An interview with a trustee: Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans
1) What appealed to you about working with Hammersley Homes? 
Through my journalism training, I was passionate about challenging negative stereotypes in the media. I had researched and written about people living with long term mental illness, and saw first-hand the complex challenges faced by them and their families, particularly around housing and care. As my career developed, I gained a law conversion to understand more about how best to address social inequalities and make a change in the community. This is why working with Hammersley Homes seemed like such an exciting opportunity, as they had ambitious goals to not only raise awareness of some of these issues, but they propose a solution. I was keen to use my professional experience in PR and communications, along with my legal knowledge, to see how best I could help the charity grow and progress with its plans, and it is something I have been very proud to be a part of since joining a year ago.
2) What do you think is the most common misconception about mental illness? 
I think it is important to make the distinction between mental wellbeing and mental illness. The pandemic has been an opportunity for many people to reflect on the importance of mental wellbeing, and they can see the difficulties people face when stress, anxiety and loneliness become too much to cope with. My hope, now that people are more open about having conversations about mental health, is that people are motivated to find out more about mental illness, and the impact this has on people and their families. Mental illnesses can affect people’s ability to function over a long period of time, and can lead to vulnerable people being stigmatized and ending up in the criminal justice system or in hospital. With care, kindness and security, we know this can be avoided. This kind of support comes more readily if someone were to be physically ill, as people would be sympathetic and understanding straight away. This should be the same for mental illness – people should be treated with dignity and empathy to help cope with their enduring illness.
3) How will Hammersley Homes’ housing help these vulnerable people? 
Our aim is to provide a network of homes for life, for vulnerable adults who suffer from enduring mental illnesses. Our goal is to raise awareness of debilitating mental illnesses and their effects on sufferers and their families; especially the inadequate provision of care and support and the terrible consequences of this. Too many people in prison have committed crimes due to a psychotic episode, effectively being punished for having an illness; there are too many revolving door patients on mental health wards; and there are too many ageing carers with grown-up children still living with them, worrying about what would happen to their loved ones when they are no longer able to support them. No one should have to go through this. Hammersley Homes will be there to offer a safe, comfortable home, along with support in the community, to those with mental illness, and to help relieve some of the anxiety and stress of their loved ones. 
4) How would you describe your experience volunteering with Hammersley Homes?
My experience in my 12 months as a trustee for Hammersley Homes has been incredibly rewarding. As a relatively new charity, the last year has been a great opportunity to learn a lot about how we can put our plans into action in the community. It has also shown me how much we can achieve in the difficult circumstances of the pandemic – I have all my contact with my fellow trustees and volunteers online, and we have still been able to make great progress as a team, despite all living far away from each other. I am so proud to be involved with the charity, and I am inspired every day by all those who generously donate their time, creativity and hard work through volunteering with us, helping Hammersley Homes grow into the next exciting chapter. Thank you to everyone who supports Hammersley Homes!