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Guest Story

I am 26 years old, I am from Darfur in Sudan. I came to the UK 2021. I was looking for a safe place. In 2002 there was a war in my country. The Janjaweed came to my village and killed many people. Me and my family escaped and stayed in many different villages. Each new place we arrived at, the Janjaweed came again to kill the villagers. Finally, we came to Al Fashir, a big city in Darfur and we started a new life in Abu Shouk refugee camp, at least we all survived. We were four, Mum, Dad, my big sister and me. I did up to third grade in primary school so I can read and write in Arabic. My dad worked in a vegetable shop and my mum looked after the children, eight children in all eventually.

I was working as a water carrier with a donkey cart, the work was very hard. My cousin was a shepherd and he said I could come to work with him. My cousin worked for another man. At first, we thought this man was OK. The deal was that we worked, he didn’t pay us but he gave us sheep to sell. After eight or nine months my cousin had lots of sheep and he says to the man that he now wants to sell them.  But the man had lied to us, he said “you have nothing, you are my slaves.” They fought and he stabbed my cousin three times. I was really young and I didn’t know how to act, it was very scary the man killed my cousin, I was so frightened. I stayed to work for another week but he sent someone to watch me in case I escaped – maybe his son, I don’t know, so now I am his slave. After one month I was herding the sheep and I saw a car, I asked the diver to take me to the refugee camp where my family lived. I went to tell my uncle that his son had been murdered but they already knew, I don’t know how. I slept that one night but my uncle told me I needed to escape, the guy who killed my cousin would come after me. My uncle sent me to Libya. To this day I don’t know how I got to Libya, so many people in the Land Cruiser, people fell off into the desert, it was very frightening they changed cars so many times it took about a week. I guess my uncle paid lots of money for this. I arrived in Libya at a place called Marj there I also worked as a shepherd and I lived in a little room and the man fed me. After six months I asked for my wages, he put a gun at my head and said “you can go now or I can shoot you either way I’m not going to give you money”, of course I left. I went to the town centre where I met some other Sudanese guys and I got some work in a car wash. This guy I worked for was very good guy, he paid me I saved my money and I went to the capital. I was staying in a big block of flats and I worked with the Libyan men making aluminium doors and windows, this boss was also a good man. Some sort of gang or militia attacked us in the middle of the night, they had guns. They caught many of us and put them in jail. I managed to escape, I came back in the morning, there were seven of my flatmates left, we cooked and ate. I went to the supermarket to get some water, when I returned I could see the police or the militia taking my friends so I didn’t go back, I was the only one to escape – very lucky. I had been in Libya for three years, I wanted to leave – this life is too scary. I looked for someone to help me escape. The first time I was not lucky they put me in the jungle and a gang came to attack us. I managed to escape, but I lost all my money. I had to go back to work. After six months I’d saved enough for a second try. I went to the jungle and we got a dinghy to Europe. After three hours at sea the police came and took us back to Tripoli and put us in prison, 200 or more people in a tiny prison. It was hell you couldn’t even sit down. We smashed the windows and escaped – very bad day – we ran without shoes in the mountains, I got spikes in my feet but I was so frightened I didn’t feel anything. I went to work again and after two months I tried again. This third time I managed to get to Malta. The man who murdered my cousin came to my father and said your son is my slave, get him back for me or I will take another one of your sons. My father stood up to him and told him to go away.

I’m in Malta in an internment camp for six months until we were put into a refugee camp. There were so many people lots of fighting and police came all the time. I was always very afraid. One night when I was away, the police took a lot of people, they took my friend and put him to prison. After 45 days they took him to court they asked him admit he was a perpetrator of the disturbance and fighting – if he says yes, he could have his freedom, if he says no they will put him back in prison.  I was very afraid of the police  in Malta. I did the same job making windows in Malta, the Maltese people were nice, my real problem was that I was terrified of the police everywhere. So, I left for Belgium, my friend from the jungle was also in Belgium and we decided to try to come to UK. We managed to get on a lorry and got to UK where we made an asylum claim. It took two and half years but my claim was finally approved this October.  Life in UK is very safe. When we first arrived, the police were so kind, it was wonderful they took us to our hotel, it was very nice and I was very happy

When my claim was granted I had to leave home office accommodation almost immediately. This was a nightmare for me I had no idea where to go. I slept on the streets until my friend told me about the shelter and I got a referral to SFTS. I thought my life ladder was going to the top but after I received my residency I was made homeless again and the ladder went down. But I have determination and persistence and I will succeed. Now I’m at the shelter everyone is friendly and kind, I love the place so much because it is clean and warm and comfortable and they have really delicious food. They have a teacher who is teaching me English. I hope to get permanent housing soon so I can work and help my parents. At the moment housing is taken up all my thoughts, it has affected my mental health. I have become distracted and can’t concentrate as I used to.

The shelter is lovely but I need to start the next chapter of my life I want to train and work, maybe in construction, and help my parents. I also need a moment or two to take some proper rest and then move on with my next with the next phase of my life.

Meet Tigggy our wonderful ESOL teacher

We offer one – one English classes to all our guests who need them.

Guests have a mixed experience of education in their home countries; some are university educated, others have never been to school and have no literacy skills in their first language.

English classes improve the wellbeing of guests in a number of ways. They combat isolation and provide a distraction from what guests are going through. They provide a sense of achievement and purpose. Improved English helps guests to function better and to rebuild their lives. With a decent level of English guests can communicate more effectively with services and take a more active part in decision making that affects them. They can find a greater level of independence, both financially and socially. They can find work, make friends and engage with community more easily.

With cuts to the provision of adult education, we provide one of the few services our guests can access. We believe that by supporting guests to improve their communication skills we will not only enhance their wellbeing but:

  • Maximise their chances of finding meaningful employment 
  • Improve access to volunteering opportunities for those not yet ready for or able to work
  • Create meaningful relationships, prevent isolation and help them integrate into society

Guest Story

I’m 19 years old, I turned 19 while I was at the shelter. I’d been living with my ex-partner for two and half years. They came home one day and without any notice told me to pack my bags and leave. It was such a shock, I didn’t have time to process it. I chucked some clothes in a bag and left within half an hour.

I’m a student and work part time for a hotel chain, so I booked myself into one of their hotels. Even with staff discount, I spent all my money, £300, on 4 nights. I was desperate and broke. Someone at college suggested I went to New Horizon Youth Centre who made a referral to the shelter – at the time I didn’t realise how lucky I was that they had a bed.

It took me a couple of weeks to comprehend what had happened to me. I was homeless, my relationship, even though it had been abusive was over and I wasn’t at all sure what the future held.

I’m luckier than some. I’m studying Biomedical Science at college, I’ve got a part time job and I’ve got a dream – I want to become a nurse.

I feel fortunate to be in the shelter, I can wash my clothes, have a shower, I get nice meals, but more than anything…I don’t have to panic about where I’m going to spend the night.

I used to think people experiencing homelessness were different in some way. I understand now it’s you and me – it can happen to any of us.

meet a guest Stella

My name is Stella and I’m 18. I was the Primary Carer for a family member, but I suffered abuse and it became impossible for me to stay in my home. I slept on the streets for a few weeks until I got a place at SFTS. I actually coped OK – Buses are warmer than you’d think! I’m studying independently for my A’ levels – I love learning, I want to do Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University and I’ve applied in the USA and in UK.

I’m estranged from my family, but I still see my younger siblings. It’s been a life saver staying at the shelter, it’s given me the chance to continue my studies. I also have apart time job tutoring to year 6 and 7s in Maths and volunteer a charity for the elderly.

I like it at the shelter and I feel safe and happy here. Life feels at last as if there are some possibilities.

meet a guest John



I was released from prison on 14 August 2016 with £46 in my pocket.  I bought a packet of fags and a bus pass and the money was gone.  I slept in Finsbury Park, Old Street subway, on the busses, I found an unlocked garage on an estate that did me for a bit.  I got moved on by the Old Bill a few times.  My broken relationships with my family meant that I’d burnt all my bridges and they weren’t prepared to have me back.  I’d managed to keep myself clean inside, but it was a daily battle staying straight while I was rough-sleeping.  I’d bump into people I’d known back in the day who offered me gear; trust me it was really hard to say no…but I did.

I was born in 1965 in Violet Road Stepney – within the sound of Bow bells – proper cockney.  When I was 5 me, mum, dad and nan sold our house and moved to Tottenham.  I had a difficult childhood, I was hyper and mum and dad just couldn’t cope.  Dad used to beat me.  When I was 8 they sent me to Bylands, a council funded boarding school in Basingstoke.  I left at 11 and tried moving back home, but it just didn’t work out.  I was put in a variety of children’s homes and assessment centres.  I kept running away so they put me in a secure unit in Redhill.  None of it worked.  At 14 I started getting into trouble and ended up in a detention centre – at 15 I done a Borstal and came out at 16 and a half.  I was mixing with all the wrong people but they were the only people I knew.  I was doing armed robberies, security vans.  So, for 2 or 3 years I was living what they call the high life – drinking, clubbing, flashy cars holidays –  Then…I got caught and sent down for 10 years, I’d just turned 22.  I was disruptive, wouldn’t toe the line, I guess I was bitter and twisted and angry.  They kept moving me around prisons all over England and I lost nearly all my remission.  I had just turned 30 when I eventually got out.

I settled down, got married, got a job as a van driver had a couple of kids, a boy and a girl.  I was still living in Tottenham and managed to stay out of trouble for 10 years.  Then, when I was going through a bit of a bad patch I did something really stupid.  I went out and robbed a drug dealer and I got caught.  I got 3 years.  I behaved myself this time, I guess I’d at least learned something and I only did 18 months.  On release I settled down and got another job.

In 2010 I turned 45 and that’s when my life fell apart around me. I was working hard and I didn’t see it coming.  We must’ve grown apart but I hadn’t really realised and my wife kicked me out. The drug dealing people I’d known all my life were still all around me.  Whereas before, although I’d smoke a bit of cannabis, I’d always refused offers of hard drugs, now I was in this rotten place, alone without my family and I just though what the heck, why not?  To be honest, it took the pain away.  At first it was free, but then of course I had to start paying!  I was using whatever I could get – Crack and Heroin mostly.

The last 6 years have been a constant hellish battle.  I’ve been sofa surfing, rough sleeping but always using.  My children disowned me because of my drug taking.  I’d always told them not to use drugs and here I was – a junkie!

In the last 6 years I’ve done 2 more prison sentences, a 4-year stretch (I did 2) and the last one a 12 month of which I served 6 months.  I cleaned up in prison this last time and became a peer mentor for other cons with drug problems.  I think I’m good at helping other people with drug issues because I’ve been there – I understand what they’re going through.  I really surprised myself how much I enjoyed helping others.

An SFTS volunteer has arranged for me to become a ‘Street Buddy’ with an outreach team trying to connect with hard to reach substance misusers on the street.  I’m really looking forward to it!

SFTS have helped me access shared accommodation in Tottenham and I’ll be moving in soon.  I feel very sad about what a mess I seem to have made of things but in the last few weeks I’ve started making contact with my kids.  Things are certainly looking a bit better and Shelter from the Storm has definitely helped me move on up!

testimony from Nicolette

Testimony from Nicolette

My Experience with Shelter from the Storm was unexpectedly great! I never thought that being homeless we could have such a welcome from the overall team, particularly when one was so down and disappointed about the outcome of housing issues.

Let’s start with the most obvious! Food at the shelter is a delicious meal and a delicious breakfast. Even on Sunday, ordering a breakfast (on Sundays full English Breakfast) is like in a restaurant.

Hygiene is very good, as when we arrive in the evening we get a clean place with roses on the tables to chill from the long day spent out.

Communication is always jovial with the team which we pass on to each other among the homeless. Homelessness is not what any of us expected and we respected each other’s privacy even sometimes when it’s difficult to do. If in the future I became rich, I would myself give to Shelter from the Storm, because I could see for myself where my money would go and just what a good charity group can achieve!

Best to all


Meet a guest: Peter

FullSizeRenderIt all started to go wrong when my marriage broke down. I had nowhere to go so I was sleeping on the streets. My health really suffered and I started to become depressed. That’s when I began taking drugs. Things just seemed to get worse and worse. I did manage to hold on to my job though which was really important to me.

I first came to Shelter from the Storm in August 2014 after I had just broken my leg. I had a bed to rest in that was warm and there was food. I was given time for my leg to heal, I was then able to start working again. Things haven’t always gone to plan for me at the shelter, but I’m finally moving out now into my own place. I hope that everyone who is suffering from homelessness can get the same chance as I did at Shelter from the Storm. All of my gratitude goes out to all of the volunteers – thank you.