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19 May 2020

Lisa* is a British citizen in her 30s with dual nationality. With a chronic illness to contend with and no living relatives in the UK, she turned to the Glass Door shelters in Wandsworth this March. She reflects on her experience.  

“As a girl on my own, being homeless is very scary. You try to find shelter somewhere safe and well-lit. But the cold is unbearable on a park bench or draughty train station.”

Lisa was born in the UK but moved to a different European country* with her mother after her parents divorced.   

“With my parents in different countries, I never had a stable home. I never felt welcome or wanted anywhere as a child.”  

“I returned to the UK to go to university. I quickly got my first job, but a few weeks later, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. It’s hard to get and keep a job when you are in hospital every few months. I’ve had a lot of false starts and moved around a lot trying to find a steady job and a place where I ‘fit in’. 

“It has been my own personal fight not to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. People tend to think that everyone who is homeless has these problems. I might have had nowhere to sleep but I feel better with myself because I have never fallen into those traps.”   

I don’t feel like I should be homeless. I just feel like me.

While Lisa found herself homeless abroad, she received help from the British Foreign Office to get back to London. But she had nowhere to stay on her return. Then she heard about Glass Door.  

“Glass Door was a real help. I got dinner and somewhere safe and warm to sleep every night while I was there.  

“The volunteers are amazing. I built up such a positive rapport with many of them. They took nights out of their week to be with people like me, a complete outsider. Just to have that contact with someone who is living a normal life is so important. It has given me a sense of normality. It really helped me to cope with my situation.  

The selflessness and altruism of the volunteers is so uplifting.  

Lisa is now self-isolating in a hotel. She is one of over 3,000 people being sheltered in this way in London.   

“The hotel is comfortable, and I have been spending time doing things that make me feel normal like reading and drawing. Everyone who is taking care of me is friendly. I haven’t had much contact with the other people staying here as we are all respecting the social distancing rules.”   

Glass Door supported Lisa into the emergency hotel scheme in coordination with the Greater London Authority and other charities. It is guaranteed to run until mid-June. After that, her future is uncertain.  

“When you live on the streets, you’re not able to shower everyday or wash your hands regularly and you’re in constant contact with other people. It is a health risk, and with an underlying health condition, we are a vulnerable group. 

“The Covid-19 crisis has shown that there are solutions to homelessness, if only short-term. We need to make social changes so that the good works that charities do are sustainable. It can happen.   

“When you don’t have a stable home, you take things day by day.   

“I’m at an unfortunate place on the social ladder. My parents are divorced, I’m chronically ill and I have no close friends or family to which to turn to help me realise my dreams.  

“At some point, I really want to do a Master’s and then eventually a PhD. But my biggest challenge will be finding a route to get there.   

I mainly just want to say “thank you”. The staff and volunteers at Glass Door have given me faith in humanity.   

*Lisa’s name has been changed and a representative photo used to protect her privacy. As Lisa wants to remain anonymous, she doesn't want to share publicly the name of the country where she grew up. 

To provide support to someone like Lisa and make a long-term difference in the life of someone affected by homelessness, consider supporting our Covid-19 Emergency Appeal