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27 October 2020

Aisha*, 31, grew up in the Middle East and fled in 2014 after it became clear that an end to a war in her country was not in sight. Aisha hoped to make a new start in the UK, but Aisha faced exploitation and harassment. She spent a weekend sleeping rough before she found Glass Door. 

“Honestly the volunteers are the nicest people I’ve ever met. I just felt love. They made me feel like I wasn’t homeless anymore,” says Aisha. (Wishing to remain anonymous, her name has been changed and a representative photo used).

Aisha explains that she sometimes finds it difficult to talk about herself and her experiences but that she wants to do everything she can to express her thanks to the shelter volunteers and her Glass Door caseworker Jasmiina. 

Journey to London 

After fleeing the war, witnessing xenophobia in Turkey and then separating from her partner, Aisha moved to London in 2017. She couch-surfed at a friend’s house when she first arrived and then found opportunities doing odd jobs in return for rent for the next few years. 

I thought I was dignified at the time. But now I look back and see that this was a form of homelessness too. Because I never had a real home of my own.  

Aisha was staying for free in a hostel last December in return for a part-time housekeeping job. Then she began being harassed in the place where she was both living and working. 

“I didn’t feel safe. I left without even thinking. I knew I had nowhere to go but I just didn’t want to be abused by these men. It was triggering things from my childhood, and I just had to get out of there.” 

“It messed with my head” 

Aisha was street homeless for two nights. She spent the first night in a fast-food restaurant where she stayed awake all night. She spent the next night in a sleeping bag in the street. 

“I couldn’t sleep at first and it messed with my head. I knew there might be help out there, but I wasn’t sure I would be eligible because I wasn’t very young or very old.” 

Aisha went to the council and began contacting charities that tackle homelessness in London. She was given a space in the Glass Door night shelters in Kensington and Chelsea.  

“It was great to have somewhere safe and warm to stay at night. During the day, I would use the library or get a cheap refillable coffee from Pret-a-Manger. When the Chelsea day centre was open, I would go there for lunch and clothing. I was lucky to be able to store some of my things in a locker in the Glass Door offices. This meant I didn’t have quite as much to carry around with me every day.” 

Aisha also attended Glass Door's weekly women’s group. "She’s really good at drawing and would often come do that," recalls her caseworker Jasmiina.

A new start 

Aisha met Jasmiina in the night shelters, and then came into the partner day centre run by Chelsea Methodist Church to continue to work with her to discuss options. Jasmiina helped her apply to several different accommodation providers. 

After three months in the night shelters, Aisha moved into a shared house with four other female housemates.  

“I was so happy when I found out. Finally, I have my own private room and can focus on looking for a job as an Arabic-English interpreter. 

I will never forget Jasmiina. And that comes from my heart. She gave me hope in a desperate situation.

“And that goes for everyone at Glass Door, all the staff, all the people in the office. Their approach and how they talk to people gave me so much more self-confidence. Thank you.” 

*Aisha’s name has been changed and a representative photo used to protect her privacy.