“First night I travelled around on night buses. In the daytime I sat in a park. I kept going back to the council. Washing in toilets in shops. It was awful.”
“I referred myself to StreetLink but they couldn’t send an outreach worker to see me because I was travelling around on buses on different routes. They couldn’t find me. Some of the drivers were horrible to me.”
Sleeping rough is exhausting, frightening and stressful. It had a huge effect on Debs’ physical and mental health. She got very little sleep, having to travel around on buses during the night-time and visiting the council during the day. On top of this she had no money at all, having been told she could no longer sign on for Job Seeker’s Allowance.
“That was when I ended up in hospital. I was in that situation for about a month until I became really ill. I went into hospital the first time because I tried to kill myself. I took an overdose. I thought I can’t do this anymore.”
After being released from hospital the first time Debs had a psychotic episode and started experiencing delusions. A psychiatrist later explained that this had been brought on by extreme stress. That was when Debs’ was sent to the Royal London Hospital. There she met Maria and Pooja from Providence Row’s Routes to Roots service.
“I was in the Royal London Hospital when I met Pooja. She helped me sort out my ESA benefits. I wasn’t getting anything before and didn’t know what I was entitled to, what I could apply for. When I got made homeless I couldn’t sign on and I didn’t know that when I was ill I could get ESA. Maria [a Senior Personal Advisor at Providence Row] referred me to a solicitor from the Tower Hamlets Law Centre.”
“We went to the housing office and stayed all day waiting to hear where I would be going. I arrived at the accommodation just after 8pm in the evening. I was shocked when I first went into the flat. There was a bed, table, washing machine. I was expecting to have to sleep on the floor. I had no income so had been worried there wouldn’t be furniture or bedding. I was relieved to see a washing machine and fridge.”
When Debs had been evicted she hadn’t had enough money to pay for her things to go into storage so when she was made homeless she lost everything. All she had was a little black case with some clothes in. In situations like these Providence Row helps by giving people ‘Resettlement packs’ to help them with the basics when they move into temporary or new accommodation.
“Pooja turned up at the hospital with a box with shower gel, soap, cups, plates, bedding, pillow, duvet, coffee, cereal, toothpaste, toothbrushes. So I had some things to take with me to the new place.”
Debs has made a full recovery and although she has to take medication for an underactive thyroid is feeling better than ever.
“I’ve come out the other end stronger. I’ve never felt so good.”
She loves her new home area and sees herself staying there for the long term.
“It’s a friendly place here. People say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ to me as you walking down the street.”
When we ask her what she thinks of Providence Row she said:
“It’s all down to Pooja, Maria and The Royal London Hospital as well. I could never have got through it on my own. I probably would have taken another overdose and just decided that’s that. I owe them my life.”