Toni is in the second group of learners still attending evening classes.
“I have been homeless twice. The first time was when I was pregnant and split up with the father of my child. I stayed with my grandma, then my mother until I was offered a bad flat. I had no alternative but to take it and I made it as nice as I could. But as a young mother in a rough neighbourhood I was an easy target and I was robbed. When it happened I was too frightened to stay there and so I was back on the streets.
I knew my neighbours had done it so I daren’t even pick up the remains of my stuff for a few weeks. This meant I was charged rent arrears and got into debt. But I couldn’t face the nasty feelings I had about the place. I had nothing of real value to steal but I was upset that they took the bit of jewellery my family had clubbed together to get me for my eighteenth birthday. It was sentimental and could never be replaced.
I stayed with my sister then my mum before I went to the Gingerbread hostel for seven months until my key worker got me my own place. My little boy is now three and a half and I live in a safe little cul de sac so I am turning my life around.
When you are homeless the way people look at you is different. It is not everyone, but most people think that they are better than you. They throw things back in your face and the things that happen to you make you a different person.
People ignore you but when you are going through bad times but that is when you need attention. You might be falling to bits. I remember going to my doctor and crying my eyes out because I was pregnant and didn’t have anywhere to live. I was so stressed. I was only seventeen though I thought I was older. Then reality hits and you realise you are on your own and will have to provide for a baby coming. It is so frightening.
When you have stability with somewhere to live you can tackle other things. I am really enjoying coming to College. Everyone has been really friendly. Before I was pregnant I had done IT at level 2 and I would like to go on to more training and jobs. I want to make something of myself for my child.”