“My whole life has changed”, Anna, aged 18
Anna was referred to Empower by a Gangs Youth Worker who had noticed her hanging around a number of different gang members. She had previously been involved in shoplifting, robbery offences and concealing weapons. The Gangs Youth Worker set up a meeting between Anna and an Empower Young People’s Advocate (YPA).
Anna was homeless, and as she had nowhere else to go was sleeping on friends’ sofas. These friends were all gang members and she knew they were involved in dealing drugs and violent crime. She didn’t want to get involved with their activities but they were the only people who had offered her support, and she didn’t want to sleep on the streets.
The YPA worked with Anna to identify her hopes and fears for the future. Anna wanted to get a job and a place of her own. She had applied for a number of positions but found it hard as she didn’t have a computer or money to pay for travel to job interviews, and wasn’t sure how to go about getting a job. With the support of the YPA, Anna began applying for jobs using local libraries and community centres where she could use computers free of charge.
However, it also emerged through their ongoing meetings that Anna was in an increasingly risky situation with her accommodation. Anna was staying with a “friend” who regularly brought friends back to his house whom Anna was scared of and who she felt would rape her or force her to perform sexual acts. To avoid the situation she walked the streets all night. The YPA supported Anna to navigate housing services. Anna received a grant to pay for a flat deposit and with the YPA’s support, found an affordable flat share. Within two weeks of moving into her new flat, Anna had secured an apprenticeship and began working full-time.
As Anna’s life became more stable she disclosed a number of traumatic incidences she had experienced in her teenage years. She had hung around gang members and had both witnessed and experienced high levels of physical and sexual violence over the years. The YPA found a counselling service that Anna could go to and supported her to attend weekly counselling appointments.
Anna says she is in a much better place now. She said that at times she felt trapped, wanted to get out of the situation she was in but she didn’t know where to go to for help. She said the YPA helped her make sense of all the services she needed to access. She needed someone to be supportive and help guide her through.