A home where friendships have formed

“I’ve known Simon for about 15 years. Where he lived before was a much smaller three bedroom property also in Abingdon. Simon rarely left the house,” says Tony.

He adds: “Simon’s family came to visit not long after he first moved in. I think they were really, really pleased, because we had found a property that not only suited Simon, but it meant that he had peers to live with, and that there would be somebody around all the time which has given Simon the confidence to do some of those things that he does now.”

“My dad and brother are happy. Dad took pictures of the house and garden and Mum saw the pictures, and she’s happy. It’s a really nice house and I really like it,” says Simon.

Simon, who has learning difficulties, moved into Oxford Road in December 2021, with four other people: Oliver, Fred and two Marks - Mark H and Mark L. And now the fivesome, all with very different personalities, have formed close knit friendships and a bond.

One source of joy for all five men are Simon’s two Continental breed rabbits, Rocky and Ruby. Simon has always had pets and when he moved to Oxford Road, senior support worker Julia, helped him to find Rocky and Ruby.

“I’ve never had Continental rabbits before. Julia supported me to go to a farm to get Rocky and all the way to Milton Keynes to get Ruby,” says Simon. “I look after them, feed them, change their water and like to stroke them. I like cleaning out the rabbit shed.” A vase with two bunnies which he bought takes pride of place in the lounge.

As well as shared joy, the friends also support each other during challenging times. Recently Simon received the sad news about his uncle passing away, and he said: “I did get a bit upset and then Oliver came in and gave me a hug.”

Tony adds: “Living in a house with not just a team of staff here all the time, but also friends, means that Simon’s got someone to go to.”

Staff members also play a crucial role in supporting Simon and his housemates joining in community-based activities, events, and holidays. Tony says: “If there are events going on in the local community, we would support Simon and the guys to attend some of those, or things like big shows in the London area or in different places, which Simon really enjoys.”

Simon tells us about a trip to Iceland: “It was cold so we went out with big boots on. Julia and Andrea took us out on a boat trip and I saw two whales.” Plans are already underway for next year’s holiday to Amsterdam.

Simon adds: “I’ve been to see Sam Smith, Westlife, Abba Voyage and I went to see Elton John. I’m also going to Blenheim Palace for a car show.”

And cars are another one of Simon’s passions. In the lounge is a collage poster of cars Simon has photographed and his bedroom is filled with pictures of cars. “I like taking pictures of cars and my most favourite job is cleaning cars,” he tells us proudly.

Simon likes to be active and is a keen cyclist, regularly going out on bike rides “when the weather is good” he says, with support workers Julia or Phil. Tony adds: “I think all the guys here like to be active. Simon enjoys being out on his bike and likes a good bike ride mainly off road.”

The location of Oxford Road with its close links to transport, the countryside and shops makes a big difference to the housemates.

Tony adds: “This property is spacious and the location has been vital because it's given everyone opportunity. It’s in the right place, near a main road, near a bus service, near shops. It’s been a really positive move for everybody. There’s a lot that Simon does here during the week that keeps him busy.”

Living in a supportive environment has helped Simon to increase his confidence and do things he’s never done before. He’s a familiar face at the local Tesco Express a few minutes’ walk away.

“If we’re short of bread and milk, I’ll go to the shop on my own,” Simon says. Tony adds: “Staff know his name! For Simon to have that new skill of going to the local shop just across the road, he would never do that before.”

Simon and Mark H also go to ‘Monday Club’ in nearby Didcot, catching a bus from the stop opposite their shared house. Mark H adds: “I like going to Monday Club. And I love living here, it’s awesome.”

The camaraderie and understanding between the housemates and the staff has created a close-knit community where they share experiences and activities together. The lounge and kitchen diner are well used, and Simon tells us that he enjoys doing chores around the house and makes his own meals.

Tony reflects: “I could see the potential for this place and then the potential for the guys moving in. And what it would bring for them. It’s been amazing and that's down to the guys and the team. The team we’ve had in last year has turned it into a home….. And that's something I'm really, really proud of.”