Homelessness in London Guest stories Martha's story Michelle councils Martha, above 29 January 2019 26-year-old Martha didn't know she was pregnant with twins when she turned to Glass Door. That came later. All she knew at the time was that she was out of options. Martha (not her real name*) had left London to go to University. She fell pregnant, but her boyfriend returned to Europe, leaving her to raise their son alone. Mould and electrical problems plagued the flat she shared with her infant son, and her complaints to the landlord were ignored. The council advised her to return to London. Following their advice, she returned with her son to the city where she had been born. A challenging London chapter Living in London had its financial challenges. Her savings were emptied and delays in Universal Credit payments meant that she fell into rent arrears. The council refused to help, claiming Martha had made herself intentionally homeless when she left the property in her university town. Martha's alternatives: put her son in care or send him to his father, she recalls being told by social services staff. She chose the latter, even though that meant uprooting him from his mother, his school and his friends to send him abroad. After Martha was evicted, a friend allowed her to sleep on the sofa, but that solution was only temporary. The house she grew up in was already overcrowded with too many siblings sharing rooms. Martha searched “homeless shelters” online and found Glass Door. Glass Door steps in “Glass Door helped straight away,” Martha recounts. That night, Glass Door’s caseworker Michelle heard Martha’s story. Michelle arranged to meet Martha the following day so they could visit her local council to demand to know why they had refused her help. "They just shook their heads when we walked in, as if to say: Why are you back here?” Michelle recalls. “As she had many previous failed attempts at getting help from the council, I requested a written reason for why her homeless application had been rejected," says Michelle. She had their attention. The staff agreed to assign a housing officer to help Martha try and find accommodation. Martha felt she was finally making some progress. “Michelle helped me so much,” says Martha. She questioned the council staff in ways I wouldn’t have known how to do…. That’s the first time they listened. Legal support kicks-in Within the first week of sleeping in the Glass Door shelters, Martha took a pregnancy test and realised she was about eleven weeks pregnant. Michelle helped Martha submit this information as new evidence for her emergency accommodation application. Glass Door also arranged for a solicitor to process her request for more permanent accommodation. The legal action provided a kick-start: Martha was then offered temporary accommodation whilst her homeless application was being processed. By then, Martha had stayed in the shelters for about ten days. Glass Door's support didn't end there. Recognising that Martha was desperately missing her son and suffering from depression, Michelle referred her to a counsellor. Glass Door also referred Martha to a family law solicitor to help her try to get her son back home. "I'm so grateful for all that Michelle and Glass Door have done for me," says Martha. She adds: I would not have had a voice without the charity. I’d probably be on the street. Martha can’t afford the travel to visit her son, and knows she needs to focus on finding somewhere permanent to live. “That’s all I care about. If I don’t get my housing sorted, I’ll never get my son back,” she says. A heartbreaking decision After much soul-searching Martha alone took the hard decision to terminate her pregnancy as she felt totally unable to offer care and stability to new born twins. But now she worries this will negatively affect her housing application. Martha is still in temporary accommodation and waiting to hear back about her homeless application. * Martha's name has been changed and identifying details avoided to protect her anonymity. All other details are real. To give shelter and support to someone like Martha and make a long-term difference in the life of someone experiencing homelessness, consider making a donation.