Life after homelessness: ‘I was always creative and ambitious’

After leaving home and falling out with a family friend, Tori Taiwo, 33, was given a place in a hostel. She was too terrified to stay there – but determined to change her life

As a child, I was scared of my mum. She used to hit me. Eventually, I left my family home.

I moved in with a family friend. I lived with her for five years, but our relationship broke down when I fell out with her partner. The day she threw me out was dramatic. I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do.

My then boyfriend had a moving van owned by someone in his family, so I spent the night sleeping in it. That night, I lay awake, crying in disbelief at what my life had become. I remember thinking: is this really happening to me?

was placed in a really rough hostel with drug dealers and criminals. I didn’t feel safe. I was scared every day that something bad was going to happen. I remember coming home one evening and seeing dark figures in hoods in the middle of the hallway. It was me, a little frightened black girl, and these figures. I have never opened my door so quickly in my entire life.

After that, I spent most of my time sleeping on friends’ sofas and slept at the hostel only when I had absolutely no other choice. A lot of the people in that hostel were demoralised; I was lucky that I had it instilled in me from an early age to avoid trouble. I also saw a way out. I was always creative and ambitious and was adamant that I wouldn’t get stuck in this situation.

My time at the hostel came to an end when I got a place with Centrepoint, a charity that helps homeless young people. They found me a a self-contained supported flat and I took the cooking and budgeting classes they offered. I told my key worker at Centrepoint that I would have my own place within a year and that is what happened. I have had my flat for nine years and channelled my creativity into a career involving photography, film and fashion.

Source: the guardian

Interview by Daniel Lavelle and Simon Hattenstone

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