meet a guest Joanna

In Poland I had my own business, I was a make up artist for photographers and film & TV. Business wasn’t doing too good so we decide to try our luck in England.
To begin with I did OK and I lived and worked in London with my young son for six years. When he was 12, we went back to Poland while we waited for my permanent residency papers. Even though he had been doing really well at school in London, we decided he should stay in Poland to complete his secondary education. He’s living with my mum, which is sad for me, but he’s achieving great grades.
I came back on my own and in May this year I had a big problem with my landlord – I was working freelance and asked if I could pay my rent in instalments. To begin with this was ok, but then he said he wasn’t happy and gave me a day’s notice to leave. I came back from work to find the locks had been changed. I went to the Council who told me to go to the Citizens Advice – the Citizens Advice told me to call Shelter UK – Shelter UK told me to go back to the Council. The Council called my landlord and said he needed to give me 4 weeks notice. My landlord let me back in, but only let me stay for a week. During that week I phoned and emailed everyone I could think of and finally got a referral to SFTS – it was pure luck that they had a space! The whole experience was just awful – one of the most stressful times of my life.
When I came to the shelter, everyone was just so kind and welcoming and nice. I couldn’t find the place, so one of the volunteers came out into the street to find me. I still had a bit of freelance work but that dried up. When the agency I worked for found out I was homeless, they just dumped me. I’d been a good employee for this agency but they didn’t care – I guess they thought homelessness wasn’t good for their image! When Cookie heard I’d lost my job, she helped me get a place on the Prêt a Manger Apprenticeship scheme. I’ve been working full time nearly 2 months. I really love it. I like my manager and team – they come from all over the world and I feel truly at home.
Because I live rent-free at the shelter and they provide all my food, I’ve managed to save up for a rent deposit. I’m just dreaming of being able to get my own place and having my son to visit me. I will always remember the shelter with such affection – they were there for me when I needed it – when I was at my lowest. I was so frightened and I didn’t expect to get this sort of help.
I’m just so grateful to everyone here and I’ve made lots of friends. One day I’d like to come back and volunteer to help other homeless people.
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