About 2 years ago I was living in Forest Hill working for Thames Water. I had been living and working there for over 10 years. My landlord (who I knew really well, I even worked with his son) got ill and ended up in hospital; he finally had to sell his house and go into a care home. I had to leave and got a place for three months and started doing contract work, but it wasn’t enough to pay the rent. So I left and stayed in Surrey in a tent and then in temporary accommodation. I got some help in Guildford, but because I had no connection to that area, I had to move back to Lewisham. I tried to get help from the council but couldn’t get any because there were so many people on the housing list. I ended up at the 999 Club Winter Night Shelter through a referral from Lewisham Council.
I have problems with my feet as I’m always walking or standing. My legs got really swollen — I had oedema in my legs towards the end of last year and ended up in hospital. I’ve been in the Winter Night Shelter since early February 2016. I’ve been waiting for my GP to say how bad my legs are and then I may be able to get emergency housing. I’ve always been self-sufficient so I want to get back to work and pay for a place for myself. I want to be working to give myself something to do.
The 999 Club has made life easier for me. It’s taken a lot of the pressure off, even with simple things like washing my clothes — that’s helped me and is so important. Also having someone to talk to — someone who will listen, has really helped, especially since it’s people who know the system.
I’m going to Cycle Proficiency with the 999 Club’s Bike Freedom Project. I’ll be able to get about so that will be nice. I’m also doing art classes here. I drew a church last week — I was proud of that pastel drawing. I’ve done computer graphics and game design so art interests me. If you can capture the representation of something, that’s good. Anyone can draw, but if you can create something that people can recognise — that’s the hard part. The classes have given me something to focus on — it gives you time to think. It was like when I had my tent — I wasn’t in the best place, but I was going to sleep and waking up and I realised what I had to do to change my life. I got my CV sorted out at the library; I had space to do it. I have the chance to do that here at the 999 Club also — to think about what I need to do. In the country I learned to use a chain saw and chop down dead trees. I learned dead fencing — making an eco–friendly wall. I did litter picking and became part of a community. I’d like to do something like that with wildlife. I know there is more I can do with my life now. I feel hopeful.
Names have been changed for reasons of confidentiality.
Illustrator: Sanjana Chandrasekhar