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The month of December – usually a time of festivity and celebration – is perhaps the most daunting time to move out of the family home for the very first time.
But that is exactly what 25-year-old Jason Evans did in 2016 when he moved from his parents’ house in Bayston Hill to Bromford’s Beagle House supported housing scheme in Shrewsbury. Jason, who has lived with autism since a youngster, describes a challenging school life particularly when he found himself in a secondary school he didn’t like. He describes how his parents had to make some difficult financial decisions to get him into specialist education which better met his needs.
Sat in the communal area of Beagle House with the sun shining through the windows, Jason, who has an identical twin brother called Jamie as well as an older sister, beams as he tells me that he had actually beaten his target for moving on to independent living.
“Five or six years ago a target was set for me to leave home when I was 25 but I actually moved here when I was still 24,” he explains.
“It was really mixed feelings when I moved actually. The unknown made me nervous and I wasn’t confident even when I moved in for quite a while but I can now say I really enjoy having my own place. It has been a definite life-changer for me.”
Jason receives support from Autism West Midlands and says he particularly loves his kitchen as well as the cracking view of the Wrekin he enjoys from the window of his second-floor flat. He is gradually making friends at the scheme and the big theme park lover and football fan, who is a season-ticket holder at Shrewsbury Town and a membership holder at Manchester United, also regularly socialises with his family and friends away from his new home.
He said: “I had been on a couple of very successful dates but unfortunately I’ve been single since September 2016 so when I was out having a few drinks with my friends one night, one of them said to me: ‘Why don’t you apply to go on that dating show on Channel 4?’”
Despite not being completely comfortable with the title of the popular primetime television show, Jason said his new-found confidence and passion for finding a partner persuaded him to take the plunge. After more than 2,000 applicants, Jason has now taken part in some preliminary filming after being included in a final shortlist.
Neighbourhood coach Amy Clarke added: “Jason’s confidence has really come on leaps and bounds since moving here – he has the space to be himself and has really taken to life here. It shows how much his confidence has grown that he made the completely independent decision, with our support, to apply for this TV show.
“He enjoys cooking – he does a mean spaghetti bolognese – and his flat is always immaculate. He is free here to make his own decisions and it is proving to be a really great stepping stone ahead of hopefully fully independent living in the future. We really see our homes as a springboard to achieve other things in life and Jason is a shining example of that.”
And as for Jason’s goals and aspirations? Finding love is clearly top of his list but being a big movie buff, another ambition is to one day be an actor on the big-screen. His latest experience in front of the rolling cameras will certainly set him up well for that…