I came to London to work
“I left Romania and came to London in August 2011. It was a time when my relationship broke down and I’d lost a lot of things. I know some people say bad things about Romanians who come to the UK. But I came to work, I don’t have a criminal record, I wanted an honest life.
When I first came here I was only allowed to work in agriculture or construction. I chose construction even though I had no experience. I started working as a painter for a man who gave me £25 a day. After months of looking, I finally got into construction work. I paid taxes and I could think about saving but the work was not reliable. When I couldn’t get a job I fell behind on my rent. I became depressed. I was alone and isolated.
I knew I’d have to start living on the street. I found places that were more sheltered, like a garage. I made a bed from a palette and cardboard. All the time I was still going to the library and looking for jobs. I got a few jobs, in fact, and worked weeks here and there. Then, my big accident happened. A concrete block fell onto my hand. It damaged my whole arm and smashed my index finger. I was in hospital for two days and lost my finger.
When I left I had nowhere to go. Eventually it got so cold I went to a hostel where I knew I could stay for 28 days. When I left someone told me I could leave my big suitcase, which I’d been carrying around, at a church in Shoreditch and they told me about going to Crisis at Christmas.
While I was there the Hackney Winter Night Shelter advocate worker called me to say I could stay there from 29 December to the end of March. Honestly, it was like Santa Claus calling! I couldn’t believe it. To be honest, I don’t know how I would have survived that winter without them. I was often outside in the daytime but it was so good to know I’d get a hot meal and a warm place to sleep at the end of the day.
The workers were always helping. They helped me see an emergency dentist and they helped me with my tax assessment form because they thought I might have paid too much tax. Then one day, the tax refund appeared in my bank account. I was so happy! It was just what I needed to pay for a deposit to rent a room and start regular work. The night shelter helped me rebuild my life.
I feel that I could now use my experiences to help others. I’m always learning to improve my English and one day, I’d quite like to be a key worker at a homeless shelter. But for now my hope is to work and be healthy. And not to lose another finger.”