For this New Horizon Youth Centre 10 Days Campaign 2023 we are shining a light on different aspects of youth homelessness: actions you can do, discuss, or donate to take charge of change.
On this first day, we share a story from Fatima, a young woman pushed into a very difficult housing situation with a young baby, but who is focused on achieving her goals, with help from New Horizon Youth Centre.
We hope it inspires you to want to be part of the change that is needed to ensure no young person goes through what Fatima has. If it does, please share this story, get involved with our NHYC10Days campaign, and donate to support our vital work.
Fatima* lost both of her parents to Ebola in 2014, becoming responsible for her two younger siblings at the age of 13. Four years later her uncle in the UK applied for her to stay with him under a family immigration scheme, but her siblings were too young to travel with her.
Despite facing the grief of losing her parents and leaving her siblings behind, she was positive about coming to the UK. She has always dreamt of becoming a nurse, and she thought she could access training here to make that a reality.
But sharing a small home in London with her Uncle was difficult, and after a few years the relationship broke down and Fatima had to leave. Then, aged only 21, she found out she was pregnant. The father of her child had left the country and did not take any responsibility.
As happens with so many young people in London, Fatima became hidden homeless and was forced to rely on informal accommodation, moving from one service to the next. Eventually, she was referred to a Catholic organisation that housed her for 3 months – but they told her she had to leave once she had given birth. When most new mothers are resting and looking forward excitedly to the birth of a child, Fatima was desperately ringing number after number to find help.
It was then that she found New Horizon Youth Centre. We started supporting Fatima to access the statutory support she deserves, as well as essential items for her and her baby: clothes, food, and equipment. She got a small grant for maternity clothes and we are continually working alongside the local Little Village baby bank to provide more vital items.
The day she went into labour and entered hospital, Fatima lost her accommodation again. Imagine the terror of knowing the end of your hospital stay is the end of the roof over your head? Once her daughter was born, Fatima was assigned a council social worker, who ordered a taxi for Fatima to go to a local budget hotel.
5 months on and Fatima and her baby are still there. They are another household stuck in inadequate temporary housing with no move on the horizon. Being a new mother is especially exhausting for Fatima; who’s doing it without a proper home and very little support from family and friends. She has almost no childcare to cover so she can properly rest and is often faced with having to switch hotels every few weeks, the constant threat of homelessness hovering over her shoulder.
Through NHYC’s women’s workers she is getting emotional support and access to food and clothing vouchers, but without a permanent home her situation is still very precarious. Few of us can imagine the stress Fatima is going through, but if you are a parent you will know how precious and special this time is meant to be – worrying about whether you will have somewhere to live every few weeks is unthinkable.
Fatima’s expectations are not unreasonable: she wants to access safe, long-term housing for her and her child so that she can recover, start her nursing career in the NHS and support her siblings back home.
Undeterred by experiencing such difficulty by the age of 22, Fatima remains truly focused on her goals and has no doubt that she will access the life she, her daughter and her family deserve.
At New Horizon Youth Centre, we think it should not be this difficult to survive and support your family. We’re fighting for better options for every young person in London to give their potential a home.
*Not her real name or photograph, we have used a pseudonym to maintain her privacy. Photo by Ifrah Akhter from Unsplash.
Thank you for reading Fatima’s story. We hope it inspires you to want to be part of the change that is needed to ensure no young person again goes through what Fatima has. Please share this story, get involved with our NHYC10Days campaign, and donate to support our vital work.