Oasis Community Housing support worker Mandy Pattison is at the forefront of a new homelessness campaign by Amnesty International UK, Housing Is A Human Right, and has shared her own experience of homelessness in a bid to give others hope.
“Homelessness can happen to anyone,” Mandy explains. The journey for me was drink and drugs. They took over. They cost me my life: my home, my family, my sense of self-worth, everything.
“For years I was so full of fear. I had to lean on services for everything. But now I can speak for myself – and by sharing my story, I want it to give others hope.”
Mandy says the main reason that she got involved in the homelessness campaign by Amnesty is because of the organisation’s human rights focus:
“For me, the biggest human rights wrong is not looking someone on the street in the eye. If you choose to ignore the human, the person, behind the homelessness.”
Amnesty is calling for the current ‘priority need’ condition to be abolished. At present, local authorities are required to assess whether anyone found to be eligible for homelessness assistance is deemed to be in a ‘priority need’ category. This determination of priority need is a significant block for many, especially people who are classified as ‘single homeless’ or those without dependent children. Without a secure place to live, it is impossible to obtain work, find housing and get their children back.
Mandy, whose children were taken in by family members, commented: “What made the traumatic experience even worse was, as being classed a single homeless female. I was therefore not ‘priority need’ and it took longer to be given a place where I felt safe. This prolonged the period of me being separated from my children”.
Mandy says she would change it all in a flash for her daughters – and, now, her granddaughter. However, she is also very philosophical about her experience of homelessness.
Last August, she started working at Oasis Community Housing’s 58:7 project, an 8-bed emergency accommodation in Gateshead.
“I have a job that I adore and when the lads come into the emergency accommodation, I can identify with them because of my lived experience. At Oasis Community Housing, I’ve been organising activities like an afternoon tea for the Jubilee and we’re having a Friday night Rave this week; doing ‘normal’ things that make the guys feel like they’re worth it, that they’re part of a community.
“Had it not gone so toxic, it wouldn’t have brought me here. That darkness gave me a new perspective and I just want to be the best I can be. My girls are really proud.”