Ishmael’s story shows how anyone can be only a few steps away from homelessness, but also how it is possible for the situation to quickly be turned around.
After starting an interior design business in Leeds, cashflow soon became an issue. Ishmael’s savings were swallowed up, he was let down by potential investors and also fell victim to a bitcoin scam. The final straw was a client who failed to pay for a design job Ishmael had completed. Here he continues the story in his own words:
“At that time my sister invited me to come to London to live with them. I thought, ‘This is a good opportunity to
live with my sister, save money, and after a month, once I’m sorted, move out’. I moved to London a couple weeks
before Easter; my sister was away at the time so I moved in with my brother-inlaw. I found it difficult with my brother in-law. After 10 days, I got to the point where I had to move out; he’d always been a nice guy but when I was in need he changed. I had a couple hundred pounds so I tried to find a cheap hotel or something.
On the streets
I spent two nights on the streets; it was scary, uncomfortable, I’d never been in that kind of situation before, I was alone. The first night I stayed awake, I had my bike so I was just riding around to stop me from falling asleep. The following morning I sat down for a moment and I just passed out on the bench. My body shut down because I was so tired. The following night I slept outside a hotel on my bike but I realised, ‘I can’t continue to do this’. I spoke to one homeless guy and he told me to go to a church for help and they pointed me to Crisis Skylight. It was late when I got to Crisis and they said to come back tomorrow, but also gave me details for a cheap hostel. I managed to stay there for the night.
New starts: a home and a job
After four days I had an appointment at GrowTH. At that time I had no money at all so I felt relieved once I got to the shelter. I made friends there; that was the first time that I didn’t feel invisible. All this time I’d been on my own and it was good to be seen.
The volunteers were awesome, friendly and always too eager to feed us, and so helpful. The help from the Advocate Workers was excellent. I felt like I‘m just going to be open to any opportunities and be humble and accept whatever is available. They gave me lots of options and Paul was so supportive.
Now I have a rented flat in Poplar with GrowTH. The flat is nice, smart, clean. To finally get the keys, it was like ‘Okay, is this really happening.’ It’s more than a relief, I just can’t describe it. Being in the GrowTH flats has helped me start saving some money and paying off some of my debts.
During my time in the shelter Paul had also submitted an application for the Pret Foundation; they help homeless people get back into the workforce. I attended an interview with the Pret Foundation manager; I told her my situation, my story and they invited me to do a trial shift in one of their stores, and I got the job. For now I just say to myself to be less ambitious, take things slow, don’t try to do too much or expect too much but work and pay off debts and live a simple life. In the future, things may change but I want to be consistent in work to be the best I can be.