People with mental health issues often struggle to live independently within the community and can, face harassment or discrimination from the wider public. For those who don’t have a family network or access to support, they can feel isolated and become very detached from the world around them. This in turn can act as a trigger for additional mental health issues such as depression or anxiety and in many case people will turn to substance and alcohol misuse.
For many in the service like James this is a familiar story. However, with support from a range of agencies, including Cottingley Court Transitional Housing Unit, people like him can begin to gradually improve their lives.
Bushra Zamam , a social work student on placement at Cottingley Court, interviews James about his story.
“My name is James Scothorn, I am 49 years old and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. My early years were spent in Rothwell, Leeds with my grandparents and in my twenties, I completed a computer YTS course and went rock climbing and canoeing. Following my grandparents death I moved into a council flat but this led to me experiencing harassment and hostility from the local residents, and even my flat being attacked and damaged.
Due to this I spent a lot of time on the streets trying to escape the harassment I was experiencing. I kept losing my keys which meant more time sleeping on the streets. In the end, because I was struggling to pay my bills and manage my finances I left my flat and began sleeping on the streets all the time.
When I was on the streets I often received food hand outs from Leeds Beckett University but things began to change when I met the Street Outreach Team who recognised I needed support and referred me for a Spen Lane Transitional Housing Unit Crisis Flat. While I was there staff realised I needed extra help maintaining my flat and myself. So together we developed a care package to meet my needs.”
Bushra tells us that James was then referred for his own tenancy at Cottingley Court Transitional Housing Unit where he is supported by his key worker Gina. She has been supporting James with cleaning, personal care, keeping the flat tidy, paying bills, cooking and food shopping. Gina recently took James to get his hair cut; they also went clothes shopping where he was able to choose new clothes, for the first time in many years.
James also receives support from a social worker who visits regularly and has supported him with opening a basic bank account to pay his bills by Direct Debit. Before moving to Cottingley Court, James struggled to manage his finances or pay bills resulting in a number of arrears and unpaid bills which he is now receiving support to manage. Additionally a cleaning agency supports James once a week with maintaining his flat and with food shopping.
James describes feeling safe at Cottingley and sees it as his home. James has expressed that he would like to stay at Cottingley long term because the staff are friendly and are always on hand to help him when and if he needs. James also mentioned that he has made some good memories in Cottingley, something he wasn’t able to do when he was living on the streets and in his council flat.
James has been involved with a number of vital services that have led to where he is today. Without teams like Street Outreach and the Transitional Housing Units, James would probably be sleeping on the streets and not getting sufficient support for his mental health issues. Additionally food banks have been a life line for James, without this he would have continued to struggle to get a meal. James’s situation is a perfect example of successful multi-agency communication and collaborative working.
There are three transitional housing units across Leeds and Cottingley Court is one of them which can help support adults over 18 with mental health needs and/or drug or alcohol issues. Short-term leases range from six to eight months as well as long-term support for up to two years. They can also help people adjust to living back home if they have just come out of hospital and planned respite and crises services that mean you can stay in a unit for one night or up to two weeks.
The Time to Change Mental health blogs: and Hearing Voices Network offer more information about living with mental illnesses. St Georges Crypt , Forward Leeds and St Anne’s Sheltered Housing can give advice and support to anyone with mental health difficulties.