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?

I became homeless at 18, after a relationship breakdown. I had been living with a family member for a number of years and had to leave. They didn't want me to work because they were claiming benefits for me, so I had to quit my job. From then on, I struggled to find jobs as a result because I was without a positive reference.

I was rough-sleeping for about 4 months before I got help - I made a call to StreetLink and was placed into a homeless shelter with only two other women and over 30 men. They were all much older, I felt unsafe and no one young was there. All the people in the shelter were there for different reasons and I slept with my bags next to me on the floor, around strangers, all the time. 

I then moved from that homeless shelter into a houseshare, where I was removed after a week because the property was deemed unsafe for me to be there. Again, I moved into another shelter, with the same gender disparity, men much older and me being the only woman. There was only one member of staff at night. The little I did have would get stolen.

At one point, I managed to see a family friend and told her what was going on. The family friend said I could stay with her until I found something more stable, but the council objected to this as ‘I had a safe place to live’ and would receive no further help, so I had to leave the bed-sit as soon as I got there. 

I was then moved into another hostel and was moved a further 4 times after that. It was a mess. I didn’t understand half of the reasons I was being moved. There was no stability during that time.

I then ended up in a domestic violence relationship, due to my real vulnerability at the time. I had a very little support network. I made the decision to call the police and was MARAC moved to a different part of London, far away from my support network. After moving from place to place with no support from the council, I then had no choice but to start rough-sleeping again for a few months. I tried to get into certain shelters but they were only for men, I was allowed to use the facilities if I stayed outside. Then it was graveyards, parks, sleeping on buses. There are only so many buses you can take.

With help from a friend at the time, I got into another hostel, where I was allowed to stay for the duration of my new pregnancy. Social services then told me that it wasn’t safe for me to stay there with a newborn and was put into a mother and baby placement. When that came to an end, I had nowhere to go. Because of my situation with my new baby and all of my previous experiences, I was able to get an offer for social housing but I felt pressured to take the property. It was only meant to be temporary and then I found out it was permanent once I signed the contract. 

What support were you receiving prior to your funding from Greater Change?

Next to nothing. I was just given somewhere to bounce around, I was living out of a bag. You never knew if you were going to be there for one night or however many years. There was no support during that time. Because I was moving around so much, I was constantly having things stolen, there wasn’t even a way for me to replace stolen clothes.

How did you find Greater Change?

My support worker who worked for a partner charity of Greater Change suggested it to me.

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

Obviously, when I was homeless, I had no way to get or keep furniture. I was given an unfurnished house. The grant enabled me to buy things like my sofas, kitchenware and white goods, as well as a bed for my daughter. If I wasn’t able to get those items, the council would have said the property was not fit for us to live in, continuing the cycle of homelessness.

I had a good experience with getting the funding. It only took a couple weeks from when we submitted the referral for me. My support worker had a card which the grant was put on, so I wasn’t restricted to one shop or one place that wouldn’t work for me or my home. The wait to find out if I got it or not caused me a bit of anxiety but overall it was so great.

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

I feel like with you, it’s very easy to be open and say what you want and need. You aren’t scrutinised down to the penny with Greater Change. They don’t judge or patronise you. There is flexibility and you provide things that other grants turned me away for, for example saying that the council should help with white goods. They don't do that and their working day ends at 5. So what are you supposed to do?

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

I have a home, not just a house. I am in a place where myself and my child are comfortable and calm. I feel that I have proved that I can keep a home that I can raise my child in when I felt like no one was rooting for me. We still get a bit of support but most are not involved in our lives now. 

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

When my child is in school, I’d like to look at getting into jobs that support the homeless or becoming a police officer. I remember how it felt and the way that they treated me when I needed support and I want that to change. I want to support those who need it, just like I needed someone who would just really understand and not assume I did it to myself.

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?

We get put in this situation, we don't choose this situation. I wish people would have more empathy towards those who find themselves coping with drugs and alcohol too. Everyone has their own story, their own experiences and coping strategies. We shouldn’t look down on them for that.

I saw a lot of these stigmas and stereotypes played out when I was homeless, especially as a young woman. It was actually the homeless men on the street who made me feel safe, not anyone else. The whole time, people who had nothing would offer me their food and look out for me. One man stayed up all night to watch me sleep on a bench so that I was safe. The public would never ask you if you were okay.

What I would say is that the boot doesn’t fit everyone. Not all of us have done something ourselves that puts us into the category of being homeless. If you walked a day in my shoes, I don’t think you would have gotten this far. Because I never had a head start in life and I am still that girl that I was back then, but now I am ten times stronger.

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