Confronting poverty & injustice, caring for those in need
Crosslight Debt Advice
Crosslight Debt Advice exists to help anyone suffering under the burden of debt, whatever the cause. Our service is completely FREE, and we offer advice, education, practical assistance, and ongoing support to anyone who needs it, regardless of background or circumstance.
When I was living on the streets I met another homeless person who knew about HTB and he told me all about the drop-in. I started going to the Drop-in when it opened which I liked, it was a very peaceful place that brought healing to people’s souls. I love to paint and spend most of my time at the drop-in painting. We have had 2 art exhibitions with art work from guests of the drop-in, I sold some of my painting at the exhibition. I went to the Night Shelter and they welcomed me very warmly. Now I come to church and I volunteer in the kitchen at the Drop-in, cooking lunch for people who have been through the same things as me. I enjoy being part of a group of people who I feel comfortable with – we have a lot in common.
I grew up in a big family. My Dad was a very broken man and took out his aggression on me from a young age. I left home as soon as I could and assumed a new identity to separate myself as much as possible from that life.
I had a few jobs and was working as a chef but when I lost that job, I then also lost my girlfriend and my flat. I was housed in a B&B in Peckham but was forced out of there and ended up homeless. I start sleeping rough for the first time. This was May 2006. It was terrifying. I would usually sleep on Bond Street in Westminster. People would come up to you in the middle of the night and abuse you. I never got into drink or drugs. I knew that if I started that I would get into a downward spiral and never get off the streets. You have to stay strong and hold onto hope.
In 2008 I heard about a new drop-in that opened at St. Paul’s, Onslow Square so I went to check it out. It was great. There were lots of really friendly compassionate people who made me feel very welcome. At the time I was not a very nice person and these guys put up with a lot. I used to get in people’s faces and I had a big problem with anger.
Through the drop-in I got some counselling and this helped me a great deal. I also started on the Recovery Course and both of these things helped to get control of my anger and become a much nicer person. I am now able to handle difficult situations much better. The staff at the drop-in helped me re-apply for housing and I have now moved into a flat and finally have my own place for the first time in 5 years!
I know that I have a long way to go but if you could have seen me just a few years ago you wouldn’t have recognised me. I have changed a lot. I have for the first time been able to tell people that the last 30 years has been a lie and to talk to people about who I really am. When you live a lie you are always nervous that it will catch up with you. I don’t have that anymore. I have peace instead.
When I came out of prison someone met me. From being met at the gate and being driven to a house where I had a roof, food and clothes provided for me. I didn't have to steal for food. That’s a huge deal! All those things were done for me: helping with somewhere to live and also to find somewhere to work, but more so than that - helping me to find the direction.
I was deported from the US to London for offences I committed in America. Because I had left the UK when I was 4 years old I didn’t know anything about it or anyone here. When I had been in prison in America I heard about Caring for Ex-Offenders and they had been writing to me, so when I arrived in London I did everything I could to find my way to HTB. When my post from America was forwarded to me it included the phone number for the Caring for Ex-Offenders team in London and so I called them and straight away went to meet them. They hooked me up with this lady who used to call me every day asking if I was ok. She’d take me out to lunch. I didn’t have no money but the Caring for Ex-Offenders team at the church was there for me. When I first arrived in London I was staying in a hostel, but the team gave me letters to take to the housing benefit people, and I was put in a one bedroom flat. They also gave me a mentor, we met each week and he helped me practically with budgeting and appointments. I started volunteering in the William Wilberforce Trust projects- it was great cause it kept me busy and able to give back to the church. I wanted to work and got a job doing construction, but because I didn’t understand the system properly I ended up in debt with my rent and council tax. The debt advice service helped me get back in control of my finances. Without all of this support I don’t know where I would be now.
I was born in Tehran in Iran but tragedy hit us when I was eleven – my mum died of lung cancer aged 32. Then a year later my dad died of a heart attack aged 64. At that point I had to leave school to look after my brothers and sisters. I was trying to save a lot of money for my family, as when I was nineteen I would have to go into National Service. It was the 1980’s when I entered the army, and a very bad time to be in the army because the Iran/Iraq war was happening. I ended up only doing 16 months of military service, as after my injuries I couldn’t go back. I arrived in the UK twenty years ago in 1991. I lived in Liverpool for 18 years but ended up afraid and lonely there. When I got to London I started sleeping rough as I had nowhere else to go. I just lay down to sleep in the shopping centre. I had no idea what I was going to do. The next day I was told by some homeless people about St Paul’s Onslow Square drop in. I went along and it was amazing. People were so friendly and welcoming. I couldn’t believe how welcoming the people at St Paul’s were, they’re so friendly, like family, it was strange for me at first but after a few times I said ‘No, no, this is not strange, these are real people, these are the people I have been looking for all these years. They told me about The Trust, and I started doing a computer course there at the World’s End. I did an English course too. All of them are like family to me now, our friendship is so strong, I had never met these type of people before. I had bad depression, was feeling down 24 hours a day. My life has changed and my health is much better, before it was not good, but now everyone who sees me says it’s very good. I’m working for the warehouse now as a driver, sometimes I’m cooking for different churches. We make Iranian food, which is popular with the homeless. I have made a community be here so all I can say is thank you God!