VICKY Ball went from being a successful woman with a family, career and mortgage to living in a tent in Basingstoke’s Eastrop Park in the space of three years.
Thankfully, she is now well on the way to rebuilding her life and is bravely telling her story to raise awareness of the plight of those who are homeless – and as a warning to others about how easy it is for life to fall apart.
Vicky’s life began to spiral out of control after her marriage broke down in 2008 and she lost the job she loved as a midwife at Basingstoke hospital.
Her husband kept the family home, where he lived with their two children, and Vicky was put in supported housing.
The 38-year-old quickly turned to alcohol as a way to cope with the pain.
She said: “I never drank when I was a teenager or in my 20s – I don’t even like alcohol. But it was a way to cope. I used to hold my nose and down it.”
Vicky would go on drinking binges lasting two or three days once or twice a month and her habit soon began to take its toll.
An incident with a supported housing officer, which happened when she was drunk, led to her being evicted in 2011.
With nowhere to turn, she found herself out of options and living in a tent in Eastrop Park where her drinking went up another gear.
Thankfully, after two months of sleeping in the park, she discovered the Camrose Centre – a charity which helps the homeless and which was able to lend her some much-needed help.
She said: “They were fantastic. I got loads of support and advice, it was a real lifeline.”
She also began working with Basingstoke Community Alcohol Service, run by Solent NHS Trust and based in Jacobs House, on addressing her issues with drinking.
A turning point for her came when she was offered a flat by the borough council as a result of the work she was doing with the Camrose Centre and the alcohol service. She moved in last February after eight months of sleeping rough.
Eight months ago, Vicky managed to stop drinking and – apart from one ‘blip’ a few months ago – she has been sober ever since.
Her relationship with her children, which had deteriorated when she was homeless, is now going from strength to strength and she hopes to soon begin working once more, either as a midwife or fitness instructor – another job she has done in the past.
She said: “I feel much more ready now mentally to begin working again. Being homeless was a really hard time.
“I think what I went through has made me stronger and I’m glad of it in a way. I’m now better able to help other people with similar issues.”
Catherine Goswell, centre manager at Camrose, said: “The transformation in Vicky since I first met her has been amazing. She has done so well – it’s a real success story.”