Samuel’s Story

My name is Samuel and I am 32 years old. Last year my family and I lost our home. It happened so fast. I suffer from mental health problems and after I lost my job we couldn’t pay the rent so we were evicted. My partner and two children found a shelter exclusively for women and children. However, I had to stay somewhere else and luckily I found a room at an Action Homeless Hostel.

I am really grateful because otherwise I’d be on the streets. However, it’s very hard being away from my family. I’m really missing my daughter and son. The thought of not putting them to bed at night is really painful. My son is very young and he is having difficulty understanding the situation.

I’m trying to get some work but because I have very few qualifications, I am finding it very difficult. I’ve signed up to some sessions with Engage (Action Homeless’ inclusion centre) and I have started to volunteer with Action Trust (Action Homeless’ cleaning and maintenance social enterprise). I know it may take some time but by volunteering I am hoping to gain the skills to eventually help me to get a job.

I’m trying to stay positive and I am doing everything I can to make the best of our situation. It’s going to be a really tough this Christmas but I’m hoping it’s going to be a better year for me and my family.

Samuel and his family have since been housed in one of the long-term empty properties renovated by Action Homeless. He was able to spend Christmas in the home with his family and he has since gone on to get a full-time job with the building company that refurbishes our properties. Their family has grown with the addition of a new baby.

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Andrew and Duke’s Story

Andrew wanted to tell the story of everything that he’s been through with Duke so we sat down with him a few weeks ago to give him the chance. They have both since moved into a place of their own but we didn’t want to miss the chance to tell you the story of our very special guest!

I’ve had Duke for nine years now and it’s been just the two of us for the last five and I’ve had him since he was a puppy. Originally he was a family dog but when my relationship with my wife broke down I  had to move out and I took him with me. She got to keep the house and I got to keep Duke and had to find somewhere new for us to stay.

I didn’t become homeless straight away. I found somewhere for me and Duke to live for a bit but shortly after that our problems started. My landlord suddenly sold the house we were living in and we were put out on the streets without any warning.

That was five years ago now and I’ve been sleeping rough ever since. I tried to get into a few different hostels but I couldn’t find one that would take Duke in too and I didn’t want to lose him! Duke’s my best friend, he’s like family and we’ve been through so much together. He looks out for me and I look out for him.

Duke has always been a very happy dog. He is very loyal and very protective and I can safely say that he’s kept me going over these last few years! He’s always been in good health although he did once break his leg. I had no idea what I was going to do but thankfully I ran into some very kind people from St John’s Ambulance who took us both to the vet!

I’m very grateful for Action Homeless for taking us both in. I learnt that they don’t usually take in dogs so it was really special of them to reach out to us. I was starting to worry that Duke wouldn’t survive another winter on the streets and it has been life saving for us both! We’ve been here a few weeks now and things are going a lot better. All the staff and tenants at Mayfield House love him which is very important to me!

I’ve been given a great room for us to stay in and I’ve set up Duke’s bed close to mine. After so long on the streets sleeping in a bed was quite hard at first and it’d feel even stranger if Duke was outside or in a kennel. I’m just so used to having him sleep next to me! I love being so close to the park as it means I can take Duke for walks all the time.

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Joseph’s Story

I think a lot of people assume the homeless can’t get jobs or don’t want them but that isn’t always the case; I’ve worked as a plumber for many years. It’s skilled work, it pays well, and I really enjoy doing it! The only thing stopping me from getting work at the moment is the issues I’ve been having with housing.

I’ve lived in this country for over 15 years. For so long I had good jobs, a good home, a car, the lot. I’m close with my family but they all live back home, although thankfully we’re able to message and call a lot. I’m really grateful that talking to people in other countries is so easy and so affordable nowadays; it’s been a real life line when things have gotten tough.

Everything seemed to be going so well until I started having housing problems. I came back to Leicester from a visit to see family to find I had pretty serious leak in the roof of my flat.  I asked my landlord to fix it but they denied responsibility. I tried to take it further but before I knew it I was getting kicked out. They were claiming I’d been aggressive and a poor tenant.

I can’t go home until it’s settled and I can’t work either. I’ve been told not to go anywhere near my flat. Everything I own is still in that house, but I can’t get to it. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’m seeking legal advice and believe I have a case so hopefully everything will be sorted soon.

The days can go by quite slowly so I try and make sure I have things to do. I like to read and have always enjoyed cooking. I want to cook more to keep my skills fresh!

Rough Sleeping – A Response

Last week Homeless Link released shocking statistics that revealed a 30% rise in rough sleeping in 2015. Across the country an estimated 3,569 people are sleeping rough each night, a figure that has doubled since 2010.

Action Homeless places a strong emphasis on preventing rough sleeping and homelessness wherever possible. But, as these statistics show, we need your help more than ever. We have two referral services and the effectiveness of both is reliant on public awareness and action.

Our Duty Desk (Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm) is a signposting service open to anyone that has concerns about homelessness for themselves, friends, or family members and is designed to give the best possible advice no matter what situation someone has found themselves in.

To contact the Duty Desk call 0116 2211 857

Our No Second Night Out Leicestershire scheme is a partnership project with the national organisation Street Link. It is a number to ring, app to use, or website to visit where anyone can report the location of someone suspected of being a rough sleeper. Once their details have been received we are able to send out a street team to locate the person, make contact, and put a roof over their head. From this point they are given personal support as we help them find solutions to the problems they are facing, and get them a more permanent place to stay.

To contact Street Link call 0300 500 0914 or visit www.streetlink.org.uk.

None of what we do is possible without generous donations. Every penny we raise goes straight into our services and helps us to be there for rough sleepers in emergencies. If you would like to give you can do so here: http://bit.ly/1onz5Xe

One website, two phone numbers, three simple ways to change lives. We are reliant on you, the public, to be our eyes and ears in Leicestershire. Budget cuts and stretched services means it is impossible for us to locate and reach out to every person sleeping rough and experience homelessness, but with your help we can create a community that acts, helps, and offers a chance for change.

You can see the full Homeless Link report here: http://www.homeless.org.uk/connect/news/2016/feb/25/homelessness-services-face-uncertain-future-as-rough-sleeping-figures

Priya’s Story

I’ve been at Bridge House for about six months and I’ve just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She’s called Neha and I love her so much. She’s very good and sleeps all through the night; I’m still so tired though! My other daughter has just started school and it’s exhausting having two little ones to look after when you’re on your own. As soon as you’ve sorted one of them out, the other one wants you. Radhika adores her baby sister too, she’s very protective and it’s like Neha’s got two mummies.

I came to England in 2008 after an arranged marriage to my second cousin. We got married in India and it was the first time we’d met. I was so nervous about what he would be like but I was pleasantly surprised because he was very handsome and seemed kind.

We spent our honeymoon in India and came to England a month after we married. At first we were very happy and we lived with his parents who treated me like their own daughter. A few months afterwards though we moved into our own flat and that’s when his true colours started to show. He was very controlling and he didn’t like me spending money or leaving the house on my own. He also became physically abusive.

I chose to leave when I found out I was pregnant again. I already had one frightened daughter and I didn’t want my other child to grow up in that environment. I came to Bridge House and have been so pleased at the support I have received here. Margaret’s fantastic and I know I can talk to her about anything that worries me. She’s always there when you need her.

I recently felt a lot better and started to come to terms with everything that’s happened to me, but since I’ve had Neha all my emotions have come flooding back. I want to be strong for their sake but sometimes it’s hard.

For the moment I’m happy to stay at Bridge House. I feel safe here and there is so much that I still need to sort out. It’s good to know that I have a support network around to help me get back on my feet. In the future I hope to have a home of my own and create a space where my children can be happy.

Maria’s Story: An Update

I’ve been at Bridge House for about six months now and I’m doing much better than when I first arrived. Although I know that this is just a temporary measure, I feel much happier and more confident about the future now.

Margaret has been amazing and is really supportive. She’s so experienced and I don’t know what I would do without her. Because I’m from the EU I wasn’t entitled to any financial support and Margaret’s worked really hard to get me some help. At least now I’m less anxious about money and can focus on coming to terms with what I’ve been through and making a better future for Coco. My advisor at the Job Centre is also great; he’s really helpful and understands that I have other priorities at the moment. I want to work, it’s just difficult to find a company to employ me because I don’t have much experience of working in the UK. It’s so frustrating because I’m really highly qualified.

Coco has started to see her dad on Saturdays. It’s still supervised time but I think it’s important that she gets to know him. He is her dad after all. I never see him – why would I want to? Coco has gotten so much more confident over the last few months; I think it has helped having new people around all the time. When we first arrived she would cling to me but now she’ll happily play with the other children.

I’ve made some friends in Leicester and the summer was really lovely. I seemed to go to a different barbeque every weekend – it was nice to just have some fun. We also went to the seaside with Amanda which was a great day out! I wanted to go swimming but it was so cold and muddy – nothing like the sea I’m used to.

I really miss home now it’s getting colder and I’m still not able to leave the country because my passport has run out. It makes me very sad to know that my parents have never met their granddaughter. I’m going to try and teach Coco to speak Spanish and raise her to be bilingual. It will help her in the future and I want her to know about her roots.

Although I’m much happier at Bridge House now I’m still looking forward to being more settled. I want a house and a job and to be able to give my daughter a good life.

Sophie’s Story

I’ve only been at Bridge House for a few days so I’m still getting used to it, everything seems to be going well so far though. I was married for twenty years and my husband was abusive throughout this time. It wasn’t just physical abuse, although he did hit me – he was very controlling and verbally abusive as well.  Living with the constant threat of violence made life hard, but the decision to uproot my family wasn’t easy either.

I’m really grateful for everything I’ve already received at Bridge House, I feel safe here and I know that my children are safe too. I was surprised at the level of support my family and I are going to receive and it’s encouraging to know that we’re in good hands. I thought that Bridge House would just be a place to stay, but it’s so much more than that!

My children have moved with me and they’ve had to change schools as well. It was really hard to take them away from their friends but I know it’s for the best. Thankfully there are lots of other children here and mine are making some good friends. My daughter is one of the oldest and she loves spending time with the little ones – playing games and keeping them occupied when the other mums are busy.

Their education is important to me and during the move there were times when they didn’t have the right environment to do homework in or the tools to do it with. I don’t want them to miss out on any opportunities later on because of what we’re going through now. Thankfully at Bridge House we have our own room and the space for them to have fun and to learn! I think having Amanda to work with the children is a really nice touch. She’s definitely helped to make the transition as easy as possible and the kids love playing with her! I’m encouraging my youngest son to start writing a diary to help him talk about his feelings, although he’d probably much prefer to be watching TV!

One thing I really like about Bridge House is the kitchen! I love cooking and here I’ve got a big, well looked after kitchen to use. I cook a lot of curry and I like experimenting with flavour – they’re also good for hiding vegetables in. Sometimes you have to be a bit creative in looking after your children! Every dinner time my son asks for pizza and I give in from time to time as a treat – it’s worth it to see his little face light up.

Things are tough at the moment and there are a lot of things to sort out but being in Bridge House is a step in the right direction! Hopefully we’ll soon have a home of our own again.