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“I was born in India to Indian parents. My mother died when I was very young and my father left me in the care of my maternal grandparents and the rest of my extended family. A few years later, in 1965 he remarried and came to the UK with my stepmother to work as a doctor for the NHS. He specialised in psychiatric medicine and progressed to become a psychiatric consultant. Of course, I was naturally proud of my father and he brought me to the UK at the age of 11. At first, being in the UK was difficult for me, I remember feeling unhappy leaving India and my grandparents who had looked after me well.

Living under the care of my stepmother was not a pleasant experience and this put me under mental stress and contributed to the unhappiness to me. The saddest fact of all is that I could not have a good rapport with my father. 

In spite of these trying times I completed my schooling here and in October 1980, I was accepted to read for a degree in mechanical engineering at Cardiff University. Unfortunately, I could not complete my course of study due to my poor health. I continued to live in Cardiff whilst I tried to get a job. I worked for an insurance company but this did not work out. Shortly after, my father suggested that I should go back to India for a change and I agreed.

My father supported me financially during my stay in India. I spent over 30 years in India and for 15 of those years I worked for a friend who is a doctor of traditional Indian medicine. My friend as well as some people known to him were extremely kind and generous to me. For the remainder of my time in India I was self-employed. Throughout these years, I still had regular contact with my father and I visited him in 1989.

In 2004, I was shocked to hear from a relative that my father had passed away. By the time I found out the funeral had finished so I never got to say goodbye. I remained in India after my father’s death. In 2016 I decided to come to the UK to make a new life for myself and also to find out if I could legally claim back a portion of my late father’s estate. Before I left India I lost a lot of money.

Firstly, I paid an amount of money as an out of court settlement to my ex-partner who I had a relationship with for 18 years before we mutually agreed to part ways.  We were not legally married and I was not legally obligated to do this but I felt morally obligated as she and her children had been living with me for 18 years.

Secondly, I was an Indian citizen when I first came to the UK and whilst I lived here, I became a British citizen. On my return to India I had to register as a foreign national while living there. I had overstayed my visa in India which left me with a considerable fine to the Indian immigration authorities, which I had to pay so I could obtain my exit clearance to leave the country. Additionally, they demanded suitable references, however my friend and his friends who knew me well kindly supported me. I am grateful to them.

Before returning to the UK I knew that I would not be welcome at my father’s house as my stepmother still lived there. I had hoped to get a job and somewhere to live quickly, however this didn’t happen and the money I arrived with quickly ran out. When I was running out of money and realised that I might have to sleep rough, I felt awful and it felt like my whole world was collapsing around me. There is a point when you hit rock bottom in life and this was certainly it for me.

When I had nowhere to sleep I initially reported myself to the local police in London who suggested I should check in with The Passage (a day centre) in Victoria. I did this and the day care centre assessed me and said they would refer me onto an outreach programme which I agreed to. I spent three nights sleeping in Victoria railway station while I was waiting for the outreach team. Luckily it was April and the weather was mild. It was a new experience for me and I felt nervous sleeping out in the open and on my own but luckily the nights I slept rough went without any unpleasant incidents and I didn’t encounter any antisocial behaviour. On the fourth night the outreach team came to see me and accompanied me to an assessment centre, called No Second Night Out.

When I arrived at the Hub, which at the time was in an old church building near Camden town, I was very grateful to them for having taken me off the streets. Whilst staying at the hub, I followed the rules of the Hub and I made a point to treat the staff with respect and talk to them politely. If you give respect you get respect from others. While staying at the hub the staff were helpful and supported me so I didn’t have to sleep rough again”

Shortly after I arrived at NSNO, a member of the team interviewed me and asked me whether I wanted to go and join a community called Emmaus. I had never heard of Emmaus before, but I jumped at the chance when I heard that I could have somewhere stable to live for as long as needed, all my meals provided and training opportunities in return for working in their shops, plus some financial benefits would be given to me. The No Second Night Out Team referred me to Emmaus and shortly after a member of their Gloucester support team interviewed me over the phone. At the end of the interview I was told my application would be considered and they would let me know as soon as a space became available.

In the meantime the No Second Night Out team found me a placement with Missionaries of Charity- Gift of Love (run by 6 missionaries of Charity Sisters and volunteers who provide temporary accommodation, particularly to those who have been sleeping rough). I stayed there just over a week when NSNO contacted me with the good news that I had been accepted by Emmaus and they would support me with a train ticket to Gloucester. I was met at Gloucester railway station by the staff member of Emmaus who interviewed me earlier.

When I first arrived, I wasn’t sure it would suit me but I settled in quickly. I have worked in all the five shops of Emmaus Gloucestershire, and most recently in the collections and deliveries office at the Gloucester shop. I enjoyed working at Emmaus and I feel I did a good job and I was appreciated. With the help of Emmaus I’ve attended some basic courses in computing at the local adult education centre and also passed my driving test.

Ultimately I have to look to the future and plan what I need to do to live independently. I’m keeping my options open for my future. I do like Gloucester; it is a nice place and have made friends here but if a better opportunity came up in another part of the country I would consider it. I am not just intent on working in retail and I could do something different. I am not young but I am in good health so I still have still years of working life ahead of me. I have now finally left the charity shop. I have a job in Gloucester and I am living in my own privately rented accommodation. The fact that I have come up from being at rock bottom to this stage is surely something for me to be proud of.”