Thank you for the journey with me the past year and allowing me to share my story as a Champion and graduate. I am handing over the baton for Champions to share their stories.

“The day I became a Champion”, is a poem I wrote especially for this blog.

This marathon of life is hard.
Homelessness hamstrung me.
I kept leaping forward, one limp at a time,
Finding rest for the soul was like counting sand in the Kalahari.
I kept leaping forward, one limp at a time.
When I fell to the ground,
I thought it was the end.
Like a rushing wind, God took my hand.
I began to run, one breath at a time.
U-turn taught me that I am a Champion,
The day I entered the race of recovery.

When I reflect on my journey out of homelessness, I thank God for guiding me to U-turn through the social worker at the night shelter. The journey has not been easy.

Homelessness is like sinking sand, the more I tried to escape it, the deeper I was sucked into it. I tried everything to get out of its clutches but nothing worked. Then I came to U-turn. The Phase 3 Work-readiness programme is not a one size fits all , each Champion is on their own journey. We might share the same module but, when we sit with our case worker, whether a social worker or an occupational therapist, life rests for an hour. There is no rushing, as we share our journey.

We discuss interpretations of metacognition, the neuro-typical brain, and much more. Foundation Stage is more than the big words we are taught. If we choose we can also have sessions with a counsellor. The Champions that struggle with reading, writing, or English, have aunty Jane to share the kaleidoscope of the language with them. There have been Champions that have been inspired by the computer classes who now want to become PC technicians. For some of them, it was the first time they learned about the MS Office suites.

After the Foundation Stage journey ends, we step over to Growth. Like a Champion on the podium, we are celebrated, because we are one. We share our journey and then the big moment arrives. We step over the scriptures laden on the floor. There is always one scripture that speaks to us.

In Growth Stage, we learn and are given the tools for a sober, employed and independent life. We journey with our case worker on the goals we have set to reach in life. This stage is not about rushing; it’s about finding oneself. It’s about looking forward and learning the lessons life has taught us. We are given the building blocks of recovery. When our case worker decides we are ready, we step over to the Exit Stage, now known as Integration.

This is the final stage. Like a child that wobbles as they learn to ride while a parent looks on from a distance, we are prepared for independent living. We prepare our CVs and apply for work in the open labour market. When we are employed, some Champions move back to their families, while others start a new life in independent accommodation. When we have shown that we can live a sober, employed, and independent life, we graduate from the programme.

This is the highlight of the recovery journey and takes place at Boot Camp. It is a Champions’ reunion, not an obstacle course. We are dressed in a gown, sash, and cap. The cheers of our fellow Champions engulf us as we walk on stage. Our life coach gives an overview of our journey.

For me, it was an emotional time. While standing there, I reflected on my journey out of homelessness and wept, not sad tears but a waterfall of joy streaming down my face. Then the big moment arrives, we are given our diploma and we give a speech.

The practical implementation of what we learned is tested by what life throws at us, but we don’t walk alone, because we have the support of fellow graduates.

Thank you for supporting U-turn, because of you we are able to journey out of homelessness.