News News and blogs Darkest Before The Dawn: A Reflection There are a lot of blog posts on this website that tell the harrowing stories of young people and women experiencing homelessness or fleeing from domestic violence. There’s even one that tells my story here somewhere. But you rarely get to see what happens after Llamau help them. How do we return to normal life once our time in supported housing has come to an end? It’s not an exaggeration to say that Llamau changed the course of my life. When I walked into that project my only thought was keeping a roof over my head. Just over a year later, I’ve achieved things that I never would have dared to think I could do. This past summer, I helped launch Out On The Streets, an important piece of research that showed the public that LGBTQ youth are four times as likely to be homeless than their peers. Aziraphale himself, Mr Michael Sheen, interviewed me on a stage. I spoke at, at least, six conferences. I had opportunities to talk to Welsh politicians about homelessness issues, about queer issues, about anything I wanted. I’ve been interviewed on the radio. I won an award at a swanky ceremony. I’ve talked to BBC journalists. It’s been absolutely ridiculous, in the best way. Before I became homeless, I was just another disenfranchised working-class graduate shouting into Twitter’s void trying to make the world a better place somehow. Now I’m a respected young activist. That all started because when I moved into that Llamau project, my support worker said “look, what do you want, really, when your housing crisis is over?” I just snorted. She pressed me, and I answered that I wanted to find a group of understanding friends, go back to uni someday, and maybe get involved in local activism. I’m not saying that she waved a magic wand and all my wishes came true. I still had to work my backside off for everything I’ve done – but I wouldn’t have had the initial opportunity that led to others, and others, and others, and others, if my support worker hadn’t empowered me to feel like I had the opportunity to dream again, and the safe space I needed to go and chase those dreams down. Bottom line is, I celebrated my birthday a couple of months ago with a dozen close and loving friends, I’m back at uni, and I’m a respected voice in the homelessness sector. I still struggle to understand how the very action of hitting rock bottom, of becoming homeless, was the catalyst for this unbelievable domino effect that led to the happiest and most stable period of my life to date. But what happens after the happily ever after of all these blog posts? I recently moved out of Llamau’s supported housing. I’d been waiting to move into a brand new (and I mean brand new, they were still being built when I applied for it) flat for months, and on 2nd January I got the call that I’d finally be moving… On the 6th January. Top tip: if you’re ever thinking of moving, give yourself more than four days. Because let me tell you, given my experiences with homelessness and a myriad of other challenges I have a pretty high stress tolerance, but those four days? Let’s just say I was… Alert. But somehow it all came together, and I moved out. It was sort of like a set of Biblical trials. The first was actually packing and carrying everything into the van. After that was the “Trial of Sacrifice,” otherwise known as “having to sacrifice your hard-earned cash on a carpet that’s only going to get walked on that you need anyway because having concrete floors is too damn cold in the mornings.” Next came what felt like fasting for 40 days and 40 nights (but was actually me having to live on Pot Noodle knock-offs for 10 days while I looked for some white goods that I could afford). All this while winter deadlines at uni were looming over my shoulder. My blood pressure honestly raised just typing all that. Moving into your own place is simultaneously the best and worst part of being an adult. But I’m moved in now! And the best part about the whole thing is that finally, me and my partner can live together. We were planning to get married fairly soon after moving in, but under current law it looks pretty impossible for us as two transgender people to get married as we are right now. We’d hoped that the Gender Recognition Act would have been reformed by now, but we’re still waiting. It would’ve meant that we wouldn’t have to go through the long, expensive and honestly humiliating process that currently exists to change your birth certificate. We’re in no rush, but I look forward to the day that I can become a legal husband to her. As for uni, term started this week, and I’m really close to finishing my essays. Just a few more days and I’ll have about a week of easy breathing before the next batch need planning! I’ve been offered an opportunity to guest lecture at my university about homelessness and the LGBTQ community, and I’m preparing for my first post-Llamau conference presentation in May. I’ve also got some training program development coming up at some point – hopefully I’ll be doing a batch of trans-inclusive education for the charity sector. I’ve been having meetings, getting advice and figuring out whether I should pursue a career in academia or in advocacy. I’m hoping that I can do a bit of both. Immediate plans, though, are to finish my essays and finally get a cat. I’ve wanted one for years but I’ve never had a stable enough living environment until now. I can’t tell you how much of a relief having this permanent home is. When you’re homeless, and then living in temporary accommodation, no matter how nice and supportive that accommodation is, there’s always this white noise of anxiety in the undercurrents of your thoughts. You can’t quite settle, because it’s temporary. Now that’s all over, and I have something permanent, or as permanent as I want it to be. When I tell people in uni that I was homeless, they can barely believe it. The first thing they ask is, “well, is everything okay now?” There’s never going to be a time in anyone’s life where EVERYTHING is okay. But right now, things are pretty damn close. I have “normal people” problems now, like uni deadlines and how expensive sofas are. It’s nice. I’ll never forget my past. My history is important because it made me strong. But this LGBTQ History Month, I’m finally able to look into my future. Here’s hoping it’s a good one.