“I OWE Stonepillow my life,” – these are the words of a young woman whose life was turned around by the homeless charity.
Stonepillow opened its doors to Kim Marshall in May, 2008. Thanks to its support, the young woman from Chichester has gone full circle and completely transformed her life.
The charity offers support to homeless and vulnerable people through a number of different projects, including a night refuge, day centre and furniture recycling service.
Stonepillow helped Kim after she faced family troubles and difficulties at a different organisation.
Five years on, the 23-year-old can reflect on her remarkable journey from vulnerable youngster to full-time barista.
Feeling isolated and vulnerable, Kim found her ‘lifeline’ when St Joseph’s Night Refuge, in Hunston Road, took her in for two nights in May, 2008.
“I do not want to imagine where I would be right now if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “If they hadn’t opened their doors I think I would have turned to drugs and would have put myself at risk.”
Kim said she was frightened about the uncertainty of her future when she became homeless.
“I was scared about where I would be, everything was uncertain. I literally had nothing, I had the clothes in my bag and my friends who were trying to help.
“In the back of your mind there are those constant niggles saying you have nothing and what are you going to do.”
For many, two nights does not seem like a long time, but for Kim the 48 hours were endless.
“Two days felt like a month. Time was going so slow and dragging because your mind is so uncertain, you just can’t focus on anything, you’re constantly worrying.”
Kim praised the Stonepillow volunteers for helping her when she was most vulnerable.
“I felt very isolated on my first night. It was eerie because it was me alone with my stuff in my little room. The volunteers got me out to the other group members and they made me interact with others. The staff treat you as friends and welcome you with open arms.”
Despite hitting hard times, Kim was determined to battle through her situation.
“The stories that you hear about the homeless scared me. I didn’t want to be another one of those stories. I didn’t want to be another young girl that was homeless and got into the wrong crowd. I just needed to stay strong, I wanted to get my life back on track.”
Kim said the charity made her feel ‘secure’, despite facing raw uncertainty about her future.
“It made me feel that someone was there to care and not everyone was against me and there are good people out there.
“They give you a lot of support and they helped in so many ways. If it wasn’t for Stonepillow, people would not have the chance to have a second go at their lives and get back on their feet. They’re a lifeline to me and a lifeline to everyone else who uses their services.”
Thanks to family support, Kim was with Stonepillow for less than a week but remains thankful for the support it granted her in helping her find a full-time job.
Stonepillow helped her develop interview techniques as well as giving advice on CV writing and job applications, assisting her during her voluntary work and eventually getting her settled in a full-time job as a barista in Chichester’s Charlie Harpers.
“I absolutely love my job,” she said. “I have found my call in coffee. I love how fast-paced it is and all the customers that come in. It feels great to have a routine and the security of money.”
Kim’s life-changing experience has led her to continue to volunteer with Stonepillow and campaign for greater awareness of its work.
Kim regularly hands out leaflets, always recommends Stonepillow’s services and encourages friends to donate furniture to the project.
“They are amazing. I want to raise awareness, to have more people know about them and how much they helped. They are like a family.”
The charity even helped her to find romance – she met her partner, Tim, at Stonepillow and they now live together in Chichester: “It’s surreal. I never thought that out of a bad situation I have got something so amazing,” she said.
Now, with family bridges firmly built, Kim is holding her head high and is optimistic about her future.
“I want to remain happy, to enjoy life and every day. If I do feel negative I just have to think where I was a couple of years ago.
“Family life is ten times better than it was, mainly because I have matured and got myself together. I feel more confident about myself, so secure about myself and therefore secure about my family.”
Looking back on her later teenage years, Kim feels the time spent with Stonepillow has shaped her as an individual.
“It’s made me who I am today. I feel like a completely different person, I feel ten times stronger. It only feels like a couple of years ago I was in that night refuge crying about my future and now I am in a nice warm bed and have a great team to go and work with everyday.
“I thought my life would be perfect, but it was completely turned on its head and I had to work my way up from the bottom again.
“There were a few bumps on the way, but I am so happy with my life right now.”
For more information about Stonepillow contact 01243 537934 or visit www.stonepillow.org,uk