Monday 24 July 2017

Blog: My second visit to Parliament for APPGEH

Karen at APPGEH Report launch

Last Tuesday (19 July) I was at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to give a speech about my experiences of being on the streets, coming out of prison with nowhere to go and supporting other people facing homelessness. The event was the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness (APPGEH) Report 2017.

I was invited down by Rachel at Crisis as I had done a question and answer session previously, at the evidence stage of the APPGEH report, and she said I gave some really good answers.

My day started early, after going to work at Emmaus Preston in the morning I got the train down to London at 10am. I got to Westminster a bit early so I had a wonder around and sat beside the River Thames. I took in the views of the city and watched a demonstration with loads of people on mopeds, about the recent acid attacks.

I headed into the Houses of Parliament and thankfully didn’t set the alarm of this time as I didn’t have my steel toe caps on. I was met by my local Preston MP, Mark Hendrick, and he took me for a little walk around the halls of Parliament and the MP’s tea-room – all really posh! We had lunch together and he ordered sandwiches (with their crusts chopped off) and drinks.

After lunch we walked to the Jubilee Room where I was due to give my speech and I then met Rachel from Crisis. We had a chat through the agenda for the event and she explained the running order. I was due to speak after Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, Ivan Lewis MP and Will Quince MP. Following my speech was Marcus Jones, the Minister for Homelessness.

The room started filling up and there was about 25 or 30 people packed in there by the end. I was getting a little terrified but thankfully I met a familiar face, Simon Grainge, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK. He gave me some useful hints and tips for public speaking which helped to calm my nerves down a bit.

I took his advice, did the deep breath thing, but when it was my turn to speak I still fell to pieces. I managed to get through though and read my speech. Bits of my speech were going back into my past – I could feel the tears coming and then got a bit emotional. I glanced up every now and then and saw that everyone was staring at me and some of the audience were also crying.

After the speeches everyone was coming up to me, saying how well I’d done and how brave it was to share my experiences. Simon offered to walk me out and I remember getting collared at all turns, with people wanting to speak to me which was nice. I think poor Simon felt like my bag-man.

When I gave my evidence back in January, I felt like the underdog compared to the other people giving evidence. I was honest and down to the earth though and I think sharing my experiences was useful to those producing the APPGEH report. To be invited back to speak at the launch of the report I felt really privileged.

The APPGEH report focusses on homelessness prevention for care leavers, prison leavers and survivors of domestic violence. I’ve had a look at the report and they have listened to what’s been said when I gave my evidence. I now hope the recommendations are put in place to help others facing the same struggles as I did.

Karen, Support Manager at Emmaus Preston

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