From living in London, homeless, Cynthia found hope thanks to our supporters.
“There’s no denying that there is a stigma about homeless people – about how they look, about how they smell,” says Cynthia Kesington, who, 16 years ago, found herself homeless and living in an Oasis Community Housing project in South London.
Cynthia found hope with Oasis Community Housing and is now a self-made business woman and mother of two, she is keen to show people how it is possible to get help and successfully “come out of the other side”.
“At Oasis Community Housing they wouldn’t let me give up on myself. For some reason, they loved me,” shares Cynthia.
“Sometimes the stigma pulls me back and I struggle to be proud of how far I’ve come, it’s still a battle I find myself in. I keep telling myself that I must be strong. Maybe it’s my upbringing.”
Cynthia grew up in south London, living with an aunt who had strict standards and would often wield the threat of sending Cynthia to Nigeria if she did something that her aunt considered out of line.
“I wasn’t a rebellious child, but her rules were quite strict. When I started dating a Jamaican boy, I got kicked out. Things have changed now, but our parents’ generation didn’t like Africans and Caribbean’s mixing.”
Her boyfriend’s mother soon asked her to move on, leaving a young Cynthia homeless in London.
“I got put into a hostel,” Cynthia continues, “but people there were in a worse situation than I was, they were using drugs and other stuff. It was awful.
“I was at college, but I was causing trouble. I tried to commit suicide.
“I’m not sure how long I stayed at that hostel but, eventually, I went back to the council and told them I couldn’t stay there any longer. They moved me to Oasis Community Housing. Everything felt so different.”
Cynthia was given a key worker and together they developed a support plan to help Cynthia identify goals and work towards achieving them. Cynthia was able to attend counselling alongside a programme of cooking, arts, music, job support and other wellbeing and life skills sessions.
“I was such an angry person and I used to cause trouble. I had a job in retail for a while, but, because I didn’t have clothes, I stole them and ended up with a criminal record. I did community service. The team at The Foyer helped set me on the right path. Being there was a turning point.
“They showed me how that I had transferrable skills, how to apply for jobs and how to live on my own. At The Foyer they wouldn’t let me give up on myself. For some reason, they loved me.”
They gave me a foundation and hope
After 18 months at the project, Cynthia was ready to move on and the charity helped her get her own flat.
“I was one of the first people to get a new-build flat, I think. Through Oasis I got funding to furnish the flat, and they helped me access a grant so I could go to uni as well. I studied arts and social sciences. They kept in contact for as long as I needed them.
“My past still drives me forward. I’m always worried about money, but that drives me to build my Pilates business for myself and for my boys. When I was pregnant with my son, I had no savings, nothing, but I gave him the best childhood I could. And when I hear about how the kids describe me, I think I’m not doing a bad job.”
Looking back on her time at Oasis, Cynthia says: “Whenever I think of love, I think of Oasis Community Housing. Every time we drive past it, I tell the boys ‘Mummy used to live there’.
“The Foyer gave me a foundation, and a hope to be where I am today.”
How you can help
Give that foundation of hope to people facing homelessness in your community by donating today. Thank you.
This year we’ve been part of The Big Give Christmas Challenge (30 Nov – 7 Dec 2021), during which supporters’ donations were doubled. This campaign has now closed.