Below is a personal story from Iria, a St Mungo’s client, about her experiences of homelessness. If you would like to read more first person accounts of how we have helped support people to live independent lives again, please follow the link.
“I felt pretty guilty every time I first met up with Christos, my keyworker at St Mungo’s, to have a coffee. I felt I was wasting his time because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with my life,” Iria says.
“When you’ve spent the last five years doing nothing, only using drugs, shoplifting or going to prison, it’s hard to come back from that life. You find yourself without a house, friends, money, and you have a sense you don’t belong here any more.
“Christos was a ray of light to me; someone who saw something else in me and who gave me again the possibility, the choice, and the chance to do something else.”
Before her substance use began to escalate, Iria’s life was very different. She moved to the UK with her partner 15 years ago, having previously been studying towards an engineering degree in her home country, Spain, and supporting herself by working in bars.
But as Iria’s drug dependency grew, she found her choices in life began to radically narrow. After leaving prison for shoplifting offences which were linked to her substance misuse, she lost the tenancy on the place she was living and became homeless. Eventually, she was reached by St Mungo’s outreach team and was then quickly moved into one of our hostels.
Initially, she was suspicious of people wanting to help her. “Some people think homeless people are all the same; that all of us users of drugs have been cut from the same pattern. But Christos made the effort to get to know me. It felt really good to be able to go outside and go for a coffee, like normal people do.”
Iria admits to having overcome many personal challenges in order to get her life back on track; even stepping outside proved to be difficult at first. “It was hard being around other people because it reminded me of what I used to be like. The way I look now, I don’t even like to smile because of the state of my teeth.
“I had this paranoia that everyone was looking at me and would know I was a drug addict. It made me really conscious about myself; it was like I had to ask for permission to be there and say sorry all the time.”
With the support from Christos, Iria was able to start making positive decisions about her life. The first step was to tackle her drug problem, and to then find a new direction.
Iria decided to enrol in the Beyond Food Apprenticeship, a scheme which offers people who have been at risk of or who have experienced homelessness employment-based training. She is continuing to make big steps forward.
The scheme has been instrumental in Iria’s continued progress; after her first month in work, Iria was made Employee of The Month in recognition of her efforts.
“Since I’ve signed the apprenticeship contract I haven’t been happier. I am not using drugs and I’m starting to feel more like the old me again. Right now, I manage not to think about drugs very much. In six months time I hope to not be thinking about them at all.
“Success is such a subjective thing, but for me right now, each day that I wake up and don’t use drugs is a success.”
To read more case studies about male and female St Mungo’s clients, visit our Real Life Stories page.