The first time I became homeless , I was young and married with two kids and my relationship completely broke down. I was no longer his ‘wife’ by the end, I was only there for the kids. I got kicked out and ended up sleeping in a park for a few months. I was born in France and so had no family here and I had never really had a proper job as my husband had been the breadwinner. I had brought up a family but I had no work experience. I was all alone; being kicked out was like being left in the jungle.
Relationship and family breakdown are one of the main reasons for people becoming homeless in the UK.
When it was closing at night, the winter park attendant spotted me when I was hiding. He caught me and told a lady to find me and talk to me. She got me clothes and a job, at her local grocery store. It got me back on my feet, she was so kind. I was able to stay with her until I could find my own place. I was able to get papers for divorce, find proper housing and start again – I had been left with nothing of my own.
Luckily for Tina, a kind person took her in.
I started to get back on my feet and met someone. I had gained custody of my kids from my ex-husband after trying repeatedly for years. I held down two jobs to show I could provide for them. The children were growing up great and I was happy.
Sadly, Tina’s story does not end here…
Seventeen years after being together, he betrayed me and our relationship broke down. I decided to go back to France. However I was in a horrible catch-22. The French authorities didn’t accept my divorce as legal and refused me my citizenship as they counted me as British. I was stranded. I lost my family and they disowned me. They didn’t want to be involved with me, as according to the French immigration system, I was an illegal immigrant in my birth country!
I was homeless for awhile and again was helped by the kindness of strangers to get a room and a little job. I wanted so badly to have a real family who knew me for who I was however I was left alone and isolated with no recourse to public funds and no one to go to. I moved back to the UK. I needed my National Insurance number to work as without it I couldn’t apply for anything, I basically didn’t exist. At this time, I slept where I could. I was still a survivor no matter what happened tome, I stayed true to myself.
After years in the unknown, living in shelters, I landed a job in Manchester in 2012. I could rent a place there and finally have money coming in. I was starting from scratch again in my 60’s.
Once Tina had moved, she found out about Mustard Tree. We helped her furnish her home.
I lived around the corner from Mustard Tree in a bedsit. I had to rebuild from scratch for all my furnishings and housing goods. When I found the shop and the lovely people inside it was great. They helped me get the furniture I needed to start again.
Two years after getting settled, Tina was attacked in the street and suffered a head injury.
I could no longer work because of my injury, even though I really enjoyed my job. I couldn’t even sit or walk as I was always dizzy. I took two years for me to even be able to move properly. I’m now walking, talking and can do some things as before but I will never regain all of my faculties.
Mustard Tree has been there fore Tina, with loads of opportunities on offer to help rebuild her confidence and trust.
At Mustard Tree, I found I could gain back some of what I lost. The creativity and so many things I loved are on offer here; sewing, painting, designing. Mustard Tree is helping me regain these things. I am also learning new things such as getting more trained with computer programs and guitar lessons. The classes have really helped me in my recovery. Creativity is the nutrient that you need like food –it helps me to be less shy and open up again.
As she moves forward in her recovery, Tina has the support and confidence to look to the future.
I feel like I’m breaking free at Mustard Tree. I can forget about the past and everything that has happened to me and focus on the now, learning new things and regaining trust. All the time, I tell myself that I have done nothing wrong and that I don’t need to hide, that my past experiences won’t completely define me and my life. I want to be heard and seen, and joining Mustard Tree has helped me do that.