| Michelle (left) and Lu.
Thrive has started a project to revamp the garden of Queen Mary’s hostel in central London to make a welcoming and therapeutic private garden space for the single homeless women there.
At the launch in September, the women were given the chance to sign up for the project and begin to plan the scheme’s garden.
After more than a year of fundraising, homelessness charity Church Housing Trust secured money from the Big Lottery and asked Thrive to be involved.
Thrive horticultural therapist Lu Curtis will work with the women at the hostel for nine months in the court yard garden.
Lu said: "Thrive is looking forward to working with the women at the hostel and we hope to inspire and motivate them in all things garden related.
"They will be involved from the start, in planning the look and feel of the garden, to thinking about the kind of space we want to create and what it will be used for.
"This is such an exciting and uplifting project to be involved in and we hope to work with lots of the women at the hostel."
These are the stories of two women who signed up.
Michelle left the children’s home where she grew up at the age of 16, and moved to London. She worked in catering but, overwhelmed by traumatic experiences from her past, she suffered a breakdown. Unable to cope with day-to-day life, she lost her job and her tenancy, and ended up living rough. She has been at Queen Mary’s for eight years now and longs to be independent. She loves cooking and baking, and has been helping other women at the hostel to learn these essential life skills. She is also considering voluntary work in a charity shop in order to gain experience and meet new people. Michelle is excited to have an input into how the garden will look.
When she was six, Deborah moved to California with her mum. Thirty years later, she had had a family and was working as a nurse. However, her mother never arranged for Deborah to become a US citizen. This had no effect on her life until 10 years ago, when she committed a crime. After serving a short sentence, she was deported to the UK, a place she had not seen in more than 30 years, and where she had no family or friends to turn to for support. She received help from Prisoners Abroad to get on her feet, but her mental health deteriorated and she became homeless. Her long absence has estranged her from her children, and she is lonely. She is currently taking a mosaic course, something she has a gift for, and will be joining the gardening project at Queen Mary’s to creating some mosaics for the garden, sharing her skills with some of the other women. Deborah says she is determined to "sort herself out" and "leave the door open to my kids".