I first came to the Margins Project Sunday Drop-In in 2002 after losing my flat and becoming homeless. In the early days, I stayed with friends but tensions inevitably built up. I needed to give them space. At these times I would sleep on the streets. My favourite place was a church doorway.
A homeless man I met told me about the Margins Project and I soon became a regular at the Sunday Drop-In Service. It was such a relief to be able to relax inside for a few hours and get a proper meal. The Resettlement Worker introduced himself and, as winter approached, arranged a bed for me at the Caris Islington Cold Weather Shelter network (of which the Union Chapel is a member). This ended in March. During summer and autumn I stayed with friends, or slept out.
A member of the Islington Outreach Team, arranged a hostel place for me but this only lasted six months. I was back living on the streets. The lifestyle was chaotic – I carried my world in a zipper bag and survived on takeaways and food from projects and friends. Not knowing where I was going to sleep each night was very stressful and my mental health really began to suffer.
Finally, the Margins Project Resettlement Worker managed to arrange a small bedsit for me to rent. This was a turning point. I became increasingly involved with the Margins Project. I joined the Art and Poetry Groups and found I was able to release some of my frustrations and express my feelings through writing and painting. Sometimes, on Fridays, I would help to bring in supplies for the Sunday Drop-In.
This was my introduction to volunteering. After all the support I had received from the Margins Project, I wanted to give something back. I started volunteering at the Sunday Drop-In Service and also took part in the Union Cafe Volunteering Programme. Serving food at the Union Cafe gave me a chance to mix with ‘normal’ people, and the acceptance I found greatly increased my confidence and self-esteem. You lose touch with normality when you become homeless – your social skills begin to suffer because of the way you are treated by people.
The ongoing support of the Margins Project has been invaluable. I have come a long way from the church doorway.
*This name has been changed to protect the anonymity of our guest.