We were contacted on the 3rd of September by Centrepoint, by a worker who had two young sisters, Katie, 23, and Helen, 20, who were facing homelessness. They had been living with their older sister in Catford, but they were very overcrowded and the eldest sister’s tenancy was in jeopardy because of the younger two staying. Reluctantly she had asked them to leave.
Growing up, both sisters had witnessed severe domestic violence by their father. When their parents finally split up, their mother moved to Birmingham, taking them both with her. But the violence she had suffered led to mental health issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She was unable to care for the girls properly and another relative took them in. They spent several years moving from one place to another, never having a settled home.
Helen missed taking her GCSE’s as she was not in a school at the time. Katie got a place in university, studying Forensic Science, but missed her final year. She was evicted from the room she rented, after she was denied housing benefit. Both ended up staying with their older sister in Catford. Katie was accepted at Kingston University, and travelled there every day to complete her degree.
Following the phone call from Centrepoint, we contacted Katie and Helen and asked them to come along for an appointment. We first met them on 5th September. Referrals were made for 25th Avenue, a housing provider in Woolwich. We contacted William, the allocations manager, and asked if it would be possible for them to be housed together, to support each other. He said that he was doubtful this could happen, but he would try to house them in close proximity.
We also helped them to apply for the benefits they are entitled to. Claiming jobseekers allowance is a vital first step in providing financial stability and will allow them to access other forms support and help to find work.
Katie and Helen were interviewed by 25th Avenue on the 20th September and accepted for housing. Even better, William called us on 23rd of September, to let us know that a resident had agreed to move, so that he could offer two rooms in the same house and Katie and Helen could live together. They moved into their new accommodation on the 26th September, and 25th Avenue can provide them with further help and support.
It’s worth noting that while the ‘sibling link’ is part of the school system, it’s not usually recognised by agencies when dealing with adults, despite the fact it can be one of the strongest, most supportive bonds throughout our lives. We’re absolutely delighted that these two young women can remain together, and provide each other with practical and emotional support, as they come to terms with a shared childhood trauma.
Names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.
Illustrator: Sanjana Chandrasekhar