"This is what I have to do at home so I might as well get paid for it."
Azalea supporter Nick Bowman heard these words from a woman on the streets when he was a support worker at a homeless charity. He explains why he is passionate about Azalea and is running the Luton Half Marathon to raise funds:
"Let’s call her Jasmine.
She works most nights at the end of my road-you’ve probably seen her. She started working at the age of fourteen after being abused by her stepfather.
Working the streets doesn’t feel much different to what she had to do at home and at least this way she can earn some money to buy drugs. She never thought she would end up using drugs but somehow they seem to quiet the barrage of critical thoughts and emotions rushing round her head night after night- at least for a while.
She’s been in and out of supported living schemes and hostels over the years. They never seem to work out though. Usually the placements last for about eight weeks, with no payment of service charges, too many nights out and on a few occasions, some nasty incidents. Now most services look at her background won’t even offer her an assessment.
She’s been in and out of prison too, but despite having good intentions she always seems to find her way back to previous habits and so called ‘friends’ when she is released.
It’s a cold October night with a bitter wind. The cuts on Jasmine’s arms that she inflicted last night start to sting. She pulls her flimsy coat around her and takes a drink from her can of extra strong lager. The first thing you notice about Jasmine as you walk past is her piercing blue eyes. Then you look again and realize that those same eyes have no spark in them – almost as if she has lost all sense of hope.
Jasmine doesn’t exist- well kind of. She’s an amalgamation of women that I’ve met over the years I was employed as a support worker. She’s the reason why the work of Azalea is so important and she’s the reason why I want to support what Azalea is doing."