Ben, Gemma and Alfie’s story

Ben came to Action Homeless eleven months ago after becoming homeless due to a relationship breakdown. He never had any stability when he was a child; he grew up in care and was regularly moved from one foster family to another, up and down the country. He didn’t have any family or enough time to form friendships, so when his relationship with his girlfriend broke down he had no one to turn to.

Ben initially came to Action Homeless through a referral from Leicester City Council. He was offered accommodation at Oakfield House, a shared house managed by Action Homeless. Although Ben was scared and alone, he was able to start rebuilding his life in a more independent environment.

Whilst Ben was living at Oakfield, he started a new relationship with his girlfriend Gemma who quickly became pregnant. Gemma had left home when she was 16 after having a difficult childhood during which she was abused by her father and suffered neglect. Like Ben, she didn’t have a support network to help her and had cut all contact with her family. Over the next few months, Ben and Gemma lived apart whilst they tried to find somewhere to live together. Ben continued to live with Action Homeless and Gemma stayed with various friends, often sofa surfing. After a while this became increasingly difficult and once the baby came along Gemma was acutely aware that she had no space to take care of her son. Not only did Gemma feel like she was outstaying her welcome, but she was distressed by the fact that her family wasn’t living together as a unit. Ben also felt like he was missing out on precious time with Alfie and Gemma.

Over the last year Ben has made amazing progress in quickly moving into more independent living at Oakfield. He has also started volunteering for Action Trust, a social enterprise which offers employment and training opportunities to people who have experienced homelessness. Ben is a painter by trade so it has been great for him to put his skills to use and increase his employability at the same time. He also hopes that by getting back into work he will be setting a good example for his son and be able to give him a good life.

In December Action Homeless was able to offer Ben and Gemma a family home of their own through the Action on Empty Homes scheme which renovates empty properties and rents them out to individuals and families who have experienced homelessness. The family also receive support from Action Homeless’ Empty Homes Worker, Denise, who provides help with things like budgeting and helping Ben to look for work.  For the first time Ben, Gemma and Alfie were able to live together as a family, just in time for Christmas. Ben and Gemma are so grateful for all of Denise’s support along the way that they now say that she is part of the family.

*Please note names have been changed to protect the identity of the family.

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