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Trust’s £14k enhancement funding helps makes homes habitable for over 50s in crisis

It’s not always life’s biggest problems that overwhelm us and leave us feeling unable to cope. Sometimes it’s the steady accumulation of many small problems that pile one on top of the other until we cannot see our way out. Like a stack of newspapers by the front door that grows until it fills a three-bedroom house or a blown light bulb that eventually leads to someone living in pitch darkness.

For Nichola it was the steady drip, drip of a leaky pipe that eventually burst and flooded the downstairs of her home. She considers herself a “capable person” and worked for more than thirty years as a professional nanny caring for the children of some of London’s wealthiest families.

Nichola said: “When the leak happened, my overriding feeling was of desperation, I just didn’t know who to turn to or what to do. The situation was overpowering and overwhelming and overthinking things made it worse, so I ignored it.

“If it happened now – I would just get a plumber and deal with it. But at the time – and it was very unlike me – it was just one more problem on top of all the other problems that I had to deal with and it was too much for me.”

The Improving Homes and Well-being Service (IHWS) is a partnership between Age UK South Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire Council, with the St Monica Trust’s Charitable Impact Team providing £14,000 in enhancement funding.

Led by Improving Homes and Well-being Coordinators, Sarah and Martin, the IHWS provides free help to home owners over the age of 50 to remain safe, well and comfortable in their own homes for as long as possible. The service supports home owners whose properties or gardens are falling into disrepair as a result of underlying issues, such as hoarding, learning difficulties, mobility problems or mental health.

Sarah said: “When Nichola was referred to the IHWS by her social worker, she had no mains water, no hot water and no heating. She was having to walk through two inches of water each day and the walls of her house were covered with thick black mould, some of which had collapsed due to the damp conditions.

“Nichola had been alone for many years with no friends or family, and was in a desperate way since the flood in her home eleven months ago. When we found her she had been relying on bottled water to drink, wash and flush each day. Whereas we always hope to help an older person remain in their home, this wasn’t possible in Nichola’s case as the water damage to her house had made it uninhabitable.”

With the help of two volunteers, Sarah and Martin removed eight vans of waste from Nichola’s house. They then helped her pack her remaining belongings and move into sheltered accommodation.

Nichola has now sold her house and is looking for somewhere to buy locally. She said: “Once I was out of that environment, it didn’t take me long to feel more like my old self. Martin and Sarah have changed my life. If it wasn’t for them I would still be in that situation. They have taken me off wrong path, put me back on the right one and I can’t speak highly enough of what they have done for me.”

The St Monica Trust has been supporting the lives of older people in Bristol and the surrounding area since it was established more than 100 years ago. The Trust’s Charitable Impact Team helps tackle a variety of issues by distributing hundreds of thousands of pounds to individuals, families and organisations across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath & North-East Somerset.

The St Monica Trust’s Charitable Giving Lead, Catherine Robinson said: “Often, statutory agencies aren’t getting access to or can’t engage with older people that have effectively fallen through the gaps in our society, so their problems aren’t being addressed. By providing Age UK South Gloucestershire with a grant for IHWS, the team can immediately access funds to address an urgent crisis.

“At the core, we’re supporting older people to have choice, and for this project, we’re helping people have agency over where they choose to live. Not only is the project making someone’s home habitable again, Martin and Sarah are building a trusting relationship with the home owner and they’re able to signpost the people they support to agencies that can help address any underlying issues that may be affecting their well-being, bringing longer-lasting change.”

For more information on the Trust’s Charitable Impact Team, please go to www.stmonicatrust.org.uk/charitable-impact/grant-giving or email charitableimpact@stmonicatrust.org.uk.

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