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Sadia's story: "Having been through homelessness, I want to use the experience to give something back to other women"

Sadia spent a month sleeping rough in freezing winter conditions, occasionally finding somewhere to sofa surf for the night.

Now she is using her experience of homelessness to help women in similar situations. Sadia is one of several women working with us to develop specialist support for other female rough sleepers in Kent.

The reasons that someone becomes homeless are rarely straightforward. For Sadia, it was a combination of mental ill health, losing custody of her children and eventually losing her home when it was sold by a former partner she used to live with. “I was having panic attacks, feeling isolated and became unable to work at my job as a solicitor. I was using drink as a coping mechanism.”

After losing her home, Sadia was told by her local council that the only accommodation available was hundreds of miles away in Bradford.

“I had to move there - it was either that or sleep on the streets. But I felt even more isolated from everyone and my mental health problems got worse. I was away from my friends, family and children. It was horrible and I didn’t know where to turn for help.”

Without the right support in place, Sadia’s situation continued to worsen. Mental health workers brought her back home so she could receive proper support.

It was during this time that Sadia began sleeping on the streets.

“It was a very scary time and I’d try to stick to areas I was familiar with. I spent time sleeping round the back of an old building. Sometimes, I would have to swallow my pride and ask a random friend if I could stay for the night.”

Sadia was homeless for a month at one of the coldest points of the year. It was during this time that she made contact with Porchlight. Sadia told us that being supported by a woman would make her feel more comfortable due to everything she’d experienced.

“Shortly afterwards I met my Porchlight worker Amanda and we just clicked. She was non-judgemental, understood my needs and cared about me. She found me support for my mental health and assisted when I was applying for housing, including speaking to the council on my behalf when the situation became very stressful. When the pandemic started, Amanda began dropping off food parcels to ensure I was doing okay.”

Having been through homelessness, I want to use the experience to give something back to other women who are on the streets right now.

Now, Sadia is living in her own flat and is feeling more positive about the future. She plans to begin working as a solicitor again soon and has a job waiting. She is also getting help to apply to see her children again.

“The support of Porchlight and everyone else coupled with my faith has made such a huge difference to my life. They’ve shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Find out more about our safe place appeal for women's services.