Source: BuzzFeed News
“I slept in Victoria coach station because I was scared to sleep on the street. I pretended to go somewhere. I pretended I was waiting for the bus,” says Yeshiwork Mekonnen, who is sitting at a table in the corner of a room in al-Manaar mosque, down the road from Grenfell Tower, which has just started offering homeless people a place to eat and stay for the night.
She’s 31, she says, and scrolls through her phone while we talk. Her hair is tied in a ponytail and she is ready to sleep but willing to speak about her experience of being homeless on this bitterly cold Tuesday night in November.
Mekonnen is from Ethiopia and came to the UK in 2015 looking for refuge from political turmoil. She sees homelessness as a temporary chapter in her life. She got to this country in the winter, when the evenings were long, dark, and cold. At first she lived in Preston, where she had been in asylum support accommodation and received an allowance of just £36.95 a week, until she was granted refugee status earlier this year after many interviews with Home Office workers and court processes. She got the coach to London in August.
She describes how sometimes she would sleep on a bench sitting up, pretending to be awake, with a blanket pulled up over her knees.