My new role involved arranging meetings with estate agents and boldly walking in to persuade them to let flats to often troubled 16- to 21-year-olds. This meant guaranteeing that we’d cover the costs of any damage and somehow this, plus my explanation of why these young people deserved a break because of their difficult start in life, was enough to see us end up with quite a few properties on the books. I got to use negotiating skills I’d never known I had. But at times, I wondered if I was out of my depth, especially as some days, I’d go home to find that Dad had refused to eat in protest at my absence.
Juggling the two was hard. To keep Dad cheerful, we’d play dominoes, which he’d always loved. His eyesight was failing but just holding them made him feel good. He loved to spend time with my teenage daughters and we’d put the cricket on the radio, which always soothed him. But occasionally, the carer had to leave when I was struggling to get back from some far-flung part of London and I’d race home in a panic.
After Dad passed away in 2018, I increased my focus on Step Ahead. We started buying properties ourselves rather than relying on landlords. We refurbish them, then we group the young people sent to us by the council in flat shares according to their needs. With the help of a key worker, they manage their own budgeting, cooking and studies and, with a stable home, many go on to find jobs.
I now have a sense of purpose that I didn’t have before. While it was a buzz working in the City, it was all about money and status. The satisfaction of helping young adults in need is lifelong and goes much deeper.
If I hadn’t decided to give up everything and devote myself to caring for my dad, I might never have ended up on this path. He was always keen to lend a hand to people who were struggling and I’d like to think he’d be proud of me for finding a career where I can follow his example.
To find out more about Lorraine, go to viewfrommywindow.co.uk
As told to Marina Gask