This is Sophie's* story, in her own words.
*Sophie’s name and image have been changed to protect her identity.
I was in a bad relationship, domestic abuse. The abuser got me into gear, and I ended up being on it for 20 years.
After I left, I had nowhere to go except the streets, where I slept rough for four years.
It was awful. I used to sleep in bin sheds, underneath walkways and underneath steps and I had to find clothes in the charity shop bins to keep warm because it was freezing.
The abuser kept me isolated, so I had no friends looking out for me. Then on the streets, you have to stay on your own because other homeless people can be a threat. I definitely felt in more danger because I am a woman.
At the beginning of the pandemic, around February or March, I am sure I had Covid. It was the worst flu and fever I have ever had in my whole life, really hardcore. At the time, I was staying in a tent on a bit of wasteland having to keep the tent door open because the fever was so bad. I just had to ride it out and survive. It was hard, I did not have benefits, so I tried to beg, but no one was around.
I first heard about Providence Row through Reset.* I used to go there for food and classes. I used to do the Mindfulness and Art classes, and I took a couple of film classes. It gave me confidence and something positive to do, talking to people, meeting people and meeting people who actually care and want to help.
The staff followed through with help. It was not just talk. They actually did it.
I used to ring other services, and they would never turn up. But they actually did what they said they would.
Now I am getting benefits, and I am in a hostel.** We have our own little bedsit, so I do not even have to share a kitchen or bathroom. It makes such a big difference, and I can self isolate if I need to.
I have got myself on methadone, and I am 4 weeks clean, after 20 years.
I think I am doing alright, concentrating on looking after myself, trying to put some weight on and get my head together. Ease myself back into society. But boredom is a problem. I have no tv, but I do have a radio I can listen to Radio 4 which keeps me sane, I tell you.
Next, I want to go to college and get reskilled.
The Government are doing this new scheme offering adults courses. I might try to do one in Social Care because I used to do Youth Work years ago. It is free and starts from April next year, so I reckon I am going to go for it, get skilled up. I just need more support and advice about what I could do - what is open to me, like courses, employment or voluntary work.
I want to say thank you so much. Providence Row has done a really good job. They really made a difference!
The help is there if people want it. You just have to want it, and if they see you want it, they are willing to give it - I took it with both hands.
They saved my life - it is not an overstatement. The help I have received is just amazing.
We want to thank Sophie for sharing her story with us!
*The London Borough of Tower Hamlet's commissioned Drug and Alcohol Integrated Treatment system made up of outreach, treatment and recovery support.
** As a result of the pandemic and Everyone In initiative, we have been working alongside partner charities to help support the placement of people like Sophie who were sleeping rough in emergency accommodation and provide ongoing, specialist support.