I am classified as 'homeless'. My circumstance, the decisions I made and the social environment in which I live are contributing factors to my state of homelessness.

I was born in 1956 within the peel of Bow Bells so officially, "I'm a Cockney". My parents emigrated from different regions of the Common Wealth. They worked hard for three years and saved up the required deposit to mortgage their first home, in North London. For the next 15½ years, I lived and learnt the values of right and wrong in a family environment, with my three younger sisters.

Aged 18 years, I met my partner. We lived together for a few years and saved the required deposit to mortgage our first home. We got married and we went on to have two boys now aged 19 years and 16 years. Family life was materially comfortable, a home, a car, private schooling for the boys, family holiday every year etc.... In appearance, this was a perfect family.

However, my husband's controlling behaviour gradually diminished my feelings of self worth, self-esteem and self-confidence, resulting in the loss of my identity. I constructed a façade based on my perception of the instilled values of the 'perfect wife' and the 'perfect mother'. After 28 years together, I reach a point where I could no longer accept the way in which I lived. I gave up on the hope 'tomorrow will be better' when I walked away from the relationship knowing that I did not know where I was going, or how to rebuild my life.

A family member took me in on the condition that I live my life by their rules. After one month, I decided to move, realising I had exchanged one set of controls for another. I had become a regular at the Woman's Day Centre at Church Army. Through this association, C.A. via the Marylebone Project, offered me an emergency bed.

After one night in the emergency unit, the Marylebone Project offered me a semi permanent bed at Elgood House. I felt that 'I was in a place where I did not feel unwanted'. I consider, staff do the best they can to treat people as people. This opportunity gave me a safe and stable environment to build new foundations. Here, I began the process of completely rebuilding my life.

A year on, I have a positive attitude regarding my future. This has changed from, "expecting others to do for me or do to me" to "Living life is about knowing what I want, utilising the opportunities as presented to me and then offering my service to others". There is encouragement and support at Church Army, in this regard.

During my time here, I have felt a change in the hostel atmosphere. Residents are more inclined to participate in group activities, encouraged and supported by both Church Army and residents. This experience has helped me to realise that I am not alone in my way of thinking or the methods I employ in realising individual potential.

As a result, of this supportive environment, I would like to share one of my personal achievements. I have successfully completed a 60-hour counsellor course at Westminster Adult Education College and I have gone on to apply for a 1 year certificate course in counselling skills. C. A. Women's Day Centre, the Marylebone Project and The Bridge are supporting me in achieving a goal, to be a fully qualified counsellor.

Finally, I wanted to tell my story for two reasons. The first reason is to reflect on my journey of change and assess my achievements. The second reason, my story may inspire people, in a similar circumstance to my own, to view their time in a hostel as an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

The creative writing group is a safe environment, allowing me to explore and enhance my abilities to express and share life experiences.

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