Life wasn’t going well at all for Levi; after being evicted from supported accommodation he became homeless, only avoiding sleeping rough through the generosity of one of his friends. After a couple of months, Levi moved into ‘Joy House’, a Hope into Action house in Norwich, supported by St Catherine’s Church in Mile Cross.

Retired Norfolk vicar Rev  Gill Bridges is an active member of St Catherine’s and one of the volunteers in its dedicated ‘Friendship and Support Group’, set up specifically to welcome, befriend and support the residents of Joy House. She explains: ‘All of this kind of thing delights me. It’s just what we should be doing as Christians. Hope into Action is exactly that: real hope and real action.’

Remembering Levi’s first meeting with the group before moving in, Rach Hartley, Hope into Action’s Empowerment Worker recalls that he wouldn’t look anyone in the eye, but would just look down and had very little to say. One thing he did say was that his favourite sweets were sherbet lemons. When he moved into Joy House a couple of weeks later, the first thing he saw on the kitchen table was a jar of sherbet lemons. Levi remembers it vividly: ‘The sun was shining on this jar of sherbet lemons; it was like sun on a pot of treasure.’ Another lady from St Catherine’s made a cake with ‘Welcome to your new home’ written on it, which really touched Levi.

"That was so special. It was like nothing I’d felt in a long time. Having all this peace and love and the welcome, I was so excited."

Having met via the Friendship and Support Group, Levi and Gill forged a generation spanning friendship, which has played a pivotal role in his transformation. They regularly meet up for coffee in the city centre, they’ve been to Norwich Playhouse to see the dance company Rambert perform and Sir Ian McKellen’s solo show (Norwich Playhouse gives Hope into Action free tickets). An avid line-dancer of 20 years, Gill has even introduced Levi to the joy of line-dancing, as he explains: ‘You get the hang of it but it’s not as easy as you think. It makes me so happy. I can’t stop laughing! ’Chatty, smiley and filled with hope for the future.

Levi has transformed from a troubled, homeless teenager to a happy, houseproud 18-year-old, who’s in employment, enjoying life and honing his talent for music and songwriting. He performed one of his songs, ‘Rough’, at the Hope into Action conference in front of 300 people and has also played guitar in Café Services at St
Catherine’s. He explains: ‘I love it; I got scared on the first one. I was quite nervous. But then the second time around was good. It was like every time I looked at somebody they were smiling at me. They’ve made me feel at home.’

"It’s the collective and determined LOVE of the church community which are the key to transformation"