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Radislov* arrived from Bulgaria by bus, with promises of a tractor-driving job in Scotland. But the bus stopped in London, and his call about the Scottish job never came through.

Turning back wasn’t an option, says Radislov, age 25. “I came here to work. I am here for a new life, to earn some money to send home.” He needs to support his mother, who has a bad leg and back, he says. “Now, the situation in Bulgaria is not very good.”

When Radislov arrived in January, he had £500 and a place to sleep for a week. “After three or four days I was robbed… but at least I didn’t lose my ID,” he says.  

“By the end of January, I had been sleeping on the street for three nights. The weather was very bad; I remember because a homeless guy gave me his sleeping bag. Then a lady found me near a church. I was looking for a dry place to sleep, a roof over my head.”

This lady, a volunteer, told him about the shelters, and Radislov got a place in our shelters after two nights on the waiting list. “They give us a sleeping bag and mat and even breakfast…. I am very happy with the shelters because now I am not outside,” he says.

During the day, Radislov used the Fulham Methodist drop-in centre where our caseworker helped him apply for a National Insurance number. Most days, he would go out looking for work in restaurants as a “waiter, kitchen porter, driver, pizza delivery, anything,” he says. “All day I walk, walk, walk, looking for work. I have no money for buses.” On one occasion, Radislov walked to Ilford for a job interview and back to Barnes to get to the shelter, a round-trip of 33 miles.

Finding a job brings its own complications. Radislov recounts his frustrations when a job became available outside London:  “I cannot travel to Leatherhead for a job with a recycling company on small wage. First we need somewhere to stay, and for that we need money, a deposit and rent in advance. We don’t have that money for travel or for rent deposit.“  

Travel and rent deposit are not the only challenges. “I need shoes for a job interview, proper clothes.” He wears a tracksuit and trainers – reasonably presentable but not interview clothes.

“And I need somewhere to leave my bag. I must carry it everywhere. It’s heavy. I walk all day, and when I go to an interview with my bag, they know I have no home.”  

The Charity has been helping Radislov apply to convert his Bulgarian driving licence into a British one. “It will cost some money, but I will get it,” he says. “I can drive anything, I can drive a tank!” he says. He hopes this will open doors to delivery jobs in London.

Despite the challenges, Radislov doesn’t want to take government benefits. He says: 

I don’t want to do that, I have legs, hands, brains, I can work, I am not disabled to work. What is necessary, I will do it. 

* name changed to protect anonymity.