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.

    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.

    Wayne’s story

    Image: Wayne

    After Wayne found his mum dead, he struggled to cope with the trauma. He turned to drugs and ended up sleeping rough for many years. He felt like no-one cared.

    It was horrible sleeping in doorways. Having people talk down to you like you are nothing. They don’t care if you are homeless

    That all changed when Wayne found St Mungo’s. Our outreach workers got Wayne off the streets and into recovery.

    St Mungo’s worker Bill, he helped me find somewhere to live and through that to start making the steps I needed to better my life

    While in accommodation, his support worker encouraged him to apply for a construction skills workshop. The workshop has given him the skills and confidence to get his life back on track.

    I had never had support before I met St Mungo’s worker


    A donation of £100 could help someone like Wayne into a permanent home. Donate today and help residents like Wayne into a permanent home, so they can start to rebuild their life through skills training.

    Gerry’s Story

    As a previous St Mungo’s client,  Gerry knows first-hand how important St Mungo’s services are  in supporting someone’s immediate wellbeing, as well as their long-term future and recovery from homelessness. Gerry left home at 17 after suffering abuse. This is his story.

    I bought a train ticket to London and just took off by myself. I only had a few coins in my pocket but I knew if I stayed near my abuser, one of us would wind up dead.

    I was homeless in the 1980s, mainly around London’s West End. I slept at train stations, on benches, on the streets – anywhere I could. I was drugged, attacked and raped repeatedly. It was one of the worst times of my life and I really thought I was going to die. I ended up turning to drink and drugs because I just wanted to escape – escape the abuse, escape my own head, escape my own life. After decades of struggling alone, I finally contacted St Mungo’s Hackney Recovery Services in October 2017.

    I struggled alone for years, and was close to giving up, but after reaching out to St Mungo’s Hackney Recovery Services, I managed to rebuild my life.

    They introduced me to different activities, such as mindfulness, sport, and talking group therapy. For the first time in my life, I was able to talk about the abuse I suffered as a child. I’d never spoken about my emotions before; the fear, the anger, the pain, the rage, the frustration. I got it all out. I had 14 months of healing and I can honestly say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

    I now work at St Mungo’s supporting those who have been through a similar experience to me. I initially started out as a Project Volunteer, but soon became a Peer Digital Champion at the Recovery College and am now a Duty Worker. I feel really proud of what I’ve achieved and count myself as one of the lucky ones to come out the other side. It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedicated support the teams at St Mungo’s gave me – they truly saved my life


    A donation of £50 could help provide counselling to support someone who has experienced homelessness. Donate today and help a resident like Gerry access vital support.

    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.

    Sarah’s story

    Image: Sarah

    Sarah* lives in one of our hostels in London. She talks about her experience of homelessness as a transgender woman and her hopes for the future.

    Sarah ended up homeless after coming out as a transgender woman on her 21st birthday. Sleeping rough is dangerous for anyone. But for Sarah, being a transgender woman on the streets posed additional challenges.

    Every time I go to sleep, I keep one eye open for my safety. Women go through it worse.

    Listen to Sarah tell her own story below.

    *Trigger warning* Sarah talks about being assaulted while on the streets and receiving transphobic and racial abuse.

    Sarah now lives in a St Mungo’s hostel where she feels safe and protected.

    It is a hard struggle out there. But there is a future, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

    *Sarah’s real name has been changed to protect her identity.

    St Mungo’s has long known that homelessness is different for women, and that expecting women to thrive in traditional, male-dominated homelessness services is not good enough. To improve our support for cisgender and transgender women, we aim to offer women-only spaces to all women, to improve rough sleeping services so they are safer for women, and support our staff to recognise and respond to violence and abuse. Read our Women’s strategy here.


    A donation of £50 could help to provide counselling to support someone like Sarah. Donate £50 today.

    Eleanor’s Story

    Eleanor lives in one of our hostels in London. She talks about her experience of homelessness, how she ended up sleeping on the streets and what her hopes and ambitions are for the future.

    Eleanor had a difficult childhood. Eleanor’s dad was disabled after the war and was an alcoholic. Her mum would work long hours to support the family, including Eleanor’s brother who became disabled after being in a coma for six months.

    Finding it hard to live at home with her family, Eleanor moved into the shed in the garden and was planning to finally leave the family home when she was sixteen.

    Eleanor started agency work which took her to places like Greece and Spain, meaning she had no fixed home when she came back to London and no permanent career.

    image : Hope Gardens Amy Manager
    Amy, Manager of Hope Gardens

    Eleanor finally secured herself a flat but ended up losing it after 22 years due to rent arrears.

    Being homeless there’s fear, its scary and its depressing and dehumanising, people don’t want to look at you

    Looking toward the future Eleanor wants to hopefully own a dog again one day, take up a dress making course and do a few days charity work.

    My lockdown has been great, St Mungo’s has helped buy things for our hobbies and stuff like all the puzzles and pens and the books!

    A donation of £50 could help provide counselling to support the mental health of someone who is affected by homelessness. Donate today and help residents like Eleanor access vital support.

    John’s story

    For the first time in years I feel safe again.

    When lockdown began in the UK, John* found himself in a difficult situation and needed support to help him survive. With the support of our Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch outreach team, he has been able to self-isolate in safety and comfort.

    I’d been living in my car for three and half years. It was initially just meant to be for a few weeks, but it went on for a bit longer than expected.

    The first thing I noticed when lockdown started was that the gym was shut. I had been using the gym to do some training, have a shower every morning, and to charge up my USB battery for the day. The gym closing was a big problem for me. I had to start cycling for miles to use the public showers on the beach in the middle of March, which is definitely something I wouldn’t recommend to anybody!

    When all the cafes and fast food places shut down, I had nowhere to use the internet. That meant I couldn’t do my daily job searches or log in to my universal credit. Everything was shutting down around me.

    A world that was already quite difficult was starting to become impossible.

    I’d always refused help before. A few days into lockdown Christian, an outreach worker, came and spoke to me. He spoke to me with such decency and respect it just changed something for me. He offered me a room in a B&B and I moved in the next day.

    My life changed overnight. Having plugs and taps was a bit of a novelty! There’s a big bed in the middle of the room. At the moment I’m still finding it hard to sleep – I’ve been sleeping rough for so long and it takes time to adjust – but I’m working on that, I know it will come.

    For the first time in years I feel safe again. When you’re living on the streets, safety never really comes into it.

    I’m a musician – a guitar player and singer. For the first time in years I can pick up my guitar and play when I want for as long as I want. I’m even writing songs again, which I just couldn’t do when I was sleeping rough.

    For someone who’d been on the streets for so long this has just been amazing. There is help there. There are people there who can help you get off the streets, and they’ve definitely done it with me.

    Things are looking good now. I feel a lot more positive that there’s a good future for me.

    Thousands of people who were sleeping rough are now safely self-isolating in hotels during the coronavirus pandemic. But this was only a temporary fix. That’s why we launched our No Going Back campaign to call on the Government to ensure no one would be forced back on to the streets. Read more about the campaign.