This is Veronica's story, in her own words
I was homeless before I got into my most recent hostel. Before then I was getting help from a charity called Praxis based in Bethnal Green. Before that I was homeless for three and a half years. I was living in different parts of London. I was kicked out from another hostel, because social services stopped paying for it. That was when everything went downhill. That was in 2013 and from then until 2016 I was homeless.
There was a life before then, but that life was like being homeless anyway. Both spiritually and physically. Even though I was living in a house it didn’t feel like I was living in a house, it felt like I was living in darkness.
I was sleeping with men to stay in their houses. It's a shameful thing, but in the system we are in, there’s no way vulnerable women don’t get into that situation. After I got kicked out of the hostel, I stayed with a man, sleeping on the floor. Someone I met through him felt sorry for me.
“You can’t carry on like this.”
She told me.
“I know, but what can I do?”
There was another man who liked me so I spoke to him and asked him if I could stay with him. He knew a guy in another part of London who was lonely and he said maybe I could stay with him. I got there, introduced myself. He said he had no separate bed. He only had his own bed. He asked if I didn’t mind sharing. He said he wouldn’t touch me, but obviously he lied. I was so desperate at that point. I stayed with him for two or three weeks, before he told me to leave.
I was walking around restless and confused. I saw this man and he asked me to come over.
“What do you want?”
“Why are you walking around like this?”
“I’m homeless I have no place to stay”.
He felt sorry for me, and spoke to a woman he knew who let me stay at her house. She told me I didn’t deserve to be on the street and gave me the number of a charity.
“Don’t wake up late. Don’t wait for him. Go on your own if you have to”
I nearly didn’t get there. The man kept trying to stop me going, because he was paranoid I would find someone else. He was following me around and kept butting in. It was almost like he didn’t want them to help me. I was so frustrated! I decided to leave him. Then I went straight to Praxis.
Since then I have got legal status. I just got keys to my own room. I kissed the floor, I didn’t care it wasn’t hoovered. It was like going to a five star hotel. I smelled freedom. Right now I’m working on finding a job that I will love. I’m studying and have completed several courses already. I need to do something with my life. I don’t want to dwell on the past. I need to move on with positivity. Happy! It’s so difficult to find that word in me. That’s what I want to concentrate on.
Without the support network, it’s a downward spiral. Women who are in the same position that I was in - many of them are underground. But there are a few who are wandering around in the streets because they’re confused. When I see them I want to shake them and say
“There is help out there for you!”
Without exaggerating. Providence Row has been marvellous. Brigitte and Chris who helped me with art and photography. I had a phobia of making mistakes. I was nervous with the camera. But one of my pictures was in an exhibition. I saw it and was so excited. It was my picture! I took it.
I want to think big for myself.
I don’t want “I can’t” - I want “I can, I can, I can”.
Even during those years I was homeless I was still dreaming big. Without any support and any connections what was I supposed to do!
I’m eternally grateful for the support."
*Veronica's name and some details have been changed to protect her privacy.