All posts by Street Talk

Ruth’s Story

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Like most of the women we work with, Ruth’s story begins with abuse in childhood. She grew up in care and missed out on her education as she was frequently moved between foster homes.

When she came to Street Talk she was in her late twenties and on crutches having fallen from a balcony while high on crack. At that time, she was very mentally unwell, homeless, sex working and chaotically using.

Beginning therapy, Street Talk learned that Ruth was grieving for her child who had been removed by social services and later died while in foster care. She was desperate and talked of taking her own life.

Over time Ruth formed a good relationship with her counsellor who very quickly saw what an intelligent woman she was. Gradually her mental health improved and her using reduced. After eight months she began to talk about what she might like to do with her own life, and to start to dream about what she might be capable of.

Ruth decided that she wanted to take part in an entrepreneurship training course provided by one of Street Talk’s partner organisations. She set herself the goal of stopping using crack before the course began — a goal which she achieved.

After a nervous start Ruth soon found her feet and with support from Street Talk and our partner organisation she was able to make the most of the opportunity.

She went on to complete an access course and eventually earned her degree in psychology from Middlesex University. After graduating, Ruth felt she had made enough progress that she no longer needed Street Talk’s services. We can only imagine how far she will go.

Online Fundraiser

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We’re delighted to announce that artist and art historian James Willis has kindly agreed to deliver this online lecture with all proceeds going to Street Talk.

The event will take place, via Zoom, on September 10th from 7 til 8pm and the topic will be Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress – the celebrated series of paintings and moral tale depicting 18th century London. Tickets cost £5 and are available at street-talk.eventbrite.co.uk

James Willis is an artist and art historian whose work has been exhibited in the UK and abroad, including at the OXO Gallery on the Southbank, and the Mall Galleries in London. He lectures on a range of art historical subjects and teaching painting.

Sitting In Limbo

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Sitting in Limbo, Stephen S Thompson’s drama about his brother who was a victim of the Windrush scandal is going out at 8.30pm on BBC1 tonight. Women who’ve come to Street Talk have had their lives destroyed by the Windrush debacle as well as by current immigration injustices.

Theresa, despite living alone and coping with poor mental health, was saving to buy the council flat where she had lived for thirty years when she received the letter telling her that she would be required to evidence her right to be in the country.

Stories were circulating about people getting the knock on the door from immigration and being carted off to a detention centre. Theresa was terrified and took to rough sleeping, which was less frightening to her than staying in her flat waiting for that knock. She thought if she wasn’t in the flat, they couldn’t come for her.

While rough sleeping, she was beaten up one night and suffered a brain injury which has left her with diminished cognitive ability. After a year of only going back to the flat occasionally to get things, Theresa was evicted on the grounds of under occupancy. She went from aspiring to but her home to having no home and now lives in a hostel for the homeless. Nobody is going to compensate her. She is no longer eligible for social housing because she was considered to have intentionally made herself homeless.

Another woman, Cheryl, was married with two young children in London. She was hounded by the immigration authorities and had been threatened with removal. She was desperately afraid of leaving her children without a mother, but at the same time had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Immigration continued to pursue her and throughout her illness she lived in terror right up to her death from breast cancer last year.

These are just two of countless examples of brutal and inhumane treatment inflicted by the immigration services in this country that Street Talk has born witness to.

Our Response to the Covid-19 Crisis

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Telephone Helpline

We are running a telephone helpline offering counselling and broader support to women in:

  • 20 hostels for homeless women across London
  • Two hotels in the London Borough of Camden temporarily housing rough sleepers
  • Bronzefield Prison

Therapy Services

Our three psychotherapists, Amanda, Rose and Pippa are now doing their therapy sessions by telephone. All the women have agreed to work in that way so none of their work has been interrupted. We have taken on additional referrals since the outbreak of the pandemic, as well as working with some women who have returned to Street Talk for support at this time.

Our art therapists Asta is now doing one- to one- art therapy sessions over the internet with the women and the one child in the hostel for women who have escaped from traffickers where she usually runs a group.

Practical Support

A lot of the calls to the helpline are from women who are hungry or who can’t get basic necessities so we are now assisting with donations of tokens for supermarkets and organising the delivery of essential items. Others are extremely isolated, locked down alone in unfamiliar accommodation or prison and we are writing letters and in some cases speaking to those women daily.

Stop Sending Women to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

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One of the most frightening places to be while we are in the grip of a pandemic must be in a prison or detention centre. In principle women should only be sent to an immigration detention centre immediately proceeding their removal from the country. Such removals are not taking place at this time due to the Coronavirus crisis, so why are the Home Office continuing to send women into these centres where they will be in even greater danger of contracting the virus?

The women who we have worked with who were held in immigration detention centres were in the UK as victims of trafficking and survivors of harrowing exploitation. We appeal to the government to stop sending extremely vulnerable women into danger.

Street Talk’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic

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This is an exceptionally stressful time for the vulnerable women we work with, and with outreach services suspended across the sector, many will be forced to get through it with less support than ever.

Street Talk has always offered telephone counselling to those women who are not in a position to attend in person and we will now be extending that service. Starting from today, we are offering free telephone counselling and support to women at six hostels across London. Whether it’s to talk about the virus or any other issues that she may be facing, one of our counsellors will be available to any woman who needs us.

In response to the death of Errol Graham

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We were saddened this week to hear about the case of Errol Graham who starved to death in June 2018 after his benefits were stopped.

Assistant coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock who heard the inquest into Errol’s death wrote in her verdict that the “safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it” — an inconvenient truth that, after 15 years of working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized, we at Street Talk are all too familiar with.

Street Talk would urge the Department for Work and Pensions to learn from Errol’s case and improve our benefits system to work for the most vulnerable, and not against them as appears to have been the case here.

Street Talk has worked with numerous people who have missed out on their entitlement because they were too unwell to navigate a system that treats them with suspicion and hostility.

In one instance a woman’s benefits were sanctioned due to administrative error causing her to become homeless. Now living on the street, she was attacked and suffered a brain injury which lead to a permanent cognitive impairment. Even with our support it took 19 months to get her benefits reinstated and in the meantime her life had been tipped into a negative spiral as often happens when the most vulnerable are sanctioned.

The Dubs Amendment

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All of us at Street Talk are shocked and disappointed that MPs voted 348 to 252 against the Dubs Amendment.

The Amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill offered safe passage to the UK to those unaccompanied refugee children, in camps in Europe, who have family members in the UK. Without family to protect them, the children are extremely vulnerable, to traffickers and to sexual exploitation. Street Talk works with the victims of trafficking and women in exploitative prostitution, all of whom became vulnerable as children.

We know that there are children as young as seven alone in camps. By dropping our guarantee of their right to be reunited with their families, we are preparing to put those children in harm’s way. Street Talk will continue to support Lord Dubs in his courageous fight to take care of these most vulnerable children.

An online petition calling on the home office to protect the reunification scheme has already been signed by over 200,000.