Latest News | 5 April 2022

Denise pays tribute to trust for turning her life around

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A woman who has gone from being homeless to becoming a published author has paid tribute to Derventio Housing Trust for helping turn her life around.

Denise Bowles, of Ilkeston, has said that without support from the trust, she would not be where she is today: in full-time paid employment, no longer on state support, and with a published book to her name.

Derventio not only found her a home but also gave her a purpose, through its innovative Growing Lives project.

A decade ago, Denise hit rock bottom when a series of circumstances meant she lost her home.

Denise, who has a mild learning disability, had no job and found herself “sofa surfing” around friends’ houses.

She was referred to Derventio, which is a social housing provider, based in Boyer Street, Derby.

She said: “I told them all about my situation and that I had nowhere else to go.

“I needed to find my feet again and just to have somewhere to call my home.

“Within a week, I got a phone call telling me I had been accepted and that Derventio had found me a place.

“I went to look round the house they had found for me, and it was absolutely lovely. I was so over the moon!”

Regular visits from Derventio staff provided support with medical and employment appointments, but it was another project that was to prove pivotal for Denise.

The Growing Lives project helps residents in Derventio homes and in their employability programmes, as well as others referred to help their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Based in Cotmanhay, Growing Lives runs every weekday and offers a wide range of activities such as woodwork, crafts, bike club, computers, cooking, upcycling furniture and growing vegetables.

The idea is to help give people valuable skills to help them get back on their feet.

Denise said: “I went along because I thought it would help my mental health and get me out there to meet new people and get my confidence back.”

“The Growing Lives project helped me so much. Being in the outdoors really helped me.

“I worked at it like it was a job. I really stuck to my guns with it and did as much as I could. Whatever it was they asked me, I was willing to do it.”

Thanks to the confidence she built up through Growing Lives, Denise went on to employment in two important projects: Inclusion North, which works with people with autism and learning disabilities, and VoiceAbility, an advocacy service supporting people to have their say in decisions on their health, care and wellbeing.

Now living independently, she has published her first book: I Wanna Tell You My Story, which she has produced with the help of Story Terrace.

The book is a poignant memorial to Denise’s mum, Cath, who died aged only 60 in 2021, and who had been particularly proud of her work with Growing Lives.

Denise said: “I needed to do this book my mum wanted me to do it. She used to come to the Growing Lives workshops, as a visitor. She looked around at everything we were doing. She thanked everyone for helping me.

“If you said to me ten years ago, I was going to write a book, I would have laughed in your face. It just goes to show that things can change.

“I’m ever so grateful to Derventio for what they have done and for helping me along the way. I’m never going to forget that.

“To anyone who has reached rock bottom like I did, I’ll say this: ‘Don’t give up hope’.

“There is still time for things to move for you. There will still be people living in vulnerable situations for many years to come.

“Believe in yourself. Things will change. It might not happen overnight, but it will happen over time.”

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