Linh* had been one of the women we worked with for years; one of our first outreach clients who has been with us even before the home was opened. Her situation echoes many of the stories that are referred to us. She had been through the government NRM programme but her support had ended once she received her conclusive grounds decision. As with so many of those we support she was still extremely vulnerable once the time-limited support had ended.
At first, Linh required support on a daily basis including help with multiple moves through various temporary and inadequate housing. When she eventually got her Leave to Remain - which meant amongst other things that at last she could access employment - she began work immediately. At this point she was also entitled to receive benefits but didn’t want to take any, and just wanted to work. Linh now lives with her partner and their 2 young children in a modest little flat 1-bedroom flat, which has a lounge that doubles up as an extra bedroom for their eldest child.
We’ve officially closed her case now that she is settled and happily living life, yet we remain in contact. A few months ago Linh called to ask for help. She’d been to her local native-speaking Church and was introduced to a young woman who had been brought there that day by people who were concerned for her welfare. The young woman was homeless and had no possessions except the clothes she was wearing. Linh took her to her home, gave her clean clothes, food and a warm bed. Linh then called us to tell us about the woman, Mai*. Linh said she had been through something very similar to her, Mai had also been trafficked and sexually exploited.
The next day when we went to meet Mai at Linh’s home. She looked beautiful and clean, you’d have never known that the day before Linh had had to cut Mai’s hair because it had become matted from months of neglect. As we struggled to communicate across the language barrier, Linh explained to Mai, who was clearly overwhelmed, that we were there to help her. Mai couldn’t process what was happening and her eyes kept flicking distracted by the children's cartoon showing on the TV showing. We took her details and referred Mai into the NRM and she is now in a government safe house until she gets a decision on her trafficking case. In the few weeks that Mai waited to be placed into a government safe house she lived with Linh and her family. They cared for her and made her feel part of their family, this significantly boosted Mai's confidence. During her stay with Linh, Mai tried to reconnect with her partner who she had lived with on the streets, they were separated that day she got help at the church.
On 19th of March, after 3 months of not being able to contact him, we received a call from Linh saying that, at last, Mai had managed to contact her partner, Tuan*. Mai was emotional and desperate for him to get help. Linh reacted immediately by picking Tuan from the streets in Deptford where he had been sleeping rough for some time. Just as she had taken in Mai with no hesitation, Linh was quick to respond to Tuan.
Only the day before, Linh told us that the taxi driver was reluctant to drive him back to her house due to the state he was in. The next day we went to meet Tuan, he was well-presented and clean-shaved.
We asked just enough questions to determine his situation while Linh translated. It was immediately clear that he would have a legitimate trafficking claim and that we would be able to refer him for an initial assessment into the NRM as a result. We learnt that he’d been sleeping rough on the streets of London for around 18 months after he had escaped from the house “Growing Big Trees” (marijuana). Tuan is so appreciating the physical and emotional warmth from Linh and her family while he waits to be placed in a safe house which we hope will be any day now. In the meantime Linh says she is so happy to help and give back for the support she received.
Picking up Ginger
One of the psychologists working with one of the residents, Lucia* wrote to us and asked if we would consider getting a dog for the home which she felt would significantly help with the trauma of her client.
We looked at various options, but weren’t getting anywhere with a good fit for the home. Then one day Lucia surprised us with the news that she had bought a pup (Ginger) online from Spain with some compensation money she’d been awarded!
Then the question was: how were we going to get this little dog to London from Spain? After exploring various options, the people who were looking after Ginger in Spain said they’d happily meet us half way (Paris) to hand Ginger to us.
Upon meeting Ginger - by the Eiffel Tower no less - it suddenly dawned on me there was more to this story and that the people who travelled from Spain had made this journey because they really cared. When I started asking questions, the full story came out.
Lucia* had been held for many years by those who trafficked her. One day an opportunity to escape presented itself and she took it (her story is in the film below). An incredible part of her story is that at great risk to herself she went to the police to ensure the release of 21 other women being held in 4 houses. One of those rescued was the sister of the people we met in Paris. Their sister had been held for 6 years and forced into prostitution along with Lucia. Now she lives a happy life with a family of her own.
It all made sense then why the family had been willing to travel to deliver Ginger to us, indebted to Lucia for their sister’s freedom. This little dog is a real blessing, and has already brought so much joy to Ella's Home.
* Pseudonyms have been given to protect the individuals' identities.