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!

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.

Michael’s Story

I’ve only been at Mayfield House for a few weeks and it’s not perfect but I think I’m starting to settle in. Being homeless can be really lonely so I’m enjoying making a few friends here; I’ve found some people that I really connect with. Being part of a community definitely helps me get through the days.

I grew up in a quiet town in the South West but moved north a few years ago because I felt that I had outgrown it. When I first moved here I was sofa surfing, staying with different friends and always on the move. Not knowing where you are going to be sleeping next week is very unsettling. I became homeless after falling out with my friends and that was really scary. They pressured me into committing theft and when I told the police the truth about what happened, the people who I thought were my friends threatened to kill me. The conditions of my bail mean that I can’t go near them, and I don’t want to! I moved to Leicester because it’s much safer for me here and I can have a fresh start.

I used to do a lot of volunteering with animals and I’ve had roles on farms and helping vets. I really enjoy working with animals; they are certainly easier to deal with than some of the people I’ve met over the years! Right now my hopes for the near future are to move into a shared house or to get my own place. I’d also love to go back to working with animals!

One of my friends here has a car. He takes us out for drives from time to time and we’re planning on going to the beach soon; it should be a lot of fun!

John’s Story

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I’m originally from Uganda but had to flee because I was being persecuted and it was unsafe for me to stay there. I sought asylum in Britain and was originally accommodated in a shared flat but once I found out that I could remain, I was given 20 days to vacate. I had no choice but to present as homeless at the City Council who told me to go to the Dawn Centre at 6pm to see if there were any spaces left. Luckily there were and I was offered a bed in a dorm room for the night.

In the morning I went back to the council and was seen by a really helpful member of staff. He put in a referral to both Mayfield House and the Dawn Centre but I was really hoping to come to Action Homeless because I knew people who had previously lived here. My referral was successful and I came to Mayfield House that night where I was offered a bed in my own room. I got a proper meal, a shower and I slept well that night.

After a few weeks I decided that I wanted to move to somewhere more stable so I spoke to Rachael, my Key Worker about my options. I was offered a room at the Hollies and it was so peaceful and quiet – I loved that house. I stayed there for two weeks and then received a letter saying that I had been offered a council flat. It was my lucky day and it was a lovely letter – I always keep it with me to remind me what happened. I went to view that flat and it was very nice – I loved it as soon as I saw it. I told the officer that I would like to take it and she said that I was the first choice, I was so happy.

I signed my tenancy a few days later and became a council tenant. Everyone who visits my flat loves it and says that I’ve made it look really nice. My friends from church donated lots of furniture and I’ve grown some tomatoes in my garden so now it really feels like home. I’ve also been doing some volunteering at a charity to help other asylum seekers.

Staying with Action Homeless changed my life. I’ve realised that if you want to improve your situation you must help yourself. You must also show people who are helping you that you want their support. Rachael was my Key Worker and now I see Katie to get support with managing my money. I know I’m in good hands and I feel very lucky.