Kerri spent time in Look Ahead’s homelessness hostels in central London in the 2000s. She now lives in the North East and is a lived experience consultant.
I was 22 when I first came to Look Ahead’s Bayswater Hostel in 2005. I was on the streets before then. I’m from Newcastle originally but I’d been back and forth between London and there since I was ten. I class London as my home. I went in and out of Bayswater. I wasn’t ready but I kept coming back.
My main issues were heroin and later crack. I used them to block out my trauma, to block out my past. I was back on the streets after trying detox, I was hanging by a thread. There are some really sad stories on the street. People have been rejected so many times, it’s no wonder they look for solace in a drug or a doorway. Finally, I had had enough. I felt ready to start my recovery, and in 2008 I moved into Victoria Hostel – or LA Vic as we used to call it.
It was there I met support workers, Kath and Lucy and Leah from Turning Point. They were my ‘dream team’. The more the three of them engaged with me, the more love they showed me, the less rejected and abandoned I felt. They made me realise how much I needed that care and support. When you’ve been on the streets or been through trauma, you feel like scum on earth. They changed how I felt about myself. We were all of a similar age and we formed a bond.
LA Vic was a community. Despite all the challenges and the difficulties all the residents were facing, it was a nurturing environment where people cared. I have some really vivid memories of my time there – the staff buzzing about on their walkie talkies, me smashing it on the Christmas Day karaoke! I always felt that people there were trying to encourage you to be bigger and better than what you felt you were. I’d been in a lot of hostels, but this place was different. A lot of good came out of there.
I was at LA Vic for about 15 months. I became pregnant with twins, and I moved onto my own property in Pimlico. I stayed there for three years before I moved back up North. The support from Kath, Lucy and Leah didn’t end when I left Victoria. It followed me – that’s where the nugget of gold was. They didn’t close my case. They carried on supporting me and 15 years later, we are still in touch, and they are still very much part of my story.
Life since has had its ups and downs. I’ve had my children, a boy and a girl and I’ve been relatively stable. I’ve got into university, worked in outreach, I’ve spoken in parliament, at events and I’ve gone from being the service user to the service provider. I do work as a lived experience consultant for organisations, I started blogging and in 2016 I released my own book ‘Gutter to Glory – from Pavements to Parliament’, sharing my experiences from childhood to where I am today
My overall goal is I want to see system change. You are never going to end rough sleeping until you look at the causes, you begin to connect the dots. I fell through so many gaps myself – the care system, education, housing, the health system. Everyone has a story that has led to their circumstances.