u-turn 25 birthday

Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

More than a month and half ago …. As my one year tenure at Loaves and Fishes came to an end, I had to look for new accommodation. A few other champions, our case workers and myself went to look at accommodation possibilities. We found rental opportunities at a social housing project at Conradie Park . We all applied. I was the first to get accepted (weeks later the others were also accepted). 

I received the phone call while in the taxi back from work. When they shared the good news that I had been allocated an apartment, I had to hold my composure in the taxi. My heart was leaping inside for joy. I shared the good news with my friends and at work, they were all happy for me.

All new residents have to attend an orientation at Conradie Park. I arrived an hour early. I did not want to be late, I was scared that the taxi would delay me. While I was waiting, I thanked God for this miracle. 

The client liaison officer opened the meeting by saying that the road for each one of us was not easy, but by God’s grace we are here. I fully agreed with him. We went through the “house rules” and lease agreement. We were allowed to ask questions if we did not understand any of the clauses. Afterwards we were taken on a tour of the apartments.

A few days later, I paid my deposit and signed my lease agreement. When I was taken to my apartment to check if everything was in working order, The reality of not being homeless anymore kicked in. It felt better than walking through the corridors of Buckingham Palace, which I’d experienced in 2006 before homelessness was a possibility on my horizon. Seeing Queen Elizabeth II’s throne room and more gold than a jewellery shop does not compare how in awe I was to finally be in my own apartment.

A few days later I moved in. 

My apartment first looked like a blank canvas, but as days went by it was splattered with colour as friends filled it with a bed, appliances, cutlery, mugs, plates and the list goes on. At U-turn I received a gift voucher to purchase furniture or bric-a-brac as part of the home startup kit. I chose to purchase furniture.

The most prized possession I bought amongst the other things was my couch. When I was homeless, I would share with God how I missed my couch, which I had in my previous apartment. At one of the sessions on my personal development day, we had to draw our happy place. I drew my living room in my previous apartment. The drawing had my couches, my coffee table with a mug filled with coffee, pens and highlighters, and a bookshelf filled with the books that I’d spend hours devouring. I would yearn for those days while I was homeless.  

The first night in my home, I was speechless. The only thing I could do was thank God, repeatedly. I could not even write a poem or a song. “Thank you” was all I could say. For a few nights as I was sitting at home, I would cry. It was a cry of joy. It was a cry of relief. It was also a cry of all the pain I had to endure the past two years. A cry that the dark stormy cloud of homelessness had finally lifted over my life

I loved using the word “home” once again.

Things I used to take for granted I don’t anymore. I wake up early in the morning. I first spend time with God. At the shelter there were times when I did not greet God in the morning, because it was rushed. I take my time to have breakfast and take my medication. There is no need to rush and I can still be on time for work. 

It is amazing to hear my own voice when I speak to God or read the Bible. I know God heard me in the silence of my heart and that the Bible was still powerful, while I read it silently. But something like listening to my voice in prayer, I used to take for granted. I can shower in peace, there is no fighting about who wants to shower first. I can shower when I want to. What I love most is privacy, something I took for granted. I never knew privacy was a luxury that few people have.

Good Friday I could visit friends and stay out late, there was no curfew to adhere to.  The next day, friends visited my apartment. We could have deep conversations, without worries that somebody would be eavesdropping on the conversation.

It takes a village to bring somebody out of homelessness, it is not an individual crusade. I want to thank God for U-turn which equipped me with skills to overcome homelessness. Thank you to the Phase 3 Work-readiness therapy team and the retail team for walking this journey with me. Thank you to all the staff members at U-turn. Thank you to the work-readiness champions. Thank you to you as a U-turn supporter, whether financially or through donations in kind or supporting one of our charity shops. Thank you to my friends for all their support. You are all part of the village that helped me out of homelessness. Please accept my heartfelt thanks.

Join me next week when I share some more good news.