Michelle’s Story

    I’ve never got on with my family, so from the age of 14, I was always running away. As I got older, I managed to get myself back together and working, but then I lost my partner. And because I wasn’t on their rent, I ended up being homeless again in 2012.

    I moved to London because I enjoy it – it’s got an energy to it. And being on the homeless scene here is better than being in a rural place, because you don’t get that much help in a rural place. There’s no resources at all.

    I’ve lived in doorways, I’ve lived everywhere to be honest. The rain’s bad. People are bad. They don’t see you as what you are, or what you could be, or what you have been – they just see you as a dosser.

    Men will approach you wanting something for nothing – they think you’re a sex worker, whether you are or not. They say “I’ll give you a fiver to do this.” Because you’ve got nothing. Every woman on the street is vulnerable. Put me there when I was 17 or 18 – it could have been a whole different story. Luckily, because I’ve worked in men’s environments, driving, I can handle myself. I’ve never had anyone try to overpower me – well I have – but they haven’t got very far.

    It makes you feel dodgy about people all the time. You always think, “Who’s that person, what do they want?” Even if they’re just making sure you’re okay. It makes you suspicious.

    I was living in the subway when the queen died. That’s when I was helped into a St Mungo’s hostel. I’ve never really done hostels. It’s a place that’s overrun by men, it is very male dominated.

    But it’s actually different to what I thought it would be. You only have to go to the staff and tell them if something’s going on. You can talk to them confidentially and it gets sorted.

    I found a lot of good and heartfelt things, when I started working with St Mungo’s. A lot of support. They put themselves out there. If there’s a problem, it hasn’t been like, oh it’s okay, push it under the carpet. They say “Let’s bring it to the surface, and what we bring to the surface we’re going to sort out.”

    I haven’t ended up with a worker that’s not been good to me. I can’t say there’s any person I’ve interacted with who I haven’t got on with. I’ve had a good experience. They have backed me every step of the way. If I phone my support worker up and say I’m having a bad day, they will drop things just to make sure my mental health is there.

    At first I was staying in an emergency room, then I ended up getting a longer term room. And from today I have an actual place to live. I’m ecstatic to be honest. If it wasn’t for staying here, I wouldn’t be getting my flat. I wouldn’t be in the position to be having a flat. I can’t fault it.

    Michelle’s Story was shared as part of our International Women’s Day campaign #MungosVisibleWomen.

    Denise’s Story

    My name’s Denise, I’m disabled with a weakness on the right side of my body, and I use a wheelchair. It’s been a hard road.

    I’ve been homeless on and off for a while, but five years ago I suffered an acquired brain injury after falling off a wall. Since then I’ve been moved around more than 60 hotels, and I’ve had to fight and fight to get suitable accommodation.

    Before I got this flat I was sleeping rough for about seven weeks. I slept outside the hospital, or outside the train station in my wheelchair. I was vulnerable – anything could have happened to me.

    The police would come and take me to A&E, then A&E would send me back out again because I’m not an accident or emergency, I’m homeless. A&E put me in their side room in the end and left me there, because I said it’s up to somebody to look after me. You cannot put me on the street anymore. Who’s duty of care is it? Police, council, or hospital? I’m not going anywhere.

    Eventually, my social worker helped me to get my flat. When I was on the street anything could have happened to me. Now I can shut that front door and lock it. It’s safe. There’s nothing nicer than knowing you can lock the front door behind you and you’ve got your own stuff around you.

    Sadly, it doesn’t give me my health back. I can’t get out of my front door, or the main door of the building. It’s not accessible for someone in a wheelchair. So my life consisted of getting up and going to bed.

    Luckily, I was referred to St Mungo’s and they’ve really helped me. They come in as many times as need be. They help me with doctor’s appointments, and pay for my taxis. They take me to art class. I get so depressed sometimes. But they’re there, all the time. Woody, my support worker, is even helping me to get my door sorted.

    Unless you’ve got a good social worker, or someone like St Mungo’s around you who can fight for your corner, you’ll be tired and just give up. I can imagine this is how lots of other people who are homeless feel. There’s never a day where it’s stress free.

    Denise’s story was shared as part of our International Women’s Day campaign #Mungo’sVisibleWomen.

    Dan’s Story

    Nine years ago, I found myself homeless after my landlord at the time decided to sell the property I was living in. Because I had my dog, Moby, it was difficult enough to find that property to rent, but finding another at short notice was impossible.

    This turn of events led to me and Moby sleeping rough in Brighton for a number of years. I didn’t see a way to access services that could help us both and still keep my best friend safe, loved and most importantly, with me. That was until a member of the public befriended me and contacted StreetLink. Very quickly some people from St Mungo’s Outreach Team made contact, reassured me that everything that I was worried about would be ok. The next night I slept in a very comfortable hotel bed, with Moby snuggled up next to me. And… yes, he was under the duvet!

    The speed with which my circumstances changed because of St Mungo’s support, left me inspired. When I moved into my own flat, my mind turned to returning to work. I realised that I wanted to use my experience to help others that found themselves in the same position I had and give them the same chance to rebuild their lives too.

    My previous career was in Hospitality Management and to successfully change sectors I decided to gain some experience by volunteering. I was in the process of applying to be a Peer Mentor for St Mungo’s when I was told about the opportunity to apply for an Apprentice Assessment and Reconnection Officer at the No Second Night Out (NSNO) service in Brighton. I applied and got the job!

    My average day as an Apprentice Assessment and Reconnection Worker is hectic. Pretty much anything that can happen, will happen, and the best laid plans sometimes have to be shelved in favour of taking a more dynamic approach.

    My previous career was in the hospitality industry, so undertaking an apprenticeship within St Mungo’s has helped me to develop my transferable skills in terms of working within the adult social care sector. It’s also given me the knowledge that I needed so that I have a strong foundation to build on for the future.

    My dog Moby is truly my best friend. Moby’s been there with me through some of the darkest and most hopeless times of my life and because of him, I kept going. I’m extremely proud to work for an organisation that sees how important dogs are to people and especially to people experiencing homelessness, because often, their dog is all they have left. The fact that St Mungo’s accepts dogs in its services really sets the organisation apart from others in the sector and is a testament to the overall holistic approach that we take when working with people to resolve their homelessness.

    Stacey’s story

    Stacey lives in our Southwark Semi Independent Housing facility, this means she only has to pay service charge, but she still has to buy food and other essentials. She has been relying on benefits for nine years, as she’s too ill to work. We spoke to her about how the Cost of Living Crisis is affecting her:

    “I have been on benefits since the age of 21 and I am now 30, I remember constantly being sanctioned because I could not attend Jobcentre appointments due to my mental health being so bad.

    I taught myself to budget and used to spend money on drugs and luxury items, it’s only when I moved to supported accommodation my life changed and I was determined to have a better life for myself. My shopping habits have changed so much I’m a different person now.

    I am really shocked by the food prices these days. I don’t visit the local corner shop any more as it’s too expensive, I buy food and toiletries from Aldi & Lidl as it’s cheaper and often look for the yellow sticker reduced foods whenever I visit. I sometimes visit Peckham pantry to get better deals for food to make my money stretch further.

    I currently have £2,000 debts and on a payment plan but it’s hard. It does get me down that on top of my mental health I have to worry about affording food. Although government has recently given extra payments, it’s not enough when everything keeps getting more expensive every month.

    Life is s**t living on benefits, I think about money all the time. I have already planned to apply for emergency support grant to get heavy blankets and warm clothes. It’s not nice having to live and plan my life like this as constantly. I feel hopeless and trapped and I feel deprived of a social life – I can’t buy nice clothes. Now I think “what will be the cheapest way to buy and cook food?”. I tend to eat one main meal a day.

    Last week I was offered a flat from the Council and I’m viewing it next week. Although I am really happy and excited that I am moving to my first home, I have already worked out I can’t afford to have the heating on or afford electricity. I will just live in one room over winter and buy an electric blanket as it will be cheaper than having the heating on.

    I wonder how I will afford to live when I have my own home. I will be very conscious of leaving things switched on in the house. I would think twice before preparing any food in the oven as it would cost more. It’s rare for me to have a take away meal these days as their prices have gone up so much.

    I am trying to save for my move on as I could get an offer of accommodation any time in the next 6 months but it’s very hard. The Government need to provide more financial help to poorer people and those that are too ill to work.”

    We are facing a once in a generation cost of living crisis which will affect the poorest the most.

    We are working with the Government to make the changes needed to support the people through this crisis. Find out more about our work.

    The cost of living crisis could lead to more people experiencing homelessness. Your support is needed now more than ever, donate here.

    Chloe’s story

    Chloe is 26 years old, and lives in our Southwark Semi Independent Housing facility. One day, she wants to live in her own accommodation but at the moment she’s not well enough to work. We spoke to her about how the Cost of Living Crisis is affecting her:

    “Today I feel angry, really angry telling you what it’s like to live miserably on such a low income. It’s not fair I am trying everything I can to turn my life around but things that are beyond my control has an impact on my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations.

    Oh my God the food prices these days are shocking. I receive £308.00 a month Universal credit, £21.00 is being deducted for fines. 3 days after getting paid I will have spent all my money paying my rent arrears, food, essentials. I have a savings account but never been able to save more than £10.00 and often dip in to these tiny savings because I have no choice.

    My mental health is significantly affected worrying about money. I get paid on the 30th of each month and since 30.08.22 once I have bought food and paid rent I only have £18 to live on until next benefit paid on 30.09.22. I only have £7.00 left on my Oyster card which I save for emergencies.

    I rely on my Dad a lot financially and often go food shopping with him as he would rather assist than see me go to a food bank. My family feels it’s a stigma to use food banks, I don’t think like that and thinking of getting membership with Peckham pantry so I can buy more food at a reduced rate. I am really good at baking and for me this used to be a therapeutic hobby which I can’t indulge in anymore as the price of ingredients is so expensive. A typical food shop that used to be £20.00 is now £35.00. I don’t eat many massive meals, and for a while just survived on jacket potato and cheese. I buy all my toiletries from discount stores.

    Month to month I can’t afford everything I need so regularly miss out on things I need. Walking long distances is my daily life now, I visit different supermarkets to buy the cheapest reduced items. If I can’t eat it by sell by date I will freeze it. I have not had a holiday for 4 years, not even to travel somewhere with my family in England. I can’t afford to help my Dad out or spoil my niece. I feel I am borrowing all the time just to get by.

    Living like this is making me more depressed and anxious all the time. I walk everywhere to save money on bus fares and keep track of how many steps I do. One day I had several appointments and by the end of the day had walked 46,000 steps when the average recommended steps are 10,000 a day. My legs were so sore and stiff by the end but I had no choice as I could not afford the bus fares.

    I hardly see my friends as I can’t afford to go out. When you have no money left and you can’t afford to go out its’ so depressing and stressful. It affects relationships because people invite me but then I never attend because I can’t afford to. I can’t explain how this makes me feel to those people, not having money is a stigma and embarrassing and left feeling ashamed.

    I can’t afford much needed dental treatment that would make me a thousand times more confident when I speak to people. I am so conscious about the state of my teeth damaged over time due to poor health and neglect. It’s horrible not having any leftover cash for something I can enjoy that will help me make me feel better about myself.

    I can’t save any money towards move on costs or unexpected emergencies. I worry about how I will ever afford to manage my own home when it’s time for me to leave supported accommodation. My future looks financially bleak as I am not well enough to work, just getting through the day is really hard and I don’t want the added pressures of wondering what can I eat, can I afford it. I am about to start therapy soon but feel whatever small positive steps I take forward, I will always feel anxious and go backwards away from my goals as I have no control over the cost of living prices. Life feels hopeless and something drastically needs to change. I don’t want my mental health to get worse or end up ill in hospital because life is getting so stressful. Normally there would have been a time when I would not ask about the price of something, now I ask this question constantly due to the rising costs of everything. 

    I’m starting therapy next week as my depression and anxiety is affecting my move on goals. This week I made contact with Peckham Pantry to volunteer and in return for 4 hour shifts they will provide me with some free food. When I do manage to have a decent meal I feel better and have more energy. I wish I felt like this all the time. 

    I have started seeking advice from Citizens advice about additional benefits I may be entitled to but the forms that I have to fill are so long and intimidating it puts me off, I wish there was a simpler more user friendly way to apply for financial help.

    In winter I worry about walking long distances in the cold weather and becoming more ill. I may need help getting winter clothes. I saw my GP this week about reviewing my anti-depressants as I felt my medication was not helping me it was making me worse. Nobody should have to live in constant worry, how am I supposed to get better? What is really scary is I keep hearing that the cost of living is going to get worse? When I feel really down I stop talking to even my key worker who is trying to help me. That’s how depression grips me as I have no control over my negative thoughts.”

    We are facing a once in a generation cost of living crisis, which will impact the poorest the worst.

    We are working with the Government to make the changes needed to support the people through this crisis. Find out more about our work.

    The cost of living crisis could lead to more people experiencing homelessness. Your support is needed now more than ever, donate here.

    Mini’s story

    Mini lives in our Southwark Semi Independent Housing facility, this means she only has to pay service charge, but she still has to buy food and other essentials. She used sleep rough. We spoke to her about how the Cost of Living Crisis is affecting her:

    “I’m 34 years old and have no children or dependents. Life is hard and I feel I have to learn the hard way to cope with difficulties. This means I am relying on looking for extra support and meeting the right people through St Mungo’s to help me learn how to cope so I can work towards living independently.

    I suffer from auditory hallucinations telling me to return to sleeping rough and right now I am learning how to manage my medication. My first thought when I wake up is to take my medication and then think do I need to spend any money today. I try very hard not to spend money every day. 

    I receive £334.99 Universal Credit a month, I prefer to be paid weekly as this will help me budget better. My main expenses are food, travel and rent. These days I am more aware of discounts and very careful how I spend my money.

    When I applied for benefits I was shocked to see how little benefit I have to live on. If I have to travel I walk up to 20-30 minutes to save on bus fares. Due to various appointments I often spend £20 a month topping my oyster card.

    I tend to make sandwiches more and only do food shopping 1-2 times a week. I cook fish, chicken soup, stew or pasta as these are the cheapest foods I can cook. I watch cooking programmes to know how to prepare cheaper simple meals. I used to work in a steak restaurant but due to my mental health had to stop and I miss eating meat where I was appreciative of good food.

    I have had to rely on grants and vouchers to get clothes. I don’t have a bank account so currently my UC is paid in vouchers. One day I would like to be well enough to work again as I miss going to the cinema and theatre.

    My thoughts about winter are is that I definitely need long sleeved tops, jumpers and a winter coat which I can’t afford, my key worker has informed me I may be eligible to apply for a clothing grant.

    My health would have got worse had I not moved to supported accommodation and I am slowly learning about the different types of support available to me which I was not aware of. I feel lucky that right now I am living in supported accommodation as I only have to pay service charge.”

    We are facing a once in a generation cost of living crisis, which will impact the poorest the worst.

    We are working with the Government to make the changes needed to support the people through this crisis. Find out more about our work.

    The cost of living crisis could lead to more people experiencing homelessness. Your support is needed now more than ever, donate here.

    Lee’s Story

    Lee is 55 and lives at Hilldrop, one of our specialist care services for people who have experienced homelessness.

    Before being supported by St Mungo’s, Lee slept rough and struggled to find food.


    “It had its ups and its downs, good days and bad days. When the weather was good it was tolerable but when it snowed or there was torrential rain, getting dry was a real difficulty, waking up in the sleeping bag all wet. You just have to sit there, it’s all you can do.

    It’s hard work walking past restaurants and people are eating while you’re starving, you’ve had nothing to eat for three days. I used to get handouts sometimes. On a Sunday there was one in Waterloo, they’d give you mince and potatoes. That was good. But some of the places I didn’t like to go to. People can get really nasty over food, fighting over it.”


    He was later supported by St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team, who tried to help him maintain his own flat. But he struggled to look after himself, and needed more support.


    “I’ve been off the streets for a couple of years now. I had my own flat until things got on top of me. I got depressed, really depressed. There were all the bills and I didn’t know what to do with them. I wasn’t eating or sleeping, just getting as many drugs inside me as I could, it was all I was living for.”


    Lee struggled to feed himself, and had frequent hospitalisations. He knew he needed more support, and was then referred to the Hilldrop team.

    He came to Hilldrop after being in hospital after a fall, caused by tremors in his arms and legs. He said just before the fall, he had been struggling to eat.


    “I ended up in hospital in a bad way. I was really ill. I didn’t realise how sick I was until they told me. I slipped into a coma. I was in hospital for two and a half months learning how to walk again, getting the energy to walk.”


    Since being at Hilldrop his health has really improved and he hasn’t needed any more hospitalisations. He’s also managed to recover from his drug addiction.


    “I’m stable now. I’m not doing drugs so my health has improved. I’m eating and sleeping more regularly. It’s a relief to know I’ve got somewhere stable. I’ve got support and help if I need it.

    My medication, I didn’t take it before I came here. That’s how I managed my medication before, I didn’t take it. Just drugs, it was just a waste of everything. Staff here looking after my medication is a god-send for me.”


    His eating has also improved, as he now has people to prepare his meals, and make sure he’s eating enough.


    “Having food now means a hell of a lot to me. I’m not a big eater but it’s all provided. We’ve got a good cook, good food. She looks after us. I’m not quite as scrawny now.”


    Hilldrop is one of two specialist care services run by St Mungo’s for people who have experienced homelessness. We recently launched a review into care provision for people who have experienced homelessness, hoping to start a sector-wide conversation, leading to collaboration and change.


    Magdalena’s story

    Magdalena had a stable job and home, but struggles with her mental health left her facing homelessness. St Mungo’s is helping her to regain her independence at one of their women-only mental health services.

    “St Mungo’s gave me a chance to turn my life around.

    Before I arrived here, I was suicidal. On the outside, it seemed like I was doing well – I was working in hospitality and had been offered a promotion to General Manager. But inside, I was feeling really bad, and soon enough, I just broke down.

    After spending a week in hospital, it was clear that I needed extra support. I couldn’t look after myself, and it wasn’t realistic to stay in the accommodation I shared with my landlord. I needed a safe space to get back on my feet.

    That’s when the council introduced me to St Mungo’s. They showed me around one of their women-only mental health services, and as soon as I walked in and met the staff, I knew this was the place for me.

    The service I’m staying at is designed especially to help women move on from hospital and back into the wider community. Every resident has their own issues, but the staff work so hard to make sure they’re looked after. When I first arrived, they helped me take my medication regularly, and introduced me to lots of different activities to keep my mind occupied. We do all sorts – from art class, to meditation, to women’s group, where we discuss the issues affecting the women here.

    I’ve been staying here for almost two years now, and a lot’s changed in that time. Through art class, I’ve discovered my talent for painting, and St Mungo’s has been a huge encouragement. They’ve provided me with paint supplies when I’ve had no money, and proudly displayed my paintings in their hostels. My keyworker even helped me to get my artwork featured in St Mungo’s client magazine, Homeless Diamonds. It’s given me a great sense of purpose and fulfilment.


    I’ve also got a little rescue dog named Goldie. Having him makes such a difference – he motivates me to go out, to prepare food, and to play with him. The other residents love him too – he’s very spoilt!

    Image: Female-client-dog-May-2022

    In the past, I put my problems in the drawer and locked it – but that drawer quickly sprung open. With help from St Mungo’s, I’ve recently started Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – a type of talking therapy that helps you to identify negative patterns and break your problems into smaller, manageable parts. I want to be independent again, and I’ve decided I’m going to fight for myself.

    I feel safe here, but not everyone is as lucky as me. Hundreds more women are in desperate need of specialist support to deal with their trauma and regain independence.”

    Your donation could help provide a safe space for more women like Magdalena. With your support, we could open more women-only services and change the future for women experiencing homelessness. Donate here and help us to make a difference.

    Dumitru and Maria

    Florin, one of our Roma Outreach Mediators, talks about his experience working with Dumitru and Maria to find them a stable home and Settled Status in the UK.

    I met the Dumitru and Maria for the first time at the beginning of March 2022. They are originally from Romania and still have family there.

    They weren’t sure they wanted to speak with me because their previous experiences with other outreach workers. When I told them that I am working for the Roma team and Nico is my manager they told me: “Nico has helped us in the past and if you are working with her than you must be trustworthy”.

    Since then I’ve managed to help them to see the immigration adviser for their European Settlement Scheme applications, to open a bank account, to register at the Community Investment Programme in Camden and to apply for a free medication certificate.

    Often people who are experiencing homelessness struggle to access medical care, prescriptions and medical assessments. When I took them to the Community Investment Programme in Camden I found out that Dumitru is registered with Romanian’s health system because of his diabetes and takes the insulin for free. The team in Camden ran some tests and found other previously undiagnosed health conditions, including some vitamin deficiencies and a history of hepatitis B.


    “Nico has helped us in the past and if you are working with her than you must be trustworthy”.


    I also found out that Maria had had a stroke in the summer of 2019 in the UK. The team in Camden provided Maria with a 24hr device to monitor her blood pressure, and tablets for her cholesterol.

    Because of their health conditions I wrote to Social Services in Camden to help Maria and Dumitru to get assessed under the Care Act. They haven’t received a written answer yet. At the same time I helped them apply for housing assistance from Camden. Unfortunately, the answer was that they are not eligible for assistance.

    In May 2022, Dumitru received his letter that confirmed his Settled Status. Having that, I helped them apply for their National Insurance numbers and then for Universal Credit. Dumitru’s claim for Universal Credit was approved, which meant they could then afford to move out of temporary accommodation.

    At the end of May 2022 I found them some long term accommodation and I helped them to move into their new rented house.

    Niculita and Tereza’s Story

    Edward, Roma Outreach Mediator, first met Niculita & Tereza when they were camping in the local area. Here, he tells the their story. 

    It was Sunday 6 February, a cold and frosty evening, when the head of the Roma Rough Sleeping Team asked me if I’d like to go along and meet with people who were camping in the local area to see how they are doing.

    It was around 7pm when we entered the camp. I was quite anxious as it was one of my first times making contact with a large group of people who – due to their ethnicity – were left out, marginalised by the community. When I met them I was stunned, and perplexed to learn about real-life discrimination as a result of police actions, which I had previously only read about.

    The head of the service introduced me, and I began talking with each and every one of them to learn their story, experiences, and how best to work with them.


    “It felt like a carousel with feelings of excitement and sadness mixed in.”


    It was then that a couple emerged from their tent and cautiously approached us. I learned their names were Niculita and Tereza.

    After talking with Niculita, I asked Tereza if she’d mind answering a few basic questions. I could tell she was shy, withdrawn, distant, and lacking confidence. I realised straight away that her reaction was due to the fact that she didn’t know me and that gaining her trust would be difficult. It is about regaining confidence in people as their experience clearly left a negative perception upon the way they viewed outsiders.

    I left the camp that evening enraged. These people weren’t asking for much. They just needed assistance with navigating the bureaucratic hurdles to get access to medical services, as well as help in finding accommodation since they were already in full time employment.

    Within the next few days, we began to work on a strategy to permanently end their homelessness. The workload was divided into stages, which relieved the couple of stress despite the fact that they were working full time. The couple was immediately relocated to temporary accommodation, and the camp was cleared. It was a collaborative effort, and the results came quickly. What is more important is that their lives depended on their actions. It wasn’t long after they were placed in temporary accommodation that the storm wrecked their tents. We were astounded to learn that the camp was destroyed because of  Storm Eunice and that we had literally saved their lives. Tereza’s happiness and appreciation were evident when she found out what had happened.

    Within the following days we went to the Romanian consulate to collect Niculita’s new passport, to register them with a local GP, and to open their new bank accounts.


    “Tereza was becoming more active, asking questions and engaging in conversations, but most importantly, she smiled.”


    They have also seen the employment adviser from The Passage.

    When a new claim for Universal Credit (UC) was submitted, it was yet another obstacle to overcome. Despite having Pre-Settled status and working full time, somehow they failed the habitual residence test. It wasn’t good news to deliver because I knew it would sadden them yet again. Following the mandatory reconsideration, their UC claim was finally accepted, and their claim was back on track thanks to the assistance of the benefits team and good full day of research. But it wasn’t the only challenge.

    As we say, “third time’s the charm”. The next challenge was finding a permanent place to live. It felt like a carousel with feelings of excitement and sadness mixed in. Because they had no rental history, most landlords or letting agents turned down their application because they were “unsuitable” for their requirements. However, it wasn’t long before the couple found permanent housing with our assistance. They also succeeded in their job interview for a new job.

    After four months of living indoors, you could see how they were slowly and gradually changing. Tereza was becoming more active, asking questions and engaging in conversations, but most importantly, she smiled. All this time they both showed motivation which I think it is an invaluable lesson for everyone.

    Today, Niculita and Tereza live in a studio flat located in Tower Hamlets. They are both full time employees and have their UC claim opened. What is more important is that we still communicate often and openly.