meet a guest Andrene

When my relationship broke down I decided to come to London for a complete change. I had a good job in France as a High School English teacher and I’d also worked in Jamaica as a qualified Guidance Counsellor. I had a little savings and I didn’t think there would be much of a problem getting a job. I knew London was expensive, but shocked at how expensive! My money ran out and I was desperate. I asked someone on the street for help and amazingly, they directed me to a Day Centre who referred me to SFTS. I was so lucky that they had a bed for me. I had literally no idea what a homeless shelter was – I’d never heard of such a thing. My first impression was that it was just beautiful, there were flowers and table cloths and the people were so lovely and kind.

I started looking for work immediately, with my background and experience I wasn’t too worried about finding something. I had a feeling that I wanted to reconnect with my Jamaican heritage. I went for an interview at a Caribbean restaurant and it went really well, my French was really useful to them with their other staff and the owner offered me the job to start immediately. Later the woman called to say her husband “didn’t like how I looked”, he said I was too “masculine” and that she was withdrawing her offer. I was truly hurt, it knocked me back and shook my confidence. Cookie, the shelter Project Worker, offered to help me. She told me about a training programme with a Hospitality group they had a partnership with. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was curious to find out more. I met with the team who were just lovely. I was accepted to start working as a Receptionist while studying for a year-long, internationally recognised qualification. Everyone at the hotel has been so great and supportive. I was living at the shelter and that was like a home to me so if I had a blip or felt low there were friends and staff to help me and buck me up.

I’m so happy to be back at work after Lockdown. I love engaging with the clients and making sure they’re happy and have everything they need. I’ve just moved into my own place and I’m really looking forward to having my teenage daughter over from France to visit.

One year on and I’ve been through some tough times, but everyone at Shelter from the Storm has really helped me get through it all and the future looks so much brighter.