'I was homeless for 403 days with PTSD - now I've finally moved into my first flat'

University graduate Hannah Green, 23, was homeless for more than a year in Yorkshire. Here, she tells her story of having no home while suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and how she was saved by a love of surfing.

Growing up in North Yorkshire, homelessness was not something I'd ever imagined would be part of my future.

I suffered sexual abuse as a child. Then, while studying a PE course at university in York, I was assaulted again.

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Everything came flooding back to me when I moved back to the village I grew up in in 2018. I was experiencing the early symptoms of PTSD; nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks. I had to leave.

I needed to move away from anything that was familiar, so I went to Scarborough where I had a cousin.

What started was months of sleeping on people's sofas for a few days at a time before moving on. I was struggling with PTSD and had very little money.

I couldn't get a reference or enough money for a deposit on a flat, and because my mental health was bad and I had no permanent address, I couldn't get a job.

It was about four months that I was couch surfing at the end of 2018. Looking back, my days would blur into one another and I wasn't doing anything. I was drinking a lot and I didn't want to be alive.

Hannah Green who has battled PTSD, has moved into her first home in Scarborough after being homeless for 403 days. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

For a long time I didn't reach out for help. In December of that year, I nearly tried to take my own life. Luckily, I was stopped by the police.

At this point, my cousin came across Scarborough Survivors centre, which supports people with mental health conditions. One day, she dropped me off and said, 'you need to speak to someone'.

Looking back at this time last year, I was as low as it gets. If I was in a room with a man I would freak out and get flashbacks of my abuse, I couldn't go into a room unless I knew where the exits were.

I really didn't think things would get better and it was my drop-ins to Scarborough Survivors that always picked me up.

From couch surfing to real-life surfing: Hannah Green was homeless while battling PTSD and says learning to surf in Scarborough has changed her life. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Without them, I wouldn't be here.

They referred me to the emergency accommodation for under-25s and while I was in the hostel, I was offered a flat on my own. At the time, I was not in a place with my mental health where I could live on my own.

But when they offered me another, and this time I had no choice but to accept it. The second place had a lot of drugs and parties which was the worst thing imaginable for someone suffering from nightmares and extreme anxiety.

I moved in the week before Christmas, and by mid-January I'd returned to crashing on friends' sofas. I was surrounded by people dealing drugs and blasting incredibly loud music through the night.

From couch surfing to real-life surfing: Hannah Green was homeless while battling PTSD and says learning to surf in Scarborough has changed her life. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

At one point I'd snapped and blocked a resident's meter just to stop the music so I could sleep - my mental health was declining and I was exhausted. I had reached the end of my tether.

Because of that night, I started receiving threats saying I would be beaten up and have petrol bombs put through my letter box. The police advised me not to stay there. Again, I had to leave.

By January this year, I was in a position where I could start looking at private rents. After making friends while campaigning during the General Election, one of them was able to be my guarantor.

Earlier this month, I moved into my first flat after 403 days of being classed as homeless. The sense of relief was overwhelming.

I remember getting up on my first morning and starting to pack up my things to leave, like I had done for so long. It was like a reflex. I quickly realised that I didn't need to do that anymore.

Since moving in, my PTSD has been getting better. I have been going to therapy, volunteering with Scarborough Survivors and I've even taken up surfing at Scarborough's North Bay beach with a charity called Surf Therapy.

From couch surfing to real-life surfing: Hannah Green was homeless while battling PTSD and says learning to surf in Scarborough has changed her life. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Surfing has saved my life. It gives you a chance to escape whatever is happening on land. You are just thinking about the sea and nothing else.

I have also been nominated for an ITV National Diversity Awards as a Positive Role Model.

I had been looking at jobs while my PTSD was really bad and realised I wasn't fit to be working. I am on Universal Credit at the moment, but I see a way out. Hopefully, I can use my degree in PE to combine sport with my love of mental health and writing in the future.

Life gets better, it really does.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition which affects people who have been through traumatic events such as violence, abuse, natural disasters or being in combat.

Symptoms of PTSD include extreme anxiety, flashbacks, disturbed sleep and nightmares and changes in sufferers' memories.

Women are generally recorded as being more likely to suffer the condition than men, although the condition's prevalence is higher among men aged between 55 and 64, according to an NHS adult psychiatric survey conducted in 2014.

A Public Health England GP Patient survey in 2019 found that Scarborough and Ryedale had the country's third highest rates of mental health problems at that time, with 13.8 per cent of patients having records of such disorders.

Hannah Green has waived her right to anonymity to talk about her experience of sexual abuse and assault. You can vote for her in the ITV Diversity Awards here.

From couch surfing to real-life surfing: Hannah Green was homeless while battling PTSD and says learning to surf in Scarborough has changed her life. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe