Fatima* (36) was born in Somalia and grew up in Holland. A year ago, she was a lonely and frightened woman, sleeping rough on the streets of London. Her life has taken a 180-degree flip. Fatima is now working, studying… and dreaming the big dream of walking on the moon.
When I look back on the period of my life when I was homeless, I can only be glad it’s over. I was unemployed, suffering from depression and sofa surfing at my friend’s house.
After six months, she asked me to leave, and I completely understand why: she has a husband and children, and I couldn’t carry on sleeping on their sofa forever. I had nowhere else to go and ended up living on the streets.
I slept outside a 24-hour McDonald’s, where I felt safer. Everything about being homeless is horrible. You have no privacy. You sit in a corner, in the dark, surrounded by danger. I felt scared all the time – what woman wouldn’t be? Men would sometimes shout out to me: “Hey, baby, how are you doing?” I would put on my fiercest face, but inside I would be trembling with fear.
I was luckier than most homeless people as I could still knock on my friend’s door, have a shower and a bite to eat. I tried hard to keep myself as clean and as presentable as possible. I never joined other groups of homeless people, as I didn’t want to get mixed up in alcoholism, drug-taking and so on. I had no one to look out for me and no place to call home. I felt so alone.
Eventually, I moved into a homeless hostel but I didn’t feel at ease in my new surroundings. I spent all my time in my room. It was at this hostel that I first heard about the Marylebone Project.
As soon as I stepped through the project’s door, I felt that things were different. I was warmly greeted by the receptionist and there were no windows or barriers dividing us. The attitude of the staff here has been the same – they welcome you in with open arms.
Before coming to the Marylebone Project I didn’t have a voice. I feel like a brand new person now, strong and self-confident. Both my written and spoken English has improved so much thanks to the project's English courses. I didn’t know how to use a computer before joining their Women into Work programme. Being computer literate is so important if you want to get a good job. I’m busy studying towards my GCSEs in English and maths and want to continue studying. I also work as a care assistant.
The staff members at the Marylebone Project are wonderful, they’ve been really supportive. One of them is always around if I need to talk. I’ve done a lot of other activities here too – sewing, drama classes, Zumba… The Marylebone Project feels like home and I’m so happy here.
The most important things I’ve learnt at the Marylebone Project are the importance of setting goals in my life and believing in myself. There’s no stopping me now! My biggest dream is to become an astronaut and walk on the moon.
God certainly works in mysterious ways – I’m a Muslim and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the Christian people who have looked past my race and religion and helped me so much.
In one of the corridors here, there is a painting of Church Army’s founder, Wilson Carlile. I often stop to look at him and whisper: “It’s all thanks to you that I live in this building and have got my life back together. God bless your soul, you’re a legend.”
*name changed for anonymity
You can support our life-changing work through The Marylebone Project and help more women like Fatima by donating online.
Don't miss out on hearing stories like Fatima's - sign up for free and receive our next Catalyst magazine posted straight through your door.
Read more stories from some of the women at the Marylebone Project here.
You can also read stories of transformation from other areas of our work here.