Housing

Nightingale House: Where hope is restored for the homeless

Nightingale House in Cardiff provides shelter for over 100 families who are homeless. Here they share their stories, revealing how smiles can be restored and futures rebuilt

Nightingale House

Nightingale House is an extraordinary place, where confidence, trust and hope are reborn. The 26-bedroom hostel in Cardiff has provided shelter to over 100 families this year, made homeless for a range of reasons: debt, domestic abuse and substance misuse are just a few.

They sent us a very impressive bundle of entries for The Big Issue’s Kids’ Cover Competition this year – the second time they’ve brightened up our festive season. This Christmas morning around 50 children, from newborns to teenagers, will wake up in Nightingale House. Here they share their stories, showing how smiles can be restored and futures rebuilt.

Tracey and Lilly: “To me the Nightingale House is one big family”

Tracy and Lilly at Nightingale House

“I was in a challenging domestic situation for eight years. Nightingale House’s staff helped me to overcome severe anxiety from this, stopping me feeling like I was on my own. I used to struggle with people, especially large social situations. Nowadays I’m the first person to welcome new tenants in.

“There’s a strong sense of community in Nightingale House. We always help new families when they move in, involving them in all of the activities that are run for residents. I really enjoy bingo and pizza night.

All the case workers have been helpful with everything. I feel like I can approach them with any issues

“All the case workers have been helpful with everything. I’m comfortable with all of them, and feel like I can approach them with any issues.

“My daughter Lilly has settled in well and made loads of friends. The house has also given me a lot of confidence to do things for myself. To me Nightingale House is one big family.”

Tutah: “Everyone here helped me to trust people more”

Tutah at Nightingale House

Tutah, aged 10, stayed at Nightingale House for five months with her mother. They have just moved into their own home in time for Christmas

“When we moved into Nightingale House I was very scared, and so was my mum. I thought there would be scary people there. I was scared I would be bullied and that people would be nasty to us. We met a kind lady who asked if we were okay. She talked to my mum and calmed her down, and that made me feel better.

“After a few days we started feeling happier. I still didn’t feel safe outside and I didn’t want to leave the hostel. I liked everyone there and I felt safe, they helped me trust people more and I started to feel better about going out.

“What I liked best about Nightingale was the activities. I joined in and got a lot more confident. Nightingale House was more than just a place to stay, it was our home. Me and my mum made lots of new friends, and we still keep in touch and visit.

“I am hoping to do well in school now and study to be a vet. Where I came from animals have no rights. I love animals so much. Animals cannot speak for themselves, and I want to understand them and care for them and make them well. I want not only to help animals, I want to understand and help people too.”

Rita and Hope: “Compared to what I’ve been through, this is heaven”

Rita and Hope at Nightingale House

“If you saw me at the start here, I really struggled. I didn’t know anyone. My support worker in Nightingale House changed that. I’ve made a lot of friends and have been more open about what I’ve experienced. It’s really helped me move on from it.

“I am grateful to not go to a temporary house; I would have felt like it was me against the world. My children like it here. Hope, who is now five years old, has made lots of friends. She’s a chatterbox and has been getting on well in nursery.

I am thankful to the UK government for granting me asylum and refugee status

“Compared to what I’ve been through, this is heaven. I left my country when I was 17. I travelled from Lebanon to the UK when I was pregnant with Hope. I almost lost her in a boat accident. I lost everything else while travelling here. But I am thankful to the UK government for granting me asylum and refugee status.

“I’m just one of many stories here. But I’m one of many stories that are starting a new positive chapter. I want to be better educated and study here. I want a happy life, where I can meet new people and have a job.”

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