My name is Geoff* and I would like to share my story with you.
Over ten years ago I arrived in the UK from Lithuania to start a new career. Little did I know, I was walking into modern slavery. I was living in a caravan, and was working for little to no money. I felt trapped, alone and became extremely depressed.
In 2018, my life changed.
One day, late at night, the Police raided the site and took all employees to safety. I was free.
I was then sent to a safe house, provided by the Salvation Army, in Weston-super-Mare.
Following the trauma, I felt alone, hopeless and had no one to turn to. I stayed in the safe house for six months, however lost my tenancy due to breaching house rules. My mental health then began to truly spiral.
For the first time in life, I was about to become homeless.
It was here that I found the YMCA. My support worker put me in contact with the team and my journey to independence began.
As English is not my first language, it was very difficult to communicate with the team. However, I then met Margarita, the Housing Support Officer, who is also originally from Lithuania.
Margarita was able to translate and communicate with housing support agencies on my behalf.
With the support from Margarita at YMCA, I was placed in temporary accommodation at the Night Shelter.
After four weeks in the Night Shelter, I received an accommodation offer from the housing advice team.
Throughout this journey, Margarita has supported me in attending job centre appointments, visiting the bank and meeting with the council and solicitors. Her support was very crucial for me as I didn’t have to wait for translators to be available.
From assessment interview to the move in induction, Margarita has been there for me to translate, relay messages to other agencies, and be point of contact for me.
She has also supported me emotionally as my mental health deteriorated.
After four months, I am now the successful tenant of a new flat. With Margarita’s support, I have managed to set up a bank account, bills and furnish my new home.
I have settled in well and can finally relax, enjoy my life and look forward to the future. I have also enrolled and completed an English course, and can now speak limited English.
I’m looking forward to the future and finding employment sometime soon.
YMCA have given me hope, and offered a helping hand when I needed it the most.
I cannot thank Margarita enough. She has continued the support by checking in on me, as I have no family here, making sure all my bills are up to date, and that I have enough food to support myself.
I do not know what I would have done without her.
*Name changed to protect identity