or are at risk of losing their homes and people surviving domestic abuse. The organisation works with individuals and families, including tenants of Grŵp Cynefin, within four counties in north Wales: Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire.

Here we talk to two women who have faced difficulties but with Gorwel’s help, have overcome challenges and are looking optimistically to the future.

Their message is clear, life can change for the better if you ask for help.

Olivia’s story:

Olivia* had been in and out of homelessness services since she was 16 when her mother said she couldn’t live at home anymore. She spent a year in a hostel and although she wanted to live on her own, she wasn’t ready.

“I wanted my own place but couldn’t cope and was really up and down mentally,” she said.

During Covid, things got worse. “I was really struggling, I couldn’t get a job and didn’t have anyone to help,” she added.

She went back to her family but things didn’t work out and she was back staying in hotels and temporary accommodation. Then she was offered an apartment at Gorwel’s Yr Hafod in Denbigh. Alongside six high quality self-contained apartments, Yr Hafod provides 16 to 25 year olds facing homelessness with 24 hour support. This links them into other services provided by HWB Dinbych, a Grŵp Cynefin centre,  which is located in the same building.

This is where things started to change for Olivia. She said: “I went to college and got my A levels. It was so hard – I didn’t want to go but I knew I had to keep pushing myself. My support worker helped me get funding to learn to drive and I’ve passed my theory. I’ve also done some therapy sessions.”

Olivia now feels able to live on her own and is looking to move from Yr Hafod in January. She then plans to go to Manchester University in 2025 to study creative writing.

When asked what she’s learnt from her experiences and what she would say to others facing similar challenges, Olivia said: “I kept focusing on the long term – I knew that if I wanted the future to be different from the past, I had to make that happen. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without Gorwel and my support worker. They gave me stability, linked me into grants and helped me to live independently. But I had to take responsibility and focus not on the past but on what I wanted my future to be.”

Norma’s story:

Norma first came into contact with Gorwel when she was in hospital. “I remember seeing this lady going round talking to people in the different beds and I thought I’ll pretend to be asleep but she came over and we got chatting,” she recalled.  Norma’s husband also wasn’t well. He had COPD and heart problems and although their four daughters looked after them both as much as they could, it was still difficult to deal with her own health problems and care for her husband.

Gorwel’s support worker helped Norma throughout this period and she accessed attendance allowance. After some time Joe had to have palliative care and later died. Norma told us: “I didn’t know anything about claiming things. After Joe died I had to carry on and she helped me while I was grieving.”

Gorwel also organised adaptations and supported Norma when there were problems with the utility companies. A year later Norma moved house and the support worker helped her deal with misunderstandings around council tax.

We asked Norma what the services have meant to her and what she would say to anyone in a similar situation. She told us: “I’ve had a wonderful life and have four lovely daughters but the last three years have been really difficult. I didn’t want to burden my family with everything. My support worker looked after me when Joe died, fought for me every step of the way with the gas company and the council, and was just so helpful and kind. I would have been seriously mentally ill if it wasn’t for her with everything that happened.”

She added: “If anyone is facing the kinds of things I have, I would say give Gorwel a call. If you’re in trouble, they’ll be there for you. They can help in ways you couldn’t imagine. They are my guardian angels.”

Reflecting on the importance of the services Gorwel provides, Jane Dodds MS, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

“This festive period is meant to represent generosity and prosperity for all, but for so many people it can feel like anything else. Far too many people this year are facing the risk of losing their homes. Behind every statistic on homelessness is a person or family crying out for help. We as a nation must be compassionate towards those in need of our help, not just during the festive period but year-round.

Services like Gorwel play a vital role in ensuring that people are being kept safe and off the streets this winter. I’d like to pay tribute to all those who will continue to ensure that, over the Christmas period, the most vulnerable in our society are cared for and protected.”

The Future Generations Commissioner, Derek Walker told us, “A safe and secure home is core to a child having a bright and optimistic future. Too many young people are growing up without this in Wales and numbers are rising. Despite the economic challenges, public bodies need to find a way to address this to make sure our children now and in the future can thrive and Wales can be a better place for all of us.”

*This name has been changed to protect the person’s privacy.

For Gorwel’s help, contact on 0300 111 2121 or gorwel@gorwel.org


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