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.

    David’s story

    After his son passed away, David* felt devastated and unable to cope. He ended up not having the money to pay for his rent and found himself sleeping rough. Here, he shares his story and how St Mungo’s has supported him in his grief and to move away from his experience of homelessness.

    My son passed away two years ago and I was devastated but didn’t know how to engage with it on an emotional level. I felt numb and struggled to face what was going on, passing through life without things really touching me. I became unable to pay my rent, which lead to my gas and electric being cut off until I was eventually evicted from my home. I spent nearly two weeks in the park homeless. But someone came and gave me the support I needed and I was taken to a St Mungo’s assessment centre and was offered bereavement support.

    I wanted to feel emotionally connected to myself – I hadn’t connected with my emotions and feelings when my son passed away. I was taken into care at a young age and was in several care homes until I was 18. It was better to not show emotions, safer to remain passive and not feel. But the support I received through St Mungo’s has helped me to start to talk about my grief.

    In the sessions I’ve had, we’ve explored the relationships in my life and looked at how I felt they never touched me in the way I felt they should – I kept people at arm’s length. And this helped me to realise that, when looking at my life as a whole, I’d run away from commitment and in doing so, I’d missed out on some of life’s great moments. But I’ve been learning to have compassion for myself and I’ve been shown how to listen and link my thoughts and feelings to my body. Even if I think I don’t ‘feel much’, my body will often indicate that something is going on – pacing, heart beating faster or my tremor getting worse or better. I was shown that by noticing how my body acts, I can be able to tune into what I’m feeling.

    I felt guilty for never properly grieving for my son. But with the help of St Mungo’s bereavement support, I’ve found out about how grief is a complex language of our thoughts, feelings, physicality and behaviour. I’ve learnt that when I couldn’t connect with my feelings, my behaviour reflected my grief. I was supported to find a ‘map’ and having a ‘toolbox’ of ways to be able to connect with my feelings more and manage them – writing them down being one them. So I’ve since started journaling to help connect with my feelings. And things have started to ‘click’ into place – I could write about what I had never admitted to myself or other people. I’ve been able to connect with my past and my present and it’s given me hope for the future. Where before there was just a murky path, now there’s a clear road to recovery.

    Paul’s story

    Paul found himself homeless after struggling with his mental health and relationships with his family started to break down. But with our Putting Down Roots programme he’s now getting back on his feet. This is his story.

    I’ve suffered with bad anxiety and self-esteem since I was a child. I was shy and lacking in confidence and I never felt like I fitted in.

    Growing up, mental health wasn’t something people talked about openly, you were expected just to get on with things. I was close to my parents and I left school with some qualifications, but while my friends were going on nights out and meeting girls, I was really self-conscious. I started going out with my first girlfriend at 25.

    I found work as an electrician and I’d regularly go to the pub with my boss. On Fridays, we’d start drinking after lunch and wouldn’t stop until closing time. Alcohol seemed to be the answer to all of my problems. It gave me the confidence I so desperately wanted, and my anxiety seemed to disappear.

    For the first time in my life, I was fitting in and connecting with other people. When my friends said they wanted to go home after a heavy night of drinking, I didn’t understand why. I was having such a good time; I didn’t want it to end. I started going clubbing, and that’s when I also became involved with drugs.

    It all happened so fast. I managed to keep my head above water for a while, even starting my own business. But my dependency on drinking and drugs affected my relationships, and also my finances. I relied on credit cards to get by and this soon escalated into serious debt.

    My friends and family were very concerned about me. Although I tried various private rehab and hospital detox programmes, I never got to the root of my issues. I didn’t understand addiction or recovery – I kept rebuilding my life, only for everything to come crashing down again when I’d relapse.

    Then, when I turned 40, things came to a head. I lost my driving licence, and I couldn’t run my business. My relationships with my family and my partner broke down and I eventually became homeless. I sofa surfed, stayed in a squat and I also lost contact with my young daughter.

    It was scary. After working for most of my life, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know there was support available. Everything I loved and cared about had been taken away from me, so alcohol became the most important thing in my life.

    After several months of rough sleeping, I found a place in a hostel and began visiting a day centre, where I was introduced to St Mungo’s services. For a long time, I also lived in a ‘dry house’ for people recovering from using alcohol or drugs. I was volunteering, trying to maintain my sobriety and also focused on finding a job. After a while, it all became too much. I needed to find something less stressful so I could focus on my mental health and wellbeing.

    That’s when I found out about the other programmes St Mungo’s offer for clients, including courses and training with the Recovery College. I read about Putting Down Roots, their horticultural therapy and training project – and I decided to give it a go.

    I’d always thought gardening was a bit boring. I didn’t have any experience and I thought it was a hobby for retired people! But I needed something that would challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone.

    Arriving for my first day of training, I was very anxious, but the staff and the other clients were great. I started going to weekly training sessions at the Castle Park Physic Garden in Bristol, developing new skills and connecting with people who had similar experiences. The garden was a safe, non-judgmental space for us to work together. I realised how much I loved working with my hands, being outside in the fresh air and seeing the results of our hard work coming to life.

    The garden was a public space and giving back to the community gave me such a good feeling. Gardening gave me the focus in life I’d been missing for so many years. My days had structure as I’d committed to working in the garden and supporting our team.

    Thanks to Putting Down Roots, I’ve found my groove. In November 2020, I moved into my own private, rented flat. My daughter comes to stay and she’s one of my biggest motivations to stay on this path. She’s teaching me about TikTok and YouTubers!

    Gardening has been like a kind of therapy for me. I’ve rebuilt my relationships with friends and family, and they’re so glad to see me doing well. I can’t praise the staff who’ve supported me enough. Now lockdown restrictions are lifting, a small group of us are back working in the garden. We’re replanting after Covid-19, and the gardens will be back in full bloom this summer.

    Recovery is about finding the right balance and Putting Down Roots has helped me to find it.

    Ian’s story

    This time last year, former St Mungo’s client, Ian, was sleeping rough on the streets of Westminster, where he had slept since October 2015. Today, he is living in his own studio flat in Isleworth, a place he can finally call home. One year on from the first national lockdown in March 2020, he reflects on how the past year has been.

    At the beginning of 2020, I was sleeping in St James’s Park, I’d been living there for four years. One day, the police came over and said I shouldn’t be sleeping there because it’s a royal park. I knew that really, so I packed up my stuff and pitched my tent elsewhere. It was time to move on.

    Not long after, I was in my new sleeping spot, when a group of people who slept nearby came over to me and said ‘have you heard what’s happening? St Mungo’s are putting all the homeless people up in a hotel!’ I looked at them and said ‘yeah right, don’t be silly!’ but they insisted ‘no they really are, we’re going down there tomorrow, wanna come with us?’ The next day, we all jumped on a bus (for free!) and were driven to a hotel near Victoria. Not before long, I found myself with a nice private room, my own shower and was being provided with three meals a day. I had been so thin when I first arrived at the hotel but soon enough, I started to gain weight again – it was brilliant.

    Back then, I didn’t really know what Covid was. I’d heard about it from various people and I knew it was a virus but there’s always been viruses about so I just assumed it would blow over a week or two later, and then we’d have to go back to the streets. About two weeks into my stay, I was told I would be staying for a few more months, then April came and they said ‘It’ll be another few months yet!’ I thought to myself ‘well this is alright!’ I couldn’t quite believe it.

    One morning in May, one of the hotel workers told me she’d found me a studio flat and asked whether I’d like to go and see it. She warned me that it wasn’t guaranteed until the landlord accepted my application but I simply replied ‘they’ll accept me, don’t you worry!’ We went to see it and a few weeks later, I got the call to say it was mine – I was so excited!

    When I first moved in, I didn’t have much but some friends that I met online gave me some furniture to get me started. On that first day, I did have a bit of a disaster though – I went to the shops to get a few bits and on my way back I noticed there was a hole in my coat pocket. My house keys, bank card and bus card had all fallen out so I had to walk back but I didn’t know how to find the place so I kept on getting lost! It took me two hours in total, and I was carrying a load of heavy shopping too. I never did find my stuff, it’s still on the high street somewhere. When I eventually got home, the guy upstairs called the locksmiths for me and sorted it – the whole thing was a bit embarrassing!

    Now I have somewhere to come home to every night, a roof over my head – it’s great. I have my very own cooker, fridge washing machine, central heating and a nice, big bath too. I even have an iron and a fat fryer! At the moment I have curtains up but I’m going to treat myself to some blinds; I’m slowly making it a home. The place is in a lovely and quiet area – I can’t hear the traffic – just a fox creeping about sometimes, he’s very loud! I spend most my days listening to music and watching films – you can get DVDs from my local Asda for just £1!

    When I was living on the streets in London, I used to hold up a sign telling everyone who walked by ‘don’t worry, be happy and smile because you are amazing’. I think I was sent there by someone to give out that message to people who needed to hear it. I always knew my time on the streets would come to an end at the right time and now is that time. I’m not sure how much longer I would have lasted on the streets anyway, I’m nearly 66, so I’m very happy with how things have turned out for me.

    Tracy’s story

    Experiencing post-natal depression after the birth of her son, Tracy left her family home in Sussex for London in the early ‘90s and soon became homeless, sleeping rough for 18 years. When an outreach worker supported her to come inside, she spent three years in hostels before moving into her own flat through the Clearing House scheme in 2013. Tracy has been supported there by St Mungo’s since 2015. 

    I didn’t wake up one day and think “I’m going to become homeless” or “I’m going to become an addict”. Something happened to me, and unfortunately I took the wrong turn and I went down the wrong path.

    My first six months after I left home is all a blur. I moved in with a man who got me hooked on heroin, and had to leave his flat after he went to prison for drug dealing. A girl he knew took me to a squat for a bit, but when I left there I became homeless, living in people’s sheds and on the streets.

    When outreach found me, I’d been living under a bridge in Tottenham for eight years. I was begging at the train station in the day and being a working girl at night, and I didn’t want any help. But the outreach worker, Mark, kept coming back every week, and we built up a relationship and I trusted him.

    After about a year, I finally felt ready. I happened to see Mark on his day off and as he walked past me I asked him “Any chance of a hostel tonight, Mark?” He got me a bed and breakfast for the night and an appointment with the drug service, who gave me a script for methadone. I threw away all my drug paraphernalia and my dealer’s number that night. There were a lot of sleepless nights before the script started working for me, but it was the start of my recovery.

    Mark helped me to get in touch with my mum as well. After almost twenty years, she got to see me stop using and turn things around before she passed away.

    After the bed and breakfast, I spent the next few years in hostels, including an all women hostel, which I loved. Then I got an interview for a property with St Mungo’s. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to see it – a whole flat to myself! I started volunteering with a homelessness charity soon after I moved in, then did an apprenticeship and became a support worker.

    When I started that job, it was all about helping clients achieve their goals like I had, but I soon saw there was funding being cut everywhere and it was all coming down to the money. I was expected to say ‘no’ to my clients when I wanted to help them turn their lives around, so I took a step back because I didn’t want to lose my passion. I became a care worker instead, but I lost that job when coronavirus hit.

    I felt panicked then because I’d lost my job and I thought I wouldn’t be able to meet with Christina, my support worker at St Mungo’s. But Christina is amazing and she made sure I was OK. She said “even though we can’t see each other face-to-face at the moment, I’ll get you what you need” – she got me a foodbank parcel, some phone credit, and put money on my gas and electric.

    At the moment, I can’t imagine my life without her. I think I’d be worrying too much if I didn’t have her there. I don’t have any close family now – no relationship with my sister or my son, my dad and I haven’t been close and my mum passed away a few years ago. I’ve got no one I can say is ‘family’ family but I’m okay. I have my partner, and I’ve got a good support worker – that’s all I need.

    Everybody’s recovery path is different – you can’t put a schedule on it. My journey has been up and down, not all plain sailing. It’s only with support from Christina that I’ve been able to keep this flat I’m in.”