“A friend of mine helped me to come. He paid for my ticket. He’s gay as well and he had been persecuted.” – St Mungo’s client Ascania, shares with Communications Officer, Martin, her story of escape from persecution in Jamaica to being homeless in London.
My name is Ascania, I’m 41 years old. I’m a mum with a 24 year-old son. I love watching tennis, I play a bit. I like reading murder mysteries. I like doing crosswords, and going for bike rides in the park.
I came to the UK from Jamaica fleeing persecution in 2002. I sought asylum. It was a rough patch but I’m getting there.
I was raped at gunpoint in the area I lived in Jamaica. They’d found out in the community that I’m a lesbian. They hit the back of my head with a gun- sometimes it is still painful. I had to move from that area, then I went to another part of the island. I lived there for 18 months. People in these communities start to watch you – to see if there are men coming to see you. They begin to be suspicious. Luckily I had a chance to come to the UK before something else happened.
A friend of mine helped me to come. He paid for my ticket. He’s gay as well and he had been persecuted.
‘From one problem to another’
The Home Office lost my file, which also contained my passport. My only saving grace was an acknowledgement from them stating that they had received my passport. It took a while for the Home Office to sort things out. That was a tough time. It was like running from one problem to another. It was added pressure.
My mum’s not on my side. We don’t speak at all. I’ve got cousins here and there but we’re not very close. I’m more or less on my own. I miss my son, he’s my biggest supporter. I’d love him to move here but I have no idea how to do that. He messages me every day.
I still suffer from depression. I see a therapist every Monday. I’m still on anti-depressants. The flashbacks sometimes can be very painful. It’s not nice at all.
I took an overdose more than once. Life was rough.
‘Life was tough’
Before St Mungo’s, life was tough. I was in an abusive relationship. I lived with her at the time and it was a nightmare. It ended then I started to sofa surf. Sometimes I would go into pubs meet different girls, go back with them, and sleep over just so I had somewhere to spend the night.
I first got to know St Mungo’s through Stonewall. That was also through a girl I met in a pub. I emailed Stonewall and they emailed me back.
St Mungo’s contacted me, they were very helpful. They were concerned about me. They would call me, ask if I had somewhere to stay. This was even before they got me somewhere to stay. I was able to get food from a food bank.
I carried on sofa surfing, here, there and everywhere. It was about five or six months before St Mungo’s found me somewhere to stay. The house that I’m living in now was undergoing repairs.
‘He made sure I had everything’
I have received great support from Kevin, my St Mungo’s Support Worker. I was living in the South East before I moved here, East London. It took a while to get things shifted over – with the benefits. There were times when these forms were sent to me – they’re so thick. I would just look at them. Kevin would help me to fill them out. At that point I just couldn’t do anything. I was so distressed.
Kevin went with me to the Housing Office and to the Jobcentre. He also came with me to the Employment and Support Allowance assessment. He always made sure I had food. It took a while for them to sort my benefits. I did not have any money. He made sure I had everything. Everything!
‘Overwhelmed by the support’
It was overwhelming to receive that kind of support. You just can’t believe it when someone is that supportive. Even up to today, he still comes maybe two or three times a week. If I get a letter I don’t understand, he’ll explain it to me.
That’s why I think LGBTQ projects are important. From being on the gay scene, I meet all these people and they don’t know about the support available. They’re out there having a really rough time. They don’t know where to turn. I don’t think I’d be able to cope living anywhere else. Some people are still very judgemental. They don’t say it but you can see it. I lived in shared accommodation before. You can’t invite your friends round, you’d be judged. Facial expressions – there’s nothing you can do about them. You can be saying something but your face is saying something else.
I’m in a happy place now. I’m living with nice people and they’re like my family. There are two flats; with three gay guys and three gay girls. We all chat, we cook, and we share. I’m hoping to start work soon. I’d love to work for the LGBT Switchboard – helping other people.