The future is bright for young Blackburn hostel resident

A young Blackburn man is overcoming mental health problems and looking to the future after finding refuge in a Together Housing Group hostel and signing up to a Prince’ Trust project.

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Michael Heeks, 25, moved to James Street Project in Darwen to escape his chaotic home life.

“Before James Street I lived with my mum, living with heavy depression and anxiety linked to issues at home. I needed to get away from home for the sake of my mental health.”

With some encouragement from his support worker, Michael signed up to the Prince’s Trust Team Programme, a 12 week personal development plan which targets 16-25 year-olds including people leaving care, young offenders, educational under achievers, students, asylum seekers and refugees.

Together Housing Group Support Worker Chrissy Stuttard said: “Michael mentioned the course in one of his first meetings. I encouraged him to sign up as some of our past residents have completed the course and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Michael is very shy but I wanted to try the programme to build his confidence, meet new people and gain new skills. I meet with him briefly before each session to give him positive words of encouragement, but I can honestly say he has done it all himself. He is so motivated and committed – I’m really proud of him.”

Michael said: “I joined the course to develop my leadership skills as well as my overall confidence in myself as an individual. I also hoped to find my identity as a person. I feel like I have made decent head way in this and, while I have far to go, I do feel a lot better about myself.”

As part of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue funded course, the team were required to undertake a community project and they chose to redecorate James Street.

Michael explains: “We chose this project as we were sure the residents would appreciate a colourful change of scenery and knowing that people care about a place of sanctuary such as this. It really felt like a strong effort had gone into brighten up the place I call home.”

The course also included a four day residential in the Lake District, with activities such as a night walk, abseiling, Ghyll scrambling, canoeing and a homing exercise.

“The most enjoyable part of the course has been abseiling in the Lake District. It felt incredible to conquer my fear of both heights and falling and I felt like a much stronger person for it at the end.  I also enjoyed my trustfall into freezing cold water. Might seem odd to say, but feeling the oxygen get stolen from my lungs for a long five seconds felt incredible.”

On completion of the course, Michael will gain a Prince’s Trust Certificate in Employment, Teamwork and Community Skills. The former Darwen Aldridge Community Academy and Blackburn College / University Centre at Blackburn College student said: “I never felt too academically or socially confident, through most of it. It was quite a drag.”

Despite a diverse range of work experience from volunteering at the British Heart Foundation furniture store to dog grooming, Michael has been out of work for a long time.

He said: “I have been unemployed for as long as I can remember, but wish to finally turn that around.

“I do feel like I have grown in confidence as the course has soldiered on. I am more outspoken then I used to be. I also feel a little braver as an individual for what I have overcome.”

“As for what the future holds, I’m not sure but as long as I put 110% into the remaining weeks of Princes Trust and keep positive mind set, anything could be possible. Hopefully something good and uplifting like long-term successful employment.”

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