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Making move-on work

December 18 2015
Yousif Farah is now volunteering with Poached Creative. ©Tobias Priscott Yousif Farah is now volunteering with Poached Creative. ©Tobias Priscott
Homelessness is a state to recover from, not a problem to fix, says Yousif Farah

So you’ve got a flat. Sorted? Well, it’s not always so easy. Homelessness is a state to recover from, not a problem to fix, says Yousif Farah.

In the UK, we’re fortunate to have a system in which many homeless people are given support to stabilise them mentally while they secure housing, often in specialised hostels.

Having lived at one of these hostels, run by St Mungo’s Broadway, for nearly two years, I can say that it’s a system that can work. The idea is that while homeless people are in supported hostels, they can get help in virtually all aspects of their lives, from getting a birth certificate to securing training or employment; as well as addressing any issues surrounding mental health and/or drug and alcohol misuse.

Everyone is allocated a personal key worker, who in time helps the individual find a new place to call home. They are even given a grant to furnish it. However, things don’t always go to plan.

Back to the beginning

Almost all my life, I’ve had spells of depression. And when I first became homeless, I started abusing alcohol. This ultimately landed me on the streets. I was completely unprepared for the experience.

I was street homeless for seven months. Life seemed bleak at times. Yet, ironically, I also experienced times which, I believe, I will one day call the best days of my life. Life was a rollercoaster. Not knowing where I was going to sleep the following night was mentally and physically draining. It was hard to think straight.

At the same time I was working as press officer at [communications agency] Poached Creative twice a week – and still am. I was also writing for arts magazine Homeless Diamond and did a piece for Hackney Citizens. But working actually made it easier. If I'm doing something rewarding, I can handle being homeless. And I knew it was going to help me mentally.

Getting to work was a struggle, though. I’d first go to the church for a proper shower, so I would be fresh for work. Or if it was closed, I’d have a cold shower at the mosque. Then I’d walk to work.

My colleagues knew about my situation and were very supportive – especially creative director Jessica Smith, who referred me to one of the night shelters and helped me with managing my finances. That’s always been a problem for me. My family would send me money, but even if you have a deposit, it’s hard to get a flat, so you just end up spending the money – it’s Catch-22. I stayed in numerous night shelters as well as with friends, and received support from family and many individuals and charities. I couldn’t have survived the experience with as few scars if it were not for them and other good friends.

Moving on

Eventually I was re-housed and thought all would now be well. I was overwhelmed by optimism and bright horizons. Little did I know the real test was just about to begin. I had to go through the transitional period once again and this time by myself, a place completely alien to me.

It was at this time that I experienced a series of relapses: periods of depression, financial difficulties and problems with the law.

I'm not completely out of the woods, but I’m still in my flat and every day I’m developing new coping mechanisms: keeping myself occupied through volunteering, reading, exercising and establishing social networks with new neighbours.

I have my health, job, family and colleagues. Therefore, I am grateful and quite confident that things will take a turn for the better.

My message to those who are homeless or have just been re-housed is to keep yourself occupied with things that shed a light of positivity in your life and strengthen your resolve. If you manage to do so then be assured that things are going to be fine.

Never give up!

Other help...

Volunteering with the Pavement, including acting as a member of our Reader's Panel, has helped him, says Yousif, as have other important services:

The Connection at St Martin’s
“It provides homeless people with advice and assistance on housing, benefits, finance and other matters which may affect a homeless person’s life. They run a winter night shelter and provide laundry services as well as subsidised meals. I stayed with them for nearly a month and benefited immensely. I had keen and attentive personal advisers.”

Islington Churches Cold Weather Shelter
“During winter months, the night shelter [which operates over seven churches] provides homeless people in Islington and neighbouring boroughs with a bed for the night and a warm meal, as well as helping them get re-housed. I stayed with them for a few weeks.”

Hackney Winter Night Shelter
“I was referred to the shelter by my boss, Jessica Smith. I stayed there for few weeks as well.”

Crisis at Christmas
“They made Christmas less miserable. All the volunteers were very kind and empathetic.”