Robyn Jones, 23, has been living at ‘Naomi’ – shared, supported accommodation run by homelessness charity Oasis Community Housing – for the past year. She started making the one-of-a-kind gift cards earlier this year, when the first lockdown meant many of the home’s communal activities had to be halted due to social distancing.
Robyn, who first experienced homelessness when she was 12, has been doing jigsaws since she was little. Her mam was an alcoholic and, as Robyn was growing up, there were frequently drug users in the house.
Yet she remembers fondly how her love of jigsaws began.
“My mam used to buy jigsaws for me, whenever she saw one she’d get it and bring it home for me,” says Robyn. “I’m not sure where the idea to make the jigsaw cards came from, it just came to me. But I find doing them really helps my anxiety – it is my biggest struggle and impacts me every day, in some way. Doing the jigsaw allows me to be mindful though, and just focus on what’s in front of me.”
8 in 10 homeless people report experiencing some form of mental health issue. It was the end of Robyn’s relationship with an abusive partner that led to her having a psychotic episode and she was referred to the Naomi project.
Naomi is one of 17 projects run by Oasis Community Housing across the North East of England and London, supporting young women and men to move out of homelessness and towards independent living. Staff offer residents support through talking therapy sessions as well as practical assistance such as cooking on a budget and registering with a GP.
Rosalynd McNally, Project Team Leader for Naomi and another of the Gateshead-based charity’s homes, said: “It is pretty special that Robyn has found her own way of managing her mental health – and that the cards are so beautiful as well!
“We do all we can to support the young women who come to live with us here at Naomi, with tailored round-the-clock support, and especially during this year’s lockdowns which have been challenging for all of us. However, the Christmas tree and decorations are already up and present-buying is well underway to help create some happy festive memories.”
Commenting on Christmas, Robyn adds: “My overall memories of Christmas aren’t great as I would often be dumped on other people while Mam went out to drink, but I’ll be at Naomi this year.
“It feels like a safe environment and I feel I can talk to the staff here, and be open and honest. It has helped my anxiety – and I definitely plan on continuing making the cards!”