There were times last year when single mother Cat Williams fell so deeply into depression that she felt there was no way out. But since moving into a new housing complex for young mums, she has turned her life around, she tells Kate Bowman.

CAT Williams was ten years old when she was put into care. She was shunted from one foster home to another over the next few years.

Now aged 22, she is hardened by her childhood, stating matter-of-factly "I have no parents" as she watches over her two-year-old son at her purpose-built home in Grace Court, Darlington.

Cat was one of the first residents at the complex in Gladstone Street when it was opened in March by project partners Darlington Borough Council, the Primary Care Trust and Tees Valley Housing Group.

She says it has been a hard journey up until now - being cut off from her parents, splitting up with Nathan's father when she was six months pregnant and being evicted from her Housing Association flat in Ruby Street with mounting debts.

"It was really hard when Nathan's dad left me - I was under the illusion we would be together forever. There was so much else going on in my life that there were times I wanted to kill myself, I was so depressed," she says.

"I had lived on my own for two years in Ruby Street when I was evicted. I tried to go back and live with my dad again but he only let me stay because of Nathan - he never spoke to me. It wasn't working and I needed somewhere better for me and Nathan. Fortunately, moving here changed everything."

Cat lives in a private, two-bedroom apartment, with kitchen and bathroom, and despite a few house rules, leads a very independent life.

To provide for herself and her son, she works as a retail assistant in Binns and at Hopetown Working Men's Club six days a week.

Staff at Grace Court have provided Cat not only with a roof over her head but with career guidance and advice about anything from housing benefits to how to wire a plug. With their support she is now studying for a NVQ level 2 in retail through Binns and plans to study at Darlington College of Technology next year.

"I have a support worker and we did a plan when I first moved in, mapping out what I want to do in my life," she says. "I wanted to sort out my debts, see a careers advisor and go to college - with their help all these things have been achievable. I'm hoping to get my own place next year.

"I'm working every hour possible at the moment to make it all happen so I'm very tired. But the staff are very supportive - sometimes I come home and just cry, but I know they are here for me."

As well as the individual flats and houses provided to young mums, Grace Court has communal facilities and is staffed overnight by a social worker.

Cat says she owes a great deal to all those who have helped her. "Because of everything I have been through, being given this chance to change has made me stronger and made my life better," she says.