It all started to go wrong when my marriage broke down. I had nowhere to go so I was sleeping on the streets. My health really suffered and I started to become depressed. That’s when I began taking drugs. Things just seemed to get worse and worse. I did manage to hold on to my job though which was really important to me.
I first came to Shelter from the Storm in August 2014 after I had just broken my leg. I had a bed to rest in that was warm and there was food. I was given time for my leg to heal, I was then able to start working again. Things haven’t always gone to plan for me at the shelter, but I’m finally moving out now into my own place. I hope that everyone who is suffering from homelessness can get the same chance as I did at Shelter from the Storm. All of my gratitude goes out to all of the volunteers – thank you.
I was born in Brisbane Australia but my grandparents are British and I spent a lot of time with them here as a child. Two years ago my mum died and that really threw me. I’d always worked in customer relations or as a manager but after my bereavement I felt toally lost and work just dried up. Although all my British family had died, I remember my time with them in the UK with great fondness. I’d been happy here and decided to give it another go. I came over in February of this year, but I had no idea how expensive accommodation was or how difficult I’d find it to get work. By June I’d used up all my savings and I was destitute, sleeping out in the Strand – it was terrifying. Luckily I was picked up by outreach workers who referred me to Shelter from the Storm. Everyone at SFTS is in the same boat but I found great support from the other guests and gradually started to feel less alone. I’ve had weekly sessions with the SFTS Counsellor and she’s been amazing. This is the first time I’ve had any sort of therapy and it’s been a fantastic help. I’ve just got my own place in Lewisham and I’ve two job interviews lined up which Cookie at SFTS helped me apply and prepare for. For the first time since mum died I’m beginning to feel more positive about life.
I was born and bred in South London and most of my working life was a butcher at Smithfield meat market. After 20 years my relationship broke down and I left my wife and son in the family home and went to live with my brother. We were OK together for a few years but it was difficult, he was also a butcher and a combination of his heavy drinking and the night shift work meant that things became very strained between us and I decided to leave before we came to blows. I had to leave my job at the beginning of the year. I was a Lamb Cutter, the work was very heavy and cold and the pain I suffered from a long-term injury to my leg became too much to bear. I was gutted to leave the market. I stayed for a little while with my son who sells caravans at a holiday park in Hythe but his boss said I wasn’t covered by insurance and had to leave. That’s when I started sleeping in Burgess Park over Peckham way. I was cold, I was wet and I was lonely. I found I started drinking more than I was used to just to dull the pain, warm me up and help me sleep. One night I came back to find my sleeping bag and all my things soaking and destroyed. I found it hard to ask for help, but I went to Southwark Council. The Council just didn’t want to know and sent me away. I managed to find a day centre that referred me to SFTS. When I arrived my feet were black, the colour of my shoes. They gave me some clean dry clothes and I had a shower and some food. That night, I think I probably had the best sleep of my life. I’ve just signed a tenancy agreement for a studio flat in Streatham and I’ll be moving in in a couple of days. This experience has really opened my eyes, I’ve been working since I was 15 and I guess I never believed I’d be one of those homeless people, I thought they were different but they’re not, they’re just like you and me. I’ve felt warm and cared for by the volunteers and other guests at the Shelter. Without SFTS, I’d still be on the streets.
I used to be a chef and a DJ, but when my relationship broke down I became homeless. For nearly two months I slept on a park bench in Peckham Rye. It was cold, it was lonely and the mosquitoes used to eat me alive! It was Father’s day and I was playing with my ten year old son when I got the call to say Shelter from the Storm had a bed for me. I always feel like a million dollars when I’m with my kids but I have to admit, life on the streets was very hard. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced it understands how miserable and alone you can feel when you’re homeless
Since I’ve been at the shelter I’ve started a ‘Multi Task Construction’ course. I’ve learned tiling, bricklaying and plastering. I’m due to finish next week and I should get my CSCS card which will enable me to work on a building site.
I really appreciate everything the volunteers at the shelter have done for me, they’ve made me feel so welcome; like a home from home. I can’t wait to get a job, move into my own place and get my life back on track.
ike most of our guests, Martin’s story is one of a kind…
Born in London in the 1940s, Martin emigrated to Australia aged 16 by a Big Brother Movement organised by his local church. This is where he lived for the next 40 years, starting a family and working in various agricultural jobs.
In 2003, Martin went to Thailand where he met his second wife and thought that he had finally met his happy ever after. Then due to a tsunami, he spent two years searching for his wife’s family who were missing and also lost a cafe he was just about to open before the tsunami hit. Again, Martin worked very hard to get a job teaching English and Social Studies.
Just as he was getting back on his feet, he lost his wife to cancer. Martin later discovered that he too had cancer and had multiple tumours on his face. Having had 3 operations, Martin was told he could not return to his old job teaching due to his new “scary” appearance. Martin told us that appearance is very important in Thai culture.
Martin had a further setback when hoping to retire in Australia where his children are still living. However, according to Australian Immigration Martin was not a resident of Australia and he did not qualify for residency. Martin had no other option at this point but to return to the UK much to his children’s horror. They were very worried about him.
He came here with £900 and stayed in a cheap hostel whilst trying to sort out his pension. No country that Martin had lived in seemed to be able to support him. Martin ended up rough sleeping with 11p in his pocket before he was referred to us at Shelter From The Storm.
Martin’s been with us for a month and he has just received his pension. He is so excited to finally settle down in a house in the Lake District.
Now when asked to describe how he feels in three words: ‘Brilliant, Lucky, Excited’.
We are so happy for you Martin, and wish you all the best. Congratulations and we’ll miss you!
Forget Mad Max, we’ve got Mad Mike:
Michael Mercer, great friend of SFTS, has recently become a Guinness World Record holder, all in aid of the shelter. Against all better judgement, he accepted the challenge to complete the London Marathon (all 26.2miles!) wearing a sleeping bag. We’re very proud of him completing the course in 4 hours 20 minutes and raising over two thousand pounds. If anyone else would like to do something equally daredevil, please contact us at SFTS Record Breakers HQ
Our Hackney Half Marathon Superstars. Team SFTS SMASHED IT this year and raised over eight thousand pounds. We counted them out and we counted them all back in. Lots of sore knees but no serious injuries – phew! Magnificent effort guys!
I first became interested in volunteering at Shelter from the Storm after a friend reminded me that anyone can help to make a difference in their community. And at the shelter, I believe I’m doing just that!
Since volunteering here I have encountered an extremely loving and supportive community of volunteers all working to help out the guests. I’m also impressed by the support that the guests show one another; there is a real feeling of family!
And although the shelter keeps the guests safe I think everyone knows what the real solution is: building more social housing!
As a trainee lawyer, I’ve been interested to hear about the shelter’s in house legal clinics. They sound like an innovative way of helping the guests receive sound legal advice and am hoping to use my skills to help out wherever possible.
I knew from the age seven that I was a girl but when I told my parents they laughed it off, they just thought I was gay! At fourteen I finally made my move to transition; I just started dressing as a girl, as far as I was concerned I was a girl. I dropped out of school at twelve because of bullying and attended a referral unit, but that was even more brutal. From twelve to fourteen I was unschooled till they sent me to stay with an aunt in Margate where I had to play ‘straight’, which was soul destroying. Back then you couldn’t start testosterone blockers and oestregen treatment till you were eighteen and I was twenty-one before I could eventually start hormone therapy.
Mum and Dad have been very supportive and chilled about my identity but I have a troubled relationship one of my brothers. A few weeks ago we had a horrible fight and I was kicked out. I was street homeless for a week and it was really scary. People offered me drugs, they offered me a roof over my head in return for sex; it was terrifying!
When The Albert Kennedy Trust referred me to SFTS I was pretty anxious but as soon as I arrived I was made really welcome, everyone is relaxed and kind; I feel safe now. I don’t want to leave in the mornings because who knows what’s going to happen on the street?
The shelter is helping me look for work and accommodation and I’m trying to finish my Music and Performance course at college. I’m determined to fulfil my dream of becoming a music teacher; it may take a bit of time, but I know I’ll get there in the end.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to David Sumners who is stepping down as a trustee after four and a half amazing years. David has helped steer us through our transition to becoming one of the most highly regarded charities in our field. We wish you the very best of luck for the future.