I'm on cloud nine. I'm 41 and have the keys to my own house, which has been my dream since I was 13. I moved in earlier this year and now it is no longer a dream. It is a reality and it feels great!
It took me a long time to get here, but it has all been worth it. I used to live in a supported living house run by United Response. I liked living there, but I knew it was time to move on. I found myself growing apart from the people I shared the house with and I wanted my independence.
Last year I'd also had a difficult time. I'd lost some close friends and it had left some bad memories for me. I wanted a fresh start.
I spoke to a friend about moving out and she suggested that I spoke to Jeff, my support worker at United Response, to see if it was possible. Jeff helped me set up meetings and we started talking about renting houses. We completed many housing application forms, but they all came to nothing.
So, I decided to ask if United Response could find me a house. They said they could and set up some meetings to talk to me about it. At the first meeting they gave me a list of things to do. I contacted all the local estate agents to send me details of houses in my price range.
With the help of my support workers, I think I looked at more than 30 houses. I then had to tell the estate agent if the answer was "yes" or "no". It was always no. Some of the houses I looked at were awful. One was so bad that I don't even think my pet dog Sooty would have liked it.
I looked at more and more and started to get really tired of it. But I kept on going, and five months after I started looking I finally found my dream home.
It's a two-bedroom house in a really nice area. I own half the house and the other half is owned by United Response but it feels as if it is all mine. A lot of people helped me make this possible and I want to thank them for all their support.
It was great to finally get my keys. It took some time to get the house ready for me to move in. First the builders had to come in and then I had to buy a lot of things - wallpaper, curtains, carpets, washing machine and fridge. In January this year, I finally moved into my very own home.
I still receive regular support from United Response. They help me to work out my money. But I do my own shopping and I sort out my gas, electricity and water. I have top-up cards which I find much easier to manage than paying bills.
Me and Sooty are very happy in our new home. It has a garden so Sooty has plenty of room to play with his toys and he loves it. There are some very special people who I wish could see me now. They are no longer here, but if they were I know they would say, "Well done Al, you did it! Look after yourself and enjoy your new life".
Al Davidson (not his real name) has learning difficulties