Meera was abused by her step-dad at a young age, to escape she ran away to her grandparents house but after her mum turned up she was thrown out. She was forced to sleep rough and had to drop out college. She then got in touch with Depaul and is now in supported accommodation.
“I was born in London. My dad was in my life but he abused my mum, and that’s when we left him. I’ve not heard from him since. Then my mum and step-dad got married and we moved to Blackpool when I was about 11 or 12. I’ve never had a good relationship with my family. My mum and step-dad abused me when we were living in Blackpool.
“Being the eldest I had responsibilities to look after my younger brothers and sisters. Obviously I know I wasn’t perfect, but there’s ways to discipline me without doing the things they did. It was only last year that I realised, I’m looking after kids, while getting abused. My step-dad threw cups at me through a window. He was starting to do nasty things to me, over even small things. Obviously it was going to get worse and worse. So I was like, obviously I need to go. My mental health at that point was just gone.
“I ran away and went to my grandparents and I was feeling better. Then October came and my mum came to my grandparents. We ended up arguing again and she packed my bags and threw me out.
“I came back to London, but I don’t really know anyone in London. The first few nights I stayed with my boyfriend but I felt like I was overstaying. I got a social worker two weeks before my 18th birthday. She told me to apply to the council for housing on my birthday, but they said I had to wait a month just for an appointment. So then for the whole of January I was homeless.
“I stayed at my friend’s shop for three weeks. I was sleeping on the floor with a blanket. Then I was on the street. I went to a park that I knew was empty at night. I didn’t have a sleeping bag. I literally would wear like ten layers. There would be nights when I couldn’t even walk. My legs were frozen.
“I got to the point where I had to ask people for help, for money. I lost so much weight. I was ill a lot. I didn’t really sleep at night. I was struggling to keep going with college because I was homeless and it was on the other side of London. I was kind of like – I have to drop off. They were aware of the situation but they weren’t helping me. So I just dropped out. I decided to focus on getting myself a place, so I could work myself back up.
“Eventually I was referred to Depaul UK. When I first heard about supported accommodation, I was like, this is just perfect. After so long, I’d finally got something. It’s just nice knowing you can go somewhere and it’s yours. I have my keyworker, Jenny and we meet every week.
“I don’t know about education right now. Instead of college, I think I’d do an apprenticeship. Obviously I’d like to work, and get myself healthy again. I’m not really sure what I would have done if I hadn’t got support from Depaul. I probably would have stayed in the cycle of trying to go to organisations and trying to get help. I think the main thing is, just don’t give up.”