Sarah is currently rough sleeping in Shrewsbury, her experience goes to show that homelessness really can happen to anyone. Her story is marked by resilience, challenges, and the kindness of strangers. It sheds light on the harsh realities faced by those experiencing homelessness, challenging stereotypes and emphasizing the importance of compassion and support.
Sarah moved to Shropshire in 1972 where she attended secondary school in Market Drayton. As an adult, she built a life as a mother, childminder, and even ran a small holding raising rase breed sheep. However, life took an unexpected turn with divorce, some major health issues and the passing of her father which lead to her moving in with her mother to care for her whilst she battled dementia. After her mother died Sarah moved into a private rental and spent all her savings training to become an independent travel agent.
Her ordeal began in 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing Sarah to lose her income and eventually her privately rented property. Forced into a static caravan in Ironbridge, she endured the challenges of frequent flooding and the isolation that came with living in a very rural part of the county during a global pandemic. From there, she has been moved into various temporary accommodations in and around Shrewsbury, facing uncertainty and confusion within a system that proved both complex and frustrating.
A misunderstanding over the rules around spending nights away with family and friends in her most recent temporary accommodation has seen Sarah, who is nearly 60 years old with multiple health issues, being told she has made herself “intentionally homeless” and resulted her sleeping rough on the streets of Shrewsbury for the past 8 weeks.
Despite the difficulties, Sarah has surprised herself with her ability to manage daily life on the streets. She initially decided to stay near the train station to stay close to the transport police office but poor weather and late night disturbances lead to a decision to relocate to the Square, central to the services she needed, better protected from the elements and covered by CCTV.
Sarah has discovered that the homeless community has its unwritten rules, which she navigates wisely. Individuals have their own places to stay and whilst she understands why those around her resort to drugs and alcohol to survive the long cold nights she steers clear of both. However she greatly appreciates the camaraderie of sharing food and company with fellow rough sleepers.
Life on the streets is hugely challenging. Uncomfortable encounters with strangers hurling abuse and rubbish at her have tested Sarah's resilience. Yet, amidst the adversity, she has been humbled by the kindness of people offering support, with children and families approaching her with money, food, and good wishes for a safe Christmas.
Sarah's connection to the Ark, has provided essential support. From daily street life essentials like showers, laundry and hot food, to providing a safe space to work closely with the council’s rough sleepers team to try to move on from her current situation. The Ark has become a refuge for Sarah. A place where she has found friendship and care. By participating in crafting activities and rediscovering her love of painting, she finds solace and a renewed sense of worth, proving that even in the direst circumstances, human connection and creativity can thrive.
As Sarah reflects on her experiences, she emphasises how easy it is for someone who has worked all their lives to find themselves on the streets. “This is not a lifestyle choice, it’s not what I want for myself. I can’t believe this has happened to me, it’s happened so easily, it can happen to anybody. The system is so confusing and frustrating and I’ve never been in this situation before, without the support from the Ark I wouldn’t know what I should be doing or where to get help.”
Sarah's remarkable strength and unwavering determination inspire us daily as she faces the challenges of homelessness with dignity and self-respect. Unfortunately, her story, though shocking, is a narrative all too familiar at the Ark. Homelessness is a harsh reality that can befall anyone, and in those moments, we consider it a privilege to be a source of support and assistance on their journey to reclaiming stability.
Sarah's resilience is a testament to the human spirit, and her experience underscores the critical role the Ark plays in providing a lifeline to those in need. As a service that relies entirely on public donations, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who contribute to sustaining this vital resource. Your ongoing support ensures that individuals like Sarah, facing homelessness during the Christmas season, receive the help they need to rebuild their lives. Together, we make a difference, offering hope and assistance to those in need.
Click here to make a donation to support our vital work.
*** We are so pleased to be able to update this blogpost to say that with help from Shropshire Council's Rough Sleepers team, Sarah finally has a roof over her head for Christas.***
Sarah's story is entirely true but her name has been changed to protect her identity.