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.