Osman had to flee his home country, but quickly found himself homeless in London. He was referred to our No Second Night Out service where staff supported him to claim asylum and rebuild his life, and now he runs a successful local business. This is his story.
At home in Egypt I ran a fruit and vegetable export company for more than 15 years. We exported to England, Russia, Ukraine, Holland and lots of other countries in Europe. I never had to search for customers, they always came to me. I was very well known for my good service and good prices.
One day, a company I worked with only paid me half what I was owed on a very large order. That got me in big trouble with people I worked alongside, as I could not pay them. I tried really hard to make the money back, but I couldn’t. I was in a dangerous position with the people I owed money to.
I had to leave the country in 2015
All my life I never thought I would live anywhere but Egypt because of my family. I love my family – I am the eldest of nine and I have a son too. I miss my family more than anything and I miss the business I had in Egypt too.
When I first arrived in England, I didn’t think I would be gone for longer than six months. Now, it has been four years and I haven’t been back to Egypt once. I can’t go back, until I find the money.
After my six months my travel visa ran out, I was declined an extension and told by the Home Office I had to return home. At the same time, threats were being made not only to me but also to my family. It made me feel suicidal.
My money quickly started to run out and I ended up on the streets
I slept rough in London Victoria. The first four days were really hard for me. I didn’t know what my future would look like. I had no idea where I would go.
Luckily, an outreach team found me quickly and they told me about the Passage, who put in a referral to St Mungo’s No Second Night Out. Three days later, I was able to go to the hub.
When I came to the hub and saw I would sleep on the floor, I felt a bit nervous. But all the staff were so nice. They spoke to me about my situation and the problems I was experiencing and said they wanted to help me. After that, the support was perfect.
They supported me to claim asylum in the UK
St Mungo’s connected me to a solicitor who supported me to claim asylum in the UK. They helped me explain my situation to the Home Office and they gave me two and a half years on a human rights visa.
At No Second Night Out they helped me with my mental health too. When I first got here, I was suicidal. The staff here helped me access a doctor, and I sat down with staff who listened to me talk about how I felt.
They gave me new life
At the hub I was given the space I needed, when I needed it. It helped me feel human.
Since then, I have been volunteering at different places making food for people who are homeless. It is good to be able to give back to people. I have also since found a flat of my own with the help of a refugee centre. It is a proper home; it’s helped me feel stable again.
It gave me a base to start thinking about a new business
The No Second Night Out West Hub is next to Shepherd’s Bush Market, so I would often walk through it. Despite being homeless at the time, I came up with the idea of opening a stall. Three years later, I now have my own business selling fresh fruit juices at the market – I also do food catering for events. It can be tough at times, but I work hard and I will keep trying. I know I will make it a success.
I love living in London – it is great being somewhere so busy. I always travel by red bus so that I can sit on the top floor and see the city. In the future, I will have a good business here in the UK, I will pay off the money I owe, and I will see my family again back in Egypt.