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There is no “average” homeless person; there are instead people like Iris, who happens to be homeless. Radiant with confidence and chat, Iris has experienced more at 21 than most experience in a lifetime.
Iris left a chaotic, single-parent home in her early teens and moved in with a boyfriend soon after. She fell pregnant and had a daughter, now five years old; while the birth of her daughter was a blessing, Iris’s new living situation was even more chaotic than the one she had fled. Iris feared for her safety in her own home, and was forced to leave her partner – and their daughter – when he became abusive. Years of couchsurfing and substance abuse followed, but Iris held out hope, overcame her addictions, and resolved to take control of her life.
At Shelter from the Storm, Iris has found support and regained the confidence she lost while homeless and unemployed. She is a star employee at Waitrose and hopes to be housed soon, as much for her daughter’s sake as her own; of everything she has to look forward to, Iris is most excited about being back with her daughter, building the kind of peaceful, stable home that she herself never had.
Meet a Guest Suzy
Suzy is 20 years old and moved in with her 21-year-old partner in 2013. From the start the relationship was abusive, with regular episodes of violence involving the police. On Christmas Eve this year he stamped on her foot so hard that he broke her ankle in two places. She was admitted to hospital but he visited her on Christmas day when he smashed her broken foot into the metal bed frame. The police were called and he was arrested, but bailed to his and Suzy’s home. When she was discharged from hospital after two weeks, the Domestic Violence charity that was trying to help her was unable to find a refuge. The Council told her that she wasn’t vulnerable, she had no priority and that she was ‘Lewisham’s problem’! Eventually, they contacted us and luckily we were able to offer Suzy a bed. Suzy was worried about being in a mixed environment, but she says feels safe at SFTS. She has an interview for supported housing tomorrow and today her ex was sentenced to six years for GBH. We really hope to be saying bye bye to Suzy very soon!
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I’m a cook and I’d been looking for somewhere to volunteer when I read AA Gill’s article about the shelter. It was a couple of years ago and I was unemployed at the time but I found volunteering put a bit of structure back in my life. We have great fun in the kitchen cooking anything from fish fingers to a proper curry with all the trimmings. It’s a bit like a family, the same team meets up every week and we all pull together to make something really great for our guests.
I became homeless when the friends I’d been sofa surfing with kicked me out. I had no work, no money and now no home. I was only on the streets two nights, but believe me, two nights rough sleeping is a long, scary time. I was really frightened. I got a place at Shelter from the Storm and started a training program with a placement at Costa Coffee. It was hard work but I got taken on as a full time employee. At the shelter I can live for free, so I’ve managed to save up for a deposit and I hope to move into my own place next week. It’s not easy working while you live in a homeless shelter but it’s helped me motivate myself to move on. I will miss the delicious food and the lovely volunteers but I can’t wait to have my own space and a lie in on my day off.
I’m a retired airline pilot and I’ve lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for more than two thirds of my adult life. When I was told my status was in question I felt I was going mad. Shelter from the Storm was the one place that accepted me without question when everyone else passed me by. It’s been a long haul, but now it’s finally over and I’m moving into my own place, words can’t express how grateful I am to Shelter from the Storm for all the care they’ve given me.
I’m 22 years old, I was born in Newham Hospital and I’ve lived in East London most of my life. I grew up as the only child in a single parent family and relations had always been a little difficult. I did pretty well at school but always felt out of step with the crowd, maybe because I was a bit of a tomboy. I get a place at University but had difficulty settling in and left this April after 2 years. Moving back in with Mum was hard. She was constantly questioning my sexuality. My family are very religious and I’d always been frightened of coming out. This Halloween things came to a head and I finally told her I was gay. She became really angry and upset and kicked me out. I tried to stay with other members of my family but she warned them not to have anything to do with me. I became very low and took an overdose. Thankfully, I immediately panicked and called an ambulance. They took me to the Royal London where I was looked after for 2 weeks. They were wonderful. When I was ready for discharge they called Shelter from the Storm and luckily they had a bed for me. It was a relief to finally be honest about who I am, but I’m still not speaking to my family. Now all I want is a decent job, I’ll do anything. I want to save up and get a pace of my own and get my life on track. Who knows, one day I may even go back to Uni and finish my studies.
It was when the shelter was in Essex Road. I wanted to pay back a bit what homeless shelters had done for me. I worked for the railways for 18 years but in 2007 I became homeless. I had a lot of problems with money; I was sofa surfing, spent a couple of weeks sleeping in the park and eventually lost my job. I nearly reached rock bottom but I got a place in a winter night shelter. I got advice from the Manna Society in Southwark and they helped me get a place of my own. Once I was settled I started doing Construction courses and getting better-paid work in the industry. This year I got a great job at Euston, back on the Railways!
I like the atmosphere at SFTS, I can use my practical skills to help and the other volunteers are great. I’ve been in the same situation as the guests and I can understand what they’re going through. Oh! And we always have a laugh!