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.

    Image:room

    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.

    Martin’s Story

    Less than 10 years ago, Martin was homeless and sleeping rough in the city of Bristol. Today, he runs a successful waste collection company, and has raised over £600 for St Mungo’s. 

    “Homelessness was very upsetting and confusing because you haven’t got a home to go to.

    Through the day you don’t know what to do with yourself apart from trying to find the next place to set up for the night. All you think about is having a roof over your head, warm shower, a nice cosy bed and a home cooked dinner.”

    Martin founded his waste collection company Martin’s Waste Solutions in 2014 by purchasing his first van with a loan. Since then the business has expanded to operate six vans and now employs a team of sixteen. The company conducts domestic and business waste removal services across an ever-expanding list of towns and regions across the South West, including Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Gloucester, Cirencester, Stroud and Cheltenham, in counting.

    In an effort to support others who may find themselves homeless, he and his team have now come up with a scheme through which his company donates £1 to St Mungo’s for every waste collection it makes.

    To date, the company has already donated more than £600 to St Mungo’s and is set to exceed its target of £5,000 within a year. The company also have ideas about how they might work alongside St Mungo’s in the future to provide training and employment opportunities for people recovering from homelessness.

    “We chose St Mungo’s because they are a well-known homelessness charity in Bristol. I love what they do, including looking for people on the streets and offering them accommodation, giving people opportunities to get out of the situation they are in. The main thing is they give people a second chance and a helping hand.”


    Find out how you can fundraise, or find out more about our corporate partnerships.

    Rah’s story

    After suffering a divorce and ending up in a psych ward, Rah and their cat Harvey found themselves left with nowhere to go. Most homeless services don’t accept pets. But luckily, the council put Rah in touch with St Mungo’s, where both were given a home in one of our hostels. This is Rah’s story.

    “If I had to separate from Harvey I would find it really hard. I don’t know what I would do in that situation; it would be really difficult.

    I got divorced and ended up in a hospital psych ward. The hospital can’t discharge you unless you have somewhere to go, so I first got put into temporary accommodation. After being there, I then got moved into a St Mungo’s hostel by the council.

    When the council tells you that you’re moving, you don’t get any choice. So, it was very stressful not knowing if I would be allowed to take Harvey where they sent me. I was really lucky that I could take her here.

    I always find it hard to know what things would be like without her. It’s really good having her in my life. I love knowing that I’m always loved by her and that I have someone to care for.

    Harvey was kind of a surprise. A friend texted one day saying that she had rescued a cat from her friend’s abusive neighbour. The friend asked if we could foster her. It was only meant to be temporary, but once we had her I couldn’t give her back!

    She was only five months old; she was very cute but very scared. I’ve had her now for three years.

    Harvey is good company and provides a sort of stability in my life. Whilst lots of other things are always changing, I know she’s always there and constant.

    She knows when I’m unwell and is affectionate in a different way. She takes good care of me.

    Harvey and I are happy here. She loves having people around and doesn’t like being by herself. When I lived on my own she’d always get sad if I was out.

    Harvey has become like a resident cat. People feed her and when I’m not here and she has favourite people who she’ll sleep on as well. She spends a large portion of her time sleeping in a box under reception. That’s her favourite spot.

    When I’m away the hostel staff will send me photos of her looking cute. I’ll come home and everyone will say she was such a pleasure to look after. She’s very loving, and despite being a bit cheeky, she helps us all.


    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a pet can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    Enza and Lily’s story

    Enza found herself living in a park for two years, and struggled to find somewhere suitable to stay. St Mungo’s offered her a place in their women’s only, dog friendly hostel, and helped her find a home in partnership with Housing First.

    My name is Enza, and I was homeless for two years.

    When I was homeless, I lived in a tent in the park. In the winter it was really cold and windy, and if I didn’t have a tent, I would have been soaking wet. The park was open 24 hours too, so anybody could have come in and hurt me. If it wasn’t for my dog, Lilly I wouldn’t have been safe at all.

    It was hard to find accommodation, because a lot of hostels don’t allow dogs. I wouldn’t get rid of Lilly for anyone – she’s like a kid to me. I’ve had her since she was born, and now she’s eight years old. She’s comfy, lovable, and very friendly, and I feel safe with her.

    Eventually, I met St Mungo’s, and was offered a place in one of their women’s only, dog friendly hostels. It was good to be in a women’s only space, and the staff were very friendly. I was born dyslexic, and they’d help me fill in forms and do a bit of reading and writing. If I had any problems, they’d help me.

    Whilst I was at the hostel, I was referred to Housing First, who helped me get independent accommodation. I’ve been there for about a year now and I’m really happy – I’ve got my own front door, it’s private and my landlord’s lovely. I’ve also got my own caseworker who helps me to manage my bills and other things.

    I like making stuff, and I’ve recently started going to woodwork classes run by St Mungo’s recovery college. So far I’ve made a caddy, and soon I’m going to do a table. I enjoy it because it occupies my mind. I’ve got lots of other things to look forward to too – St Mungo’s is helping me to go on holiday to Devon with my best friend, and I’m also turning 50 – I’m so excited!

    I think there needs to be more support for people who are homeless, especially women. Women are in more danger on the streets, but they don’t get as much help as men.


    Help us support more people like Enza and their dogs, off the streets and into safety. Find out more about our dog walking challenge, #MungosTakeTheLead this August and how you can get involved.