Young People’s Stories
“My future is so much brighter and I have made stronger and lifelong friendships”
Moving on successfully
- IT sales
- Probation officer
- Security guard
- Care work
Just £25 a week feeds a homeless young person at Amber
Young People's Stories
Cameron (24) arrived at Amber, grappling with a number of significant challenges in his life.
Unfortunately, he had a stroke at birth which left him with limited mobility down one side, which held him back during his childhood years. From the age of 18, Cam started drinking heavily every day and although he held down a job doing voluntary work at a cafe for 2 years, he admits that he was a functioning alcoholic. It was only when he phoned his aunt when he was extremely drunk in May 2018 that she intervened and took him away from his local area to enforce a 3-week alcohol detox. She also got in touch with Amber to see if there was any space for Cam so that he could remove himself from the bad influences around him.
If it wasn’t for Amber, Cam is convinced he would still be drinking heavily every day, he commented “My mum was a functioning alcoholic, it was part of life, I didn’t know any different. Linsay, my team leader at Amber, helped me realise that I didn’t need to drink every day. Now if I have a drink, I know I can stop, it doesn’t take over my whole life.”
Cam also feels that he owes a lot to his aunt who ensured that he got the help he needed before he did more damage to himself.
Cam is now living in a flat in West Sussex with his cousin and, is determined to take all that he has learnt from his time at Amber to find employment in the local area.
Amber (26) first came to the Amber Foundation in 2017 after seeing a leaflet for our Devon Centre in a hostel she was staying in at the time. Amber has struggled with alcohol since school days and had never had a job so had struggled to look after her young daughter. After realising she couldn’t cope, her daughter went to live with her dad to allow Amber the time to work on changing her life for the better.
“The staff at Amber are there to help you and never gave up on me even though I kept slipping up and going back to alcohol. In January of this year I left the Devon centre to go into rehab, but every time things got hard, I would just start drinking again so I couldn’t stay on the programme. It was when I was in yet another hostel that I realised that drinking to forget doesn’t work and I needed to get my act together. So, I picked up the phone and asked to come back to Amber but not in the Devon area as the influences in my home county were one of the issues why I kept going back to alcohol. It was while I was at Farm Place in Surrey that I found some volunteer work at a care home. Within 2 weeks there, they’d offered me a part-time job, and within another 2 weeks they’d offered me a full-time role. I can’t quite believe it as I never thought anyone would think I was worth giving a job to.
It has taken me a long time, but I finally feel like I’ve got the motivation and drive to make it work. I haven’t been drinking for 34 days and I’m really proud of myself. I am worried about moving out and being on my own as I don’t have any friends in Horsham but I really think that having a job will give me the drive to keep going. At the minute I’m helping in the kitchen and organising activities for the residents, but my aim is to do the training to become a care worker. My dad has cut all ties with me so I want to prove to him that I am worth something and I can be there for my daughter again at some point.
If it wasn’t for Amber, I’d definitely still be drinking and bouncing around from hostel to hostel. I’m not going back to the way I used to live, drink does not make you feel better.”
Amber is moving into a shared house near her place of work in Horsham and is hoping to re-establish her links with her family in the future.
Chris is now living in a loving, supportive home with his 2 children, a world away from how things were when he arrived at Amber. At 16 Chris became homeless and his life started to become chaotic, taking every substance that was available to him.
“When I first arrived at Amber, I was rotten. I had become homeless at 16 and my life was a mess. I did some pretty horrible things when I first arrived. The staff supported me so much, they could see past all of my problems and supported me through some really tough times.
Whilst at Amber, my niece was born and this really pushed me to make my life better. With everyone’s support I secured a 1 bed flat and paid for the first 6 months’ rent. Shortly after leaving Amber my first son was born, I now look after both of my children full time, life is hectic but I love having them.”
Since Chris’ time at Amber, he has had time to reflect upon his journey. He absolutely believes that without the support of The Amber Foundation he would not be where he is today. To cement this he has a tattoo which reads “Strength comes from within and the people that surround you” Chris says that this was his way of remembering his time at Amber and the importance of having the right people around you.
Keith was 23 when he first came to Amber’s Devon centre Ashley Court. His life had spiralled out of control;
My first day there I had a bit of a break down but, with the support and encouragement of the staff, and that of the friends I made there, I slowly put myself back together again.
I learned to make friends for the sake of friendship, I rediscovered myself really. I did a Personal Development (PD) Course which involved lots of time in the gym and learning survival skills. It ended with a final exercise consisting of a 40 mile point to point on Exmoor. I was also on the team that published a collection of poetry called New Dawn.”
While Keith was at Ashley Court, Amber staff helped him get the medical help he needed, “they supported me on the road that led me to discover that I have fibromyalgia, which explained a lot”
15 years later Keith is settled down with his partner and three children.
“Life is good… kids keep us busy (they are 12, 7 and 4). We’re finally planning our wedding and I help my partner run an increasingly successful business making bridesmaid and flower girl dresses to order. I’ve also recently started an online support group for people living with chronic illness and invisible disabilities like me.”
Keith will never forget being at Amber “I was proud of what I achieved there with the PD course and the poetry book. I think my stay there and the people I met saved me really. This is summed up in the lines of one of the poems I wrote while I was there…”
“Brothers and Sisters
There’s a piece of you all
Under my skin
For the rest of my days
I will recall
The bond of friendship
Between us all
We saved each other
From trouble and strife
My respect for you
Will last my whole life
You saved me from despair
My life is now in repair”
Keith doesn’t know where he’d be without Amber
“To be perfectly honest, the way I was going, living in the streets begging and stealing to survive, I would probably be dead by now if I hadn’t gone to Amber when I did”
“My mum died when I was in my early teens. I never knew my Dad and have no other family to speak of. My life was going downhill fast before I came to Amber. Someone I thought was my friend turned on me and started beating me up. My mental health was not in a good place. I now know I was severely depressed but I kept it to myself and didn’t get any help with it.
“I was living in Barnstaple to get away from my so called friend. But I didn’t have anywhere permanent to live. I initially was going to go to a hostel in Exeter but then someone suggested Amber.
“Being at Amber has really boosted my confidence. Staff have helped me get qualifications I never thought I’d get. The structure and support has helped me loads.
“My team leader, Vicki, has gone over and above to be supportive and help me get through everything.”
Amber staff have supported Rob to secure on going help from social services to support him and has found a semi- independent shared home to live in.
“I’m going to get support but the level of support will be up to me. I’m going to continue my studies at college, doing an access course so I can study computing and IT and eventually go to university.
“If it wasn’t for Amber I think I’d be dead. I tried to OD before coming here because things got so dark. I now feel really excited that I’m moving on and driven to achieve. My dream job is becoming a video games developer and one day I’d like to visit America.”
We’d like to say well done Rob – you’ve done us proud!
We’ve recently said goodbye and good luck to Jamie, 23, who lived at Amber in Devon for 13 months.
“My mum kicked me out when I was 20 so I had to live with my Dad. There wasn’t enough space for me so I had to sleep on the sofa which isn’t great with a bad back. I had no job, no money so no way out.
“Being at Amber has really improved my confidence. I’ve gained qualifications in Maths, English and a CSCS card (for working in construction). All in all I’ve achieved 10 qualifications which I am proud of. I’ve also been able to complete a volunteering role at Refurnish Crediton which has really improved my customer service skills.
“My team leader, James, has done a lot to help me out and been a real support. All the courses I’ve done have really helped me feel more ready for work.”
Jamie is now living at YMCA in Exeter and will continue his training with Elite Education.
“My goal is to be in full time work and have my own place. Amber has helped me get closer to that goal. If it wasn’t for coming to Amber I’d probably still be sleeping on a sofa, have no qualifications and struggling hugely with my confidence.”
In March 2019 we said goodbye to Connor, 23, after a 14 month stay at our Devon centre. “Before I came to Amber I was homeless and using drink and drugs heavily. My lowest point was when I was sleeping under a bridge. It was so depressing and I often felt pretty hopeless.”
“Amber has helped me turn my life around in every way possible. Having a safe, secure roof over my head has made all the difference. My team leader has been amazing, so helpful and enthusiastic (even when I’m not). My mental health was a mess when I got here. I feel so much more stable and in control of things now.”
Connor has trained with Elite Training to secure his SIA badge and is now a fully qualified security officer. He has secured a job with TSS Security and is now working full time as a security guard.
“Being at Amber has helped me see a future, find what to do and achieve it.”
Connor has secured a flat in the private sector in a nearby town. “It took a lot of hard work to find it – been looking for three months. I’ve saved hard but also accessed Amber’s Homestart scheme which is a grant towards moving in costs”
“I feel ready to move on and I’m excited and a bit nervous. Planning on going to join a pool league and I’m saving up to buy an electric drum kit so I can carry on with my music. I’m proud of myself and my goal is to enjoy my life, stay clean and sober, hold down my job and keep a roof over my head.
“I’m really grateful for the support I’ve had from Amber because without it I really think I’d be dead.”
Through his recovery Connor has had the support of his family who live nearby. His mum recently got in touch to thank us. She said
“The Amber Foundation has given me back my son. He was in a situation where even I, as his mum, couldn’t fix it. Having the security of a place to stay and the amazing resources to tackle addiction and life after addiction has given Connor a future. As his mum, I have been able to learn how to support and encourage him in a way which gives him independence. Places like Amber and the other organisations who work with them are so valuable for those young people who lose their way… they make their future possible.”
Matt is 19 and has been at Ashley Court, Amber’s Devon centre, for around 8 months. Matt was diagnosed with a range of issues as a child including ADHD, PTSD and Dyslexia. “I really struggled at school and was kicked out of every school I went to.”
He had a troubled childhood, spending much of it in care, living with a foster family in Exeter, but at 18 he had to leave and moved on to a home in Taunton for care leavers. “There wasn’t really enough support for me and I went through some tough times. My life just spiralled and drugs became a daily habit leading me getting into trouble.”
“I wasn’t sure about Amber when I first got here. I really struggled at first and I didn’t think it was going to work out. But being here has given me the support, structure and routine that I needed. Vikki, my team leader, has been a massive help – she’s always seen the best in me and helped me through. The staff are always around to talk to. No one writes you off and there’s no judgement for past mistakes.”
While at Amber Matt has completed Exeter City Community Trust’s programme “Train to Succeed” which helped him with his Maths and English. “It helped me improve my skills and I feel much more work ready now.”
Matt also took part in the Airborne Initiative which is a 5 day residential course on Dartmoor, for young offenders, ex-offenders and young people not in education employment or training. It is run with support from the Parachute Regiment and designed to test participants’ mental and physical strength, develop leadership and team working skills. “it really got things in perspective and showed me where my life could have gone”
Matt is moving on to the YMCA in Exeter and is considering his options including enrolling on a course to do an SIA license enabling him to work in security. “Moving on will be a shock to the system but I feel ready – I’m excited about moving to Exeter and starting a new life. My goal is get my own place and a decent job. I want to be part of and contribute to society. If it wasn’t for Amber I’d probably be still taking drugs and be living on the streets or I would have ended up in prison by now”
J first came to our Wiltshire centre aged 24 in 2018.
“After 8 years of drug use my life was out of control, it started off just on weekends but then escalated to a regular habit and resulted in me becoming homeless.”
Since arriving, J has gone from strength to strength. “The counselling was absolutely brilliant and it really helped me take control of my life, I really concentrated on taking as much out of the experience as I could. My team leader was great and gave me the push that I needed.”
Whilst at Amber, J was offered the chance to do a number of qualifications and gain experience in a wide range of areas. One qualification that was particularly exciting was a Practical Sailing Course with The Royal Yachting Association.
After gaining more confidence J went on to complete a Level 2 in Principles of Customer Service. This hard work paid off and he obtained a full time, permanent contract with one of the UK’s leading electrical retailers. Not only that, he was then able to secure a tenancy close to where he now works.
“Since being at Amber I have gained in confidence and feel far more stable. In the future I hope to get a place of my own and continue to work hard. I feel that I could always pop back into Amber to say hello and to let them know how I am doing.”
Jordan was in a bad way when he first came to Amber. At the age of 19, he was abusing drugs and alcohol, had spent time in prison and been diagnosed with mental health problems. At first, he wasn’t ready for Amber, so it took a few attempts, but once Jordan was ready to move forward with his life, everything changed.
“It was Barry, my Team Leader, who made the biggest impact. Having someone who cared for you like family was amazing, and he helped me deal with some of the things I was struggling with in my past so that I could make the changes I needed to.”
“Being in Ashley Court, away from the town, away from substances and the bad influence of so-called ‘friends’ really helped. I thought these were the things I really needed, but I soon realised that wasn’t true and replaced them with more positive things, like using the gym. I learnt life skills and ways to cope when life gets difficult. Even recently, I’ve been through some really difficult times – my father died last year and I’ve lost a few friends to suicide – but despite this I’ve stayed away from the drink and drugs and used other ways to get through the challenges. I know now that drugs aren’t the answer to my problems – instead, I rely on my family and I have a wonderful partner, and we support each other in the difficult times.”
Jordan is now working at a recycling centre as a Team Leader, managing staff and taking on new responsibilities in his job. He lives with his partner and has just had twin girls!
“If it wasn’t for Amber, I don’t know where I would be now – perhaps back in prison, or maybe dead. Amber made me who I am today, I will never forget it. I literally love life now and have never been so much happier.”
Grant is now living in a stable and loving home with his partner and 9 year old son. It’s a long way from the homeless teenager that first came to Amber, 16 years ago.
At the age of 19, Grant found himself sleeping in a shed, drinking excessively, taking drugs and his life was becoming out of control.
“I was lucky enough to be made aware of the Amber Foundation via the local job centre. My work coach put me forward to get involved with the scheme. At first, I was put into a community of young adults all struggling for different reasons. Whilst at Amber I was encouraged and supported to take part in activities that helped me rebuild my life. Confidence building, independence activities, budgeting, employability skills, life skills and much, much more. We all supported each other and I found it nice to be amongst other people who were struggling like myself. The whole scheme gave my life a purpose and structure again.
When I was approaching the stage where I was ready to take the next step of independence, I was offered an amazing opportunity. I took part in a 3 month voluntary placement in Africa! It was partly funded but I also had to raise funds to contribute. I can honestly say it was the best thing I’ve ever done. To see and experience a developing country and what they have to deal with daily really helped to open my eyes.
On my return I moved in with my girlfriend and set up a successful animal care business. Although we are no longer together, the business continues to be very successful.
The Amber Foundation helped me to realise what I was truly capable of. I knew what I wanted from life, a stable home, a job, stability and direction. I just lacked the support and guidance to get there. They gave me all of that and so much more. I look back on my time with Amber fondly and still to this day, I’m thankful for the opportunity. I will forever be grateful that someone believed in me.”
Correy spent 16 months at Amber. This summer he moved on to student housing in Bristol and has started his BA in Drama and Performance at the University of West of England.
“18 month ago I found myself with nowhere secure to live. I moved around quite a lot staying occasionally at Night Stop in Devon. I also made contact with CHAT (Churches Housing Action Team) who made the referral to Amber.”
“I never thought I’d get the chance to go to university but being at Amber has helped me set this goal and achieve it. Amber has also inspired me to try new things. I’ve worked with professional musicians through their music project, completed various courses and volunteered on the telephone help lines at Living Options Devon.”
“Drama has interested me ever since I was in primary school. With my team leader I worked out that is the direction I want to go in. She helped me with my application and how to access funding and support when I get there.”
Alongside his course Correy is planning on linking with the Amber in Trowbridge and helping out there from time to time “I’ll miss being here and plan to visit every now and then but I feel ready to move on now.”
Chloe moved on to independent supported housing after spending 8 months at Ashley Court in Devon. She is now volunteering, with a view to a paid role coaching football, which is a long way from when Chloe arrived at Amber.
“My life was just chaotic and my mental health went downhill. I was working as a chef in Plymouth, playing, and coaching football during the day. I ended up leaving my job and completely stopped my football because I could not cope.
I was a mess and in a vicious cycle of self-destruction. The mental health team didn’t know how to deal with me and my GP couldn’t do a lot to help. I felt like I was being passed around and I got really frustrated.
“I was like a volcano at first. I had so many emotions, which I couldn’t cope with. I had no confidence and my self-esteem was shot. Things changed when I got to Amber. Coming here has given me the stability and routine I’ve never had and no one has given up on me. My team leader has helped me find new coping strategies and work out what direction to go in. I’ve been able to see a counsellor regularly, and wouldn’t have achieved half as much without his help.”
I started playing football again and I am volunteering as a coach with Exeter City Community Trust assisting with the power chair football sessions and their summer holiday kids clubs. This led to getting involved with Roc Active, who works with people with learning disabilities and autism, encouraging them to take part in various sports regularly. I really get a buzz from coaching and seeing people improve so working in a role encouraging people with learning disabilities to enjoy sport has become my aim.”
Robin had a promising start and left school with good qualifications and studied hospitality at college. He had a series of jobs before securing a live in role at a 4-star hotel. This is where things started to go wrong for Robin.
“I really got on with the Head Chef even though I was still learning the trade. I found the culture very difficult though; the other staff were unwelcoming and some of them picked on me. I ended up arguing with people a lot and became isolated and quite depressed. This meant I had to leave the job, which came with accommodation and only had 24 hours to pack up.
“I have never been good at saving and suddenly found myself with no job, no money and nowhere to go. I stayed with friends to begin with, sofa surfing.” He turned to St Petroc’s, a local homeless charity, for help and stayed with them for a couple of months. The staff there recognised Robin’s potential and understood his aspirations so referred him on to Amber.
“Being at Amber has helped me a lot.” Robin said, “I’ve always wanted to go to University to study Dance and Amber has helped me focus on this. My team leader helped me fill in the
UCAS forms and Buckinghamshire University has offered me a place to study on their BA Hons in Dance course. Going to university can feel like an impossible dream. Amber really helped remove the barriers.”
How my love for my son helped me turn my life around.
“I came to Amber because I had to change my life, I was taking drugs, Heroin, Crack and Speed…you name it I was taking it. The fear of losing my son pushed me to making life changing decisions. I made myself homeless due to inappropriate supported housing that I was offered at that time. I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to go to Amber, which had strict guidelines and boundaries with drugs and alcohol.
It offered structure, routine, support which would help me to start to live a life and not just exist. I was able to keep up with my appointments with my drug rehabilitation, and keep contact visits with my son. I had nothing but positive support from all at Amber which stopped my feeling like a failure. The programme gave me projects to keep me focused on my goal which was my son. I am proud to say that I have been clean of drugs for 6 months, I have been signed off by the CGL drug clinic and have proved to the services involved with my son that I am a capable father. I have been offered employment and will soon be starting my new job, my self-esteem has risen so much as I now know I can and will be living the life I dreamed of with my son.”
I had to do something
Jodie is currently the top student on her course – a Level 3 extended diploma in Dental Nursing – and she is rightly proud. It’s a long way from the street homeless young teenager who first came to Amber aged 17 but quickly riled against the structure and expectations, only staying a very short while.
In hindsight she says she wasn’t ready, that she was still angry about her violent family upbringing and wasn’t prepared to trust anyone. So there followed a further two years in which she moved about 30 times – sofa surfing, a hostel, the streets – occasionally getting work but never holding on to it. Taking more and more drugs and alcohol, until she ended up in a hospital bed.
“I lay there in hospital and knew I had to do something and I knew Amber would be the right place. The first 24 hours were scary but I also felt safe for the first time in ages and the staff were really supportive, they helped me realise my life isn’t over and I’ve got the chance to correct it. I’m so grateful to them because they had faith in me and sparked me to believe in myself.
I really wouldn’t be where I am today without Amber. It builds your confidence and belief in what you can achieve and teaches you how to deal with other people. And it gets you into a structure, which is something that really helped me – I was pretty much nocturnal before that. I’ve always liked learning and I’m now doing a full-time apprenticeship and hoping to complete my diploma in the minimum 12 months. I love my job and I’m planning to stay there but one day I’d like to study to be a dentist, if I can ever afford it.”
I’m 23 and have just qualified in the RAF as a Logistics Mover. However it has been one hell of a journey and without Amber I’m sure I would not be where I am today. I was 18, homeless, had a terrible relationship with my family and everything was a general mess when I went to Amber. The decisions I’d made up until then were the wrong ones, only pushing people further away, until I finally reached rock bottom. A lot of people tell me now that without hitting rock bottom, I wouldn’t have been able to get everything back on track, and whether or not that is true, it was with Amber’s help that I finally managed to start turning things around. While at Amber they provided me with counselling and helped me learn skills that have helped me to finally grow up and live a life I can be proud of. Amber also had us participate in the Princes Trust sailing expedition which was brilliant, and they also helped us to take part in various volunteering work with the Princes Trust and at the local village hall in Chawleigh. Amber helped me to rebuild my confidence and team work skills and also helped me with understanding others personal space as we lived with one another on site. It also supported me to rebuild my relationship with my family.
I’m now raising money for Amber, the reason I’m doing this is because I’m now living my dream in my dream job and it would mean the world to me to help other residents to pursue their dreams and make a future of their lives, no matter what’s happened in their past.
I know that any donation to Amber will help not only residents there, but will also help the staff to keep the charity running as they try to provide all the essential day to day costs of toiletries and food etc.
I want to give back to the charity that has done so much for me, and will try to support them in various different events and fundraising to come, starting with my Disney half marathon.
From Death to Success – My Amber Journey
I moved to Amber in 2015. But arguably my journey began on Monday 1 August 2011, 10:30am when I received a call from my brother-in-law informing me of my mum’s suicide and consequently, the start of the breakdown of my life.
I lost my mum, my long term partner, and mother to my then 2 year old son, within 3 months of each other. I moved house many times within the following 3-4 years, and became homeless twice. Furthermore, my cannabis use grew and I lost my job through behavioural issues on 19 March 2015. A culmination of failed counselling and psychiatry sessions meant that I was a mess by the time of my third and last spell of being homeless.
Six months later, September 2015, I was desperately searching for a room. Then, around the 7 September 2015, I got news that Amber were willing to house and support me and on the 21 September I moved into Amber, Ashley Court.
As expected the first few months were hard, the effects of drug detoxing, horrendous mood changes, physical changes, horrible sleep patterns, waking up after 10 minutes dripping with sweat. Nightmare. But slowly I began to come out of that period of change, growing more focused, confident and dedicated to rebuilding myself.
The change came for me in the form of fitness workouts, as my physical shape was battered from the effects of grief and 13 years of drug use. I started using the gym with a former Amberteer, and now good friend. I enjoyed it, but more significantly I was developing my motivation and discipline to progress.
After a certain period of time I suddenly became an informal personal trainer. Several Amberteers had become drawn towards my dedication towards my personal fitness and were asking to join me and since they had little knowledge I agreed. I became a role model for them, which I am still proud of today.
Over the last year I have worked really hard and I am now a qualified Level 2 Fitness Instructor and I am in the process of awaiting confirmation of my application to do a Level 3 in Personal Training at Exeter College. At the time of writing this I am a lecture away from being a qualified Level 1 Football Coach, and upon completion I am hoping to work with Exeter City to gain further work experience.
So I will be moving on from Amber, after 17 months here, as a very successful Amberteer. I have worked hard and followed the programme at Amber, have never got into trouble and saved money to help me move on. I have also saved for and paid for my level 1 Football Coaching and Level 2 Fitness Instructing Course.
Take it from me, get your head down, save money and rebuild your life at Amber, it can be done with your hard work and dedication towards your future.