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Working mum-of-four shares her story to shine a light on Redbridge’s hidden homeless women

PUBLISHED: 17:30 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:08 16 January 2018

The number of female rough sleepers in Redbridge may be higher than figures suggest. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

The number of female rough sleepers in Redbridge may be higher than figures suggest. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

Archant

Homeless women in Redbridge have spoken out about their experiences to highlight the issue of hidden homelessness.

The number of homeless women in the borough is believed to be higher than official figures suggest.

Due to the associated dangers of sexual assault and violence, women often try to avoid visibly sleeping on the streets, instead choosing to become the “hidden homeless”.

Last week at the Ilford Salvation Army night shelter, a desperate mother-of-four was forced to visit the shelter with her children after they became homeless.

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, has held a steady job for the last 13 years and told the Recorder how she “never expected to end up like this.”

She said: “We were evicted from our house in September after our housing benefit mistakenly stopped and I got into arrears.

“My landlord took me to court and I was forced to leave the house with my children.

“We’ve lived in temporary accommodation ever since but in January, I was told that the council deemed me intentionally homeless due to the arrears.

“I didn’t know what to do, so in desperation I went to the night shelter to see if they could help.

“Thank God they did.”

At the shelter, John and Naomi Clifton, who run the Ilford SA, spent hours sorting out the situation, with the assistance of the housing office.

For now, the family remain together under one roof, but the woman fears that her children may be taken away.

There is a small but growing number of women in the borough who are forced to sleep rough on the streets.

Up to five female rough sleepers regularly attend the night shelter, Captain John Clifton said.

He said: “Some of them are quite entrenched and have been on the streets for a number of years.”

Homeless university student Gidah Nantale spoke to the Recorder just before Christmas.

She said: “I became homeless seven days ago,” she said.

Gidah, who is studying psychology, used to work as a carer for vulnerable adults, including the elderly and people with disabilities.

She began studying at Newham College in September and, after saving enough to pay rent, quit her job in search of part-time work.

But, as of yet she has struggled to find work and now her cushion of savings has run out.

She is receiving support from the Welcome Centre in order to find accommodation.

We are getting closer to reaching our target of £2,500 to help make this winter a little warmer for those sleeping rough.

Donate to the campaign here: justgiving.com/fundraising/ilfordrecorderwintercampaign.

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