Francesca, a working mother from south London, gave birth to her baby son, Malachi while she was living in a hostel. With help from Shelter advisers, she was able to leave the hostel and create a better future for her children.
I lived in one room in a hostel from July 2014 until January this year, with my 11-year-old daughter Cleo. My son Malachi was born while we were living there.
I had lived at home with my mum but she unexpectedly became a guardian to two young family members. The house became overcrowded and we had to move out.
Even though I continued to work as a student support adviser at a university, my lifestyle went downhill when we moved into the hostel.
Although I made sure my daughter ate well, I didn’t care about eating well for myself. For me, it just didn’t matter, even brushing my teeth became a challenge. It was a horrible time. I found it hard just getting out of bed in the morning because I didn’t want to face the day ahead.
Sharing a bathroom with other families was very difficult. Even when I had a bath I couldn’t ever just relax because someone else might need to use the bathroom. Sometimes the bathroom was left in a state by the other families.
Cleo found it really hard because we were living on top of each other. She didn’t have her own room and so we were with each other all the time.
Cleo’s school grades suffered while we were living there. The baby wasn’t in a routine yet as he was so new-born so he would keep Cleo awake until 11 o’clock at night, sometimes later. And then he’d wake up for feeds which would then wake her up, so she’d be tired for her day at school.
I was working as well, that was really hard. Trying to stay focused on my daily routines was tough, let alone going to work as well. And then I was trying to be smiley and help other people while I was at work. It was exhausting.
I was at my wits’ end and felt like no one was helping so I looked Shelter up on the internet and gave them a call. I spoke to an adviser called Kellie who was really helpful and reassured me that she would be able to help me out of the hostel, and not to worry, which then put me at my ease. I knew that someone was there to help me and I wasn’t fighting the battle by myself.
After the first phone call to Shelter I felt a lot better, I knew there was someone there to help me. Before that I’d felt majorly on my own, I’d felt that I had nowhere to turn and no-one could help me other than myself.
It took the weight off me, I’d just had a baby and I could leave dealing with the council in Kellie’s hands, and every time she spoke to them she came back to me and reassured me that things were being done.
When I heard I was going to be moved out of the hostel it made me feel amazing, I told Cleo and she was over the moon, we were so excited. It was lovely to know that we didn’t have to live in that room.
It sounds really corny, but even though I’ve had two children, I’d say it was one of the happiest days of my life. To know you’ve got somewhere to go home to is a lovely feeling.
I didn’t realise how important a home was until I moved into a hostel, because when you go to work and it’s stressful you need somewhere to go home to and chill out. In the hostel I felt that I couldn’t relax, I was constantly worrying about things. But now I’ve got my own place, I know it’s my home and I can just go home and breathe.
Listen to Francesca in her own words
When you’re in a hostel it doesn’t feel like you’ve got a future, you can’t look ahead. As soon as I got this place I could start planning. Even silly things like your diet, you feel like you need to get healthy, and you can exercise. When you’re in a hostel you don’t think of anything like that, as you can’t see a way out. It’s like being in a big black hole and there’s no light. Now I can see a light.
Shelter put me in touch with several journalists when I was in the hostel. I was happy to share my story so that other people know there is help out there. It was good to show that homelessness happens to working people, it really can happen to anyone.
Without Shelter I’d probably still be in that hostel now. Shelter’s made a really big difference to me.