Metkel moved over to the UK with career ambitions of becoming a chef but found himself rough sleeping on the streets after falling ill. This is his story.
I first came to the UK from Germany ten years ago to visit some family and have a bit of a break. I saw there were better opportunities for me here, so I found a job as a chef – cooking is a passion of mine – and started studying business management at a London university. My goal was to have my own catering company one day.
What happened next I never wanted, but sometimes things happen you can’t control.
Last December I was working long hours in the kitchen. It was a lot of stress and one day I got sick. I didn’t have a proper contract with my employer, so I wasn’t able to get my hours back when I was feeling better. At the same time, I lost three uncles and an auntie in just a month. I was really down and at some point I just gave up.
After not working for a while, my landlord said he wanted the house back. One day I came home and he had changed the locks. That night I slept on the streets for the first time.
It was the middle of winter and it was really cold. I had two jackets on plus a sleeping bag and blankets to try to stay warm. It can be cold and it can be raining and you have nowhere to go. You wake up in the morning feeling hungry – I would ask myself where my next meal would come from.
One day someone from St Mungo’s outreach team spoke to me and told me how I could get help. That was when I found hope.
I got a place at St Mungo’s No Second Night Out hub. It felt really good. I had somewhere warm to sleep, hot meals to eat and staff around to help me. It was a massive step up. I was there for about two weeks, but then the pandemic hit.
It was a really strange time for me. I had already lost everything and now when I had started to make changes, the whole country was in crisis.
It felt like a bad dream. Every morning I would wake up thinking, “is this real?”. I was homeless and living in a pandemic. I thought I would wake up one day and things would be back to normal, but that didn’t happen.
I was referred to a hotel set up in response to coronavirus. It made a massive difference. In the hub I didn’t have any privacy, everything was shared. Having my own room in the hotel gave me space to think about what I wanted to do next. With the staff there to help me, I knew I wasn’t alone and I didn’t feel stuck anymore.
I applied for quite a lot of houses, but often encountered problems with the contracts, which was frustrating. But I never gave up hope. After a few months I managed to find my own flat, which I’m living in now.
Everything the staff said to me was valuable. They helped me get back on my feet again. If someone opens a door, you have to take advantage of it – you don’t slam it.
Without St Mungo’s I don’t think I would have survived the pandemic. I would definitely still be on the streets somewhere. It would have been really tough. Now I have a base, somewhere I can go forward from. The goal is to go back to work and studying again, and maybe one day I can have my own company.
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