Homeless in Ely
Published by rtownsend for Sanctuary Housing Association in Housing and also in Care and Support, Communities
“There are as many reasons for being homeless as there are homeless people. It’s not shameful, it’s not dirty, it’s not wrong. It can happen to anyone.”
No one knows this better than Teresa, who became homeless nearly two years ago when her husband losing his job meant that her family also lost their home. Teresa, her husband, and her now four year old daughter were placed in Sanctuary’s hostel in Ely, Cambridgeshire on a temporary basis until they and the local authority were able to find more permanent accommodation.
“I have bought the Big Issue for nearly 20 years on and off. Finding out I was eligible to sell it was a real kicker, I never even thought about that.”
Sanctuary’s Lynn Road Hostel in Ely has taken on more families in recent years as increasing numbers of them have found themselves homeless.
“With nine households in the hostel, you could hear people doing all kinds of things. You’d hear people waking up early in the morning to go to work, having arguments, laughing at the TV.
“There was one mother. I could hear her sing to her baby in the bath. That would make me cry. To have something that should be so normal under those circumstances reminded me that we were all in the same situation and was very heartening!”
Despite the stressful situation, Teresa’s daughter kept up her smile, playing games with some of the shelter’s staff, and drawing pictures for some of the other residents.
“The one thing that I wished for when we were in the shelter was a table. To be able to sit down as a family would have made such a difference.”
Teresa warns of many, what she calls, ‘hidden homeless’ – those living in B&Bs, negotiating with landlords to stay in their homes, living with their parents or on a friend’s sofa.
“No one wants to talk about it. They’re just numbers to most people. No one thinks it can happen to them. It’s a bit like unemployment, but then, homelessness and unemployment can – though not always – go hand in hand."
Teresa and her family have been in their home nearly a year, and are still looking for work. “There is a stigma associated with being on housing benefit. It makes things more difficult. We’re fighting an uphill battle.
“Every morning I walk down the stairs and I’m thankful. I’m thankful I have a roof over my head. I know how swiftly things can change, and through no fault of your own.
“Even though we were homeless, we didn’t stop being who we are. Homeless people are still people. They’re still mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends.”