Our interview with :


Please note: We have used a stock image to protect our client’s identity.

Could you tell us about the start of your journey with homelessness and what your experience was like?

The start of my homelessness journey was very sudden, I was quite a sheltered person but my family and home life was kind of deteriorating because I was suffering from mental health issues and cultural differences. So I went from being a very sheltered person to suddenly just being like out on the streets completely by my own and it was very overwhelming. Because I knew that no one around me had experienced this, and I knew how people spoke of homeless people, I very much kept it to myself because it was at the time something I considered to be shameful. 

How I coped with that was that I was still employed so i switched my hours to full time and then while I wasn’t working I would be like on buses but because my friends didn’t realize i was homeless at the time I would sometimes ask them if i could come over and they would say ‘yeah come over!’ and it wasn’t until they actually realised she’s not going home that they actually asked and I was like yeah this is just what's happening and they told me to come stay with them. 

I just remember that I was awake for such a long time because it wasn’t comfortable or safe to sleep, but mentally it's like a big blur. You know you’re in this bad situation and you feel all these emotions but you have to just keep going through it because you can’t really take a break or a breather. 

How difficult was it to have a job at the same time?

I feel as though other people would’ve found it really difficult, but for me it was my clutch because it was the only thing I still had in my life that was stable. So it was quite easy to lean into it, I could fully divulge myself in work, I could talk to customers, coworkers and their lives helped me block out my own. 

I kept the job for about a month or so whilst being homeless. But they had a problem with my pay so I wasn’t paid that month and I literally couldn’t get to work, which is why I had to leave. At that point I had my friends so I was able to apply for a different job and to be honest, I went in there and told the manager exactly what I’m going through and they were just like ‘the fact that you’re even showing up and well-dressed and everything, yeah you can have the job’. It was actually Sainsburys and they sensed I was clearly dedicated and I had the drive, I just needed help so they helped and gave me the job.

How long were homeless for and what type of support were you receiving prior to your funding from Greater Change?

I was homeless for a while but because I was extremely unwell, for exactly how long I don’t know. All I can say is that I remember by December I finally got in contact with a charity, but it's only because someone told me to contact Citizens Advice Bureau. Before then I had no help from any other services.

Nobody talks about black homelessness services because they don’t ever expect you to ever need them. I was just out on my own and finally was like ok I need to have somewhere to live, I contacted Citizens Advice, and they sent me to New Horizon Youth Centre (one of Greater Change’s partner charities), and from there, New Horizon helped to find the new hostel that I was moving into which allowed me to get in contact with you guys when I was finally moving into my supported accommodation. But other than that, I was just on my own. 

Could you tell us what your grant was used for and what impact that had on your life at the time? Did it make any difference?

The grant was given to me when I was finally able to move into my supported accommodation. My accommodation was bare, like I literally only had a bed and a wardrobe so my grant was used to supply me with the tools I needed to live independently. To stock my bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. 

I feel like one of the best parts about it was that it allowed me to pick what I wanted which was important for me because I have sensory issues so it's all about touch and colours and how they look. So everything I was able to pick, I was able to pick them and feel comfortable in my home, actually like touching them and living with those things. Since then as well, I was able to keep up skills I had learned. While I was in hostel I was baking, and I managed to improve on my cooking and stuff like that. Also now I still cook and bake for lots of people. It's just fun and to have that sanctuary as well, like my house is my house and I don't lack for anything in it. I have everything I need in it. 

What was your experience of being funded by us? Did you get the grant quickly?

I got funded from you guys through my support worker at NHYC making an application. I got my grant 1-2 weeks after my application. My experience in a way was soothing. I know that's a funny word to use, but it's because you guys allowed us to have our dignity whilst just listening and supporting us. Like we could share as much as we wanted to about our situation and we could just focus on what we needed rather than where we’re coming from. Which I felt was important because we can keep that privacy and it's also a mental reminder that you are moving on. You are not in that situation anymore and things are gonna get better. So I really appreciate how it was run. 

What is your opinion on the support we provide as opposed to other support services?

I think the thing with most services is that they make choices for us: where we go, where we eat, what money goes towards. It is helpful, but it strips us of our autonomy. Like it sort of is just like you’re homeless, take this. Whereas with you guys, I get that feeling of support, but it's still our choice, does that make sense? 

I think for the phases of life that we are in at that time it's really important. Most people are just coming out of homelessness and are just finding their housing. We don’t have the cash and most people who are homeless tend to be homeless because of mental or physical illnesses that they have. It’s just those little things that help us so that we don’t fall back into those situations and we don’t feel like we’re panicked and have to be burdened with a whole lot of responsibility and no way to deal with that. 

Since receiving our grant, what kind of situation are you in now? Are you in stable housing?

It's kind of like I got to sort of live my life because if I didn’t get the grant, I would’ve had to go into my housing and go straight into work. And because obviously I was coming from a lot, I think it was really important for me when I did finally have my own place to just have a month or two to decompress and actually exhale and think ‘you can breathe now and you can figure out what you want to do’.

Because of that, I thought I actually do want to go back to school and I was able to do that. I’ve been able to go back into work and I wouldn’t have been able to actually decide what I want to do with my life and navigate my life properly without the grant, because I would’ve had to deal with all of these other responsibilities. So I’m always very grateful that I’ve got the grant and everything because it’s helped way more than you realise. 

Do you have any aspirations for the future you want to share?

Honestly my aspirations is to just indulge in what I like. I am quite a creative person and throughout the years I have had to always put it to the side because you know, there’s so many other things to do. And that’s why I’m glad that I went back to college and chose to do the course that I’ve done. Because I’ve done beauty therapy and you have creative control within that sort of thing. And now it links into other things like I'm doing little side hobbies, like arts, even coding and stuff like that.

Everything is so interesting and there’s so many options and I feel like my true aspiration is just to look back on my life and be like “Yeah I had fun, I expressed myself, I was free. That’s really the main thing. To just not feel held down.”

A lot of people in the UK have never spoken to someone who is homeless and there are a lot of stigmas and stereotypes surrounding homelessness. What would you say to someone who may be misinformed?

When you are homeless, the stigmas and stereotypes, they affect you so much more because you’re really in your most vulnerable stage. No one expects to be homeless. Of course nobody tried to make themselves homeless. Yes they do probably carry some embarrassment, some shame about it.

You’ll have people saying like ‘they’re less than others, or they must be addicted to drugs, something like that’. It's like you don’t know that, but even if they were, they still deserve basic human respect, you know? 

To those who have stigmas, I would tell them that ‘homelessness isn’t a choice, so you really shouldn’t assume everyone’s story and you should treat people like humans. Houseless people are still humans and I also asked a friend who suffered from homelessness as well. They said ‘homelessness is dehumanising, you’re either ignored, looked down upon or extorted, making it very hard to open up and trust people.’

So if you, who is not homeless, wants to help the homeless, be open to all the options that you have to do so, don’t judge them for making the choices they make at their lowest moments. And don’t be offended if they are very closed off to you, because you have to be quite a closed off person to keep yourself safe. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I know a lot of people are very hesitant to give money to homeless people because they assume that the homeless person is going to like use it on drugs, but the majority of the time, that is not the case. If they are using it for drugs, they are using it to cope, so please do not let the stigma of homeless people are going to use my money for drugs and alcohol to stop you from giving money. They do still need it.

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