A WOMAN left homeless on the streets of Mid Cheshire for more than a year is turning her life round by helping children learn to ride.
Bernadette Hodgson, who now lives at Victoria House in North-wich, has just started volunteering one day a week at Cheshire Riding School in Comberbach.
The 43-year-old mother-of-three is delighted with the opportunity to help children learn to ride and care for horses - and slowly but surely it is bringing back the dignity and self-respect she lost along with her Winsford home.
Her hardship began three years ago while living in Grampian Way. Due to rent arrears Bernie, as she likes to be called, was evicted by her landlords and, with no friends or family able to offer her a roof over her head, found herself living rough.
She said: 'Two of my children went to stay with my ex-husband and my youngest daughter was taken in by a friend.
'I tried all different hostels but they told me that I was too old - they only catered for certain age groups, teens and single mums, and when you've had children and they're all grown up they don't seem to care any more.
'Sleeping rough was terrible - I was always anxious and never felt safe and it could get very cold. I was on the street for a year and slept anywhere I could - I even slept in outhouses of pubs.
'It's very scary when you don't know where the next meal is coming from. I was looking for work but it's hard to get one if you haven't get a home address.'
Eventually, Bernie came across Victoria House, a Muir Group supported housing scheme for vulnerable people, and after a series of interviews was taken in, a moment she describes as a 'god-send'.
She said: 'My life was a real mess until I moved to Victoria House last year. The Muir staff have helped me get back on my feet and encouraged me to take the job at the stables.'
Kate McInerney, deputy scheme manager at Victoria House, said: 'This opportunity is helping Bernadette get her confidence back and put her life on the streets behind her.'