3 April 23

Gildersome - Emma’s story

Located in the village of Gildersome, Leeds Supported Living has been providing a Specialised Supported Living service for adults with mental health needs since December 2020. Staff support tenants to develop their confidence and skills with the hope that they will eventually be able to move on and live independently.

ISL are the care provider with 24-hour support provided by dedicated staff, Blue Square Residential provide housing management services.

Each of the 15 self-contained flats come with an open plan living room and kitchen area, and an ensuite master bedroom. Tenants benefit from a shared private garden and a communal kitchen lounge which they use for joint activities such as cooking. A new sensory hub is set to open shortly in a separate cabin, providing further activities and a place for the residents to relax in.

Conveniently located for access to local shops on nearby Church Street and Gildersome Street, Leeds Supported Living has a bus stop on its doorstep with the train station only a 15-minute walk away.

We spoke with one of the tenants Emma and ISL service manager Kirsty to find out how Emma’s life has changed since she’s moved in.

A HOME WHICH HAS LET THE LIGHT IN

“For the first time in my life, I’ve bought loads of furniture and made a home,” said Emma, who moved into Leeds Supported Living in December 2020.

 Having been in a hospital psychiatric ward for three years, followed by a stay in rehabilitation and a transitional housing unit, Emma credits her home and the support from staff with changing her life.

The first thing that drew Emma to her flat was the window in the living room, which she describes as “huge, almost as big as a wall!”

“Living here has made a big impact on my recovery and helped my life to get a lot better. It’s a really nice space to be in. I love it because I get so much light into my flat and I haven’t had that for ages. In the transitional unit, the only thing I could see looking out of the window was a tree.” Emma says.

She adds: “When I was in hospital, I did not see daylight. There was only one window on the ward – no natural light at all. When I came here, I realised I’ve got a massive window. It’s really good for my mental health.”

Emma’s ginger and white cat, Angel also helps with her mental health. ISL worked with Blue Square, to ensure that Emma could live with her beloved cat.

Emma smiles as she says: “Angel is really cheeky, and a bit of a comfort animal. She knows when I’m not feeling great and will give me a cuddle. She has such a sweet personality and it’s nice to have her here.”

 As you’d expect, everyone living at Leeds Supported Living can decorate their flats to suit their personal preferences and tastes.

 “My flat is spacious, it’s all really modern and I’m allowed to express myself. Living here is a big step forward, after being in institutions for five to six years where you don’t really get the opportunity to do that,” says Emma.

Emma has added lots of purple with her furniture to complement the grey and white colour scheme, with tapestry decorating her rooms.

Moving in has also helped Emma to get the support she needs with her studies - she is passionate about psychology and is now in the final year of a psychology degree at Leeds Beckett University.

 She said: “University can be very stressful but living here helps - all the staff are really supportive of me going to uni. They’re energetic, enthusiastic, and some even have psychology degrees which has helped me to gather ideas.”

Her passion for her new home has even led to her writing about the communal room located in the apartment building, and how it’s impacting positively on mental health for a university assignment.

The welcoming communal lounge is furnished with two large sofas with bright yellow and checked cushions, a round wooden dining table and chairs in the centre, with an assortment of plants on the southfacing windowsill. Nestled in the corner of the room is a bookcase full with books and board games.

 In her essay, Emma wrote: “It has become an area that is used for people to relax and socialise, bake, cook, sing, dance, talk, play cards, do artwork, and share laughter and banter. People are now very relaxed here…it is clear that they now feel more at home here.”

 She adds: “There’s loads of nice colours, photos and a board full of affirmations, which is really bright. The communal area really helps me to get out of my flat and develop my social skills – I’m spending a lot of time with people from different backgrounds.”

The communal area also has another wall display decorated with leaves with written inscriptions, such as ‘supportive’, ‘inspirational’, and ‘empathetic’. Kirsty explains: “We all shared three positive words about each other which we wrote on the leaves.”

Emma has also formed friendships since moving in. She said: “I’ve made a couple of nice friends here and we do things together. We go out for open mic nights in the local pub or sometimes go to the local Indian restaurant. I have a social life here – I didn’t have one before.”

Kirsty adds: “I’ve been working here since 2022, and in the last 12 months I’ve seen a real confidence boost in Emma. If she has an idea, we encourage it. She also has creative freedom which she really explores.”

Emma adds: “Mental health is quite unpredictable. One of the good things about living here is that support times are flexible, you can ask for support as and when you need it.”

Devoting time to volunteering at a local mental health organisation, which helps young people, is another of Emma’s passions. As well as blogging, she runs a creative writing group which has regular workshops. Emma is passionate about complementary therapy such as Reiki and will be leading yoga and meditation sessions in the Sensory Hub.

Another of her big hobbies is baking. Emma says: “When I was in hospital, I found a passion for baking, and I’ve got the space to bake here. The kitchen is a really good size. It’s great because I can do it any time of day. Sometimes I have a bit of a midnight bake and I hand it out to residents.”

Cheesecake is her favourite bake, and her baking skills also make her very popular with other residents (“Everyone loves her!” Kirsty smiles).

The future for Emma looks bright, with the potential for her to move into a step-down service, without 24-hour support, in the future thanks to the progress she’s made.

Emma says: “My mental health problems aren’t as grave here. Living here has helped my life to get a lot better.”

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