02/01/2024

Riding the waves of independence: Neil & Sally’s journey

A man with his arms around the shoulders of a woman standing outside

Life is full of ups and downs, and for Neil and Sally Black, their journey to independence has been quite a ride.  

In 2017, Neil lost his mother to lung cancer in Preston. The pain of losing a loved one is never easy, but it was a shared experience that brought Neil and Sally even closer together. They were both able to support each other during his mother’s passing, finding strength in their shared grief. 

Following his mother’s passing, Neil and Sally found themselves caught in a difficult situation. Drug dealers took over their family home in Preston, and the situation became untenable. With determination and a leap of faith, they packed a few essentials in rucksacks and left for London Euston.   

Their journey led them to Centre Point’s Outreach team. The team organised temporary shelter at a hotel in Victoria. Later, they were rehoused in Harrow with St Mungo’s care. Neil struggled with the environment due to his past battles with alcoholism and eventually they moved to temporary housing in St Albans. They have a permanent place in St Albans and are happy now, supported by Hightown.  

One of the joys they discovered in their newfound independence was gardening. Neil is the green thumb of the duo, while Sally takes pleasure in planting. Their front garden has become a testament to Neil’s creativity, featuring a bird table crafted from recycled material including a road cone. This small piece of art brings a sense of community to their street with people stopping to discuss the project with them.   

Neil and Sally receive floating community support from our incredible team. Sally explains, “We receive weekly support to manage our finances, hospital appointments, medication or any goals like training courses.”  

Neil shares, “through thick and thin, the support we have received has been amazing. The staff have always made sure we have a smile on our faces before they go.” The support staff have been instrumental in their progress.  Sally adds, “We have been told that we can call them or pop into Martin House for support if we need it. Life is now easier, knowing there are people there who will help and not turn their back on us.”  

Their involvement in the community has also played a vital role in their journey. They regularly attend the Vineyard and the church. These connections provide not only a sense of belonging but also a network of support.   

Looking to the future, Neil aspires to write a novel about his journey, from battling alcoholism to his current state of comfort. He reflects, “I now feel comfortable enough to talk to people.”   

Sally, always supportive, joins Neil in their shared love for VoiceBox, where they can laugh, joke and express themselves by providing valuable feedback. Neil has plans to contribute artwork to VoiceBox. He added: “Coming to VoiceBox makes me think more of my life. In the past, I didn’t realise how precious life was. I enjoy learning more and meeting new people when I come to VoiceBox.  I really enjoy what I do, and I want to continue what I’m doing.”