Finding Light at the End of the Tunnel

16 Feb 2023

The following is a personal blog from Shaz Poour, a Housing Campaigner who worked with Just for Kids Law:

It was the Summer of 2011 when I moved to Liverpool in the UK. I was 15 years old, with no parents or guardian. Since I was a minor, I was put in foster care straight away. Liverpool Council gave me a social worker who was supposed to support me until the age of 18. As it turns out, I was unlucky, as I had a social worker who did not help or prepare me for my independency. Based on the government’s rules, I had to submit my immigration status for my indefinite leave to remain once I had turned 17 and a half, which I did not have any idea about or how I was supposed to do it.

I visited my new lawyer that was provided to me from a free legal service in Liverpool, who I told about myself and my sexual orientation, but she did not believe me. She abused her power and gave me the wrong advice to provide her with proof to the Home Office that I was a lesbian. After two years of being depressed and not leaving the house, I came to the realization that what the lawyer asked me to do was not part of the Home Office guidelines, which left me devastated. It was then when I strongly wanted to leave Liverpool and reset my life to be able to heal from the trauma I went through.

At that time, I was still living in a shared house that social services provided me, but I wasn’t aware that I was entitled to have my own flat. So, I left for London where I didn’t have a place to stay, a job, or a family to rely on. But there I met someone who promised me that we could be a family. Since we were friends for a few years, I felt like I could trust her. I moved in with her and everything started to change, I felt like I was happier and ready to explore the world. But not long after, I felt like I was becoming more depressed and more anxious. This was because I was experiencing emotional abuse from her, which was always putting me on edge. It was a similar experience to what I had with my mum when I was younger, so I quicky became too reactive to my emotions and it made me feel very uneasy. During the past four years living in her house, our relationship never stayed stable. There were days when I forgot to buy her orange juice, she would take the house keys away from me, or tell me to leave. There were also days when she told me that this was our house and that I should call it my home.

This uncertainty led to my mental health deteriorating in my daily life, becoming extremely depressed and anxious. I could not concentrate on a simple task, and I started to isolate myself for a long time. I believe that I reached rock bottom in my life, but this time I could not let it break me again, so I had to reach out for help. I had contacted more than 100 different organizations to seek help, with over 80 organizations refusing to help me. Each time I was refused, I tried harder by contacting higher up people, but there was no help. With all this rejection, I did not give up and I kept asking for more help. I felt suicidal during this struggle and the rejection I went through, because I felt helpless and invisible.

Eventually, I had finally been offered secure accommodation, which made me so happy. The homelessness application is very complex, and I believe that a lot of people who start the process end up giving up because of it. The process was mentally draining and required resilience to gain a reasonable outcome. There are plenty of resources available for the public to educate themselves on how to deal with the system, but again, it is understandable that not everyone has the ability to seek help, or to do the research to gain information about their rights! The problem is bigger than that, because there is misinformation, such not enough social housing to go around. But based on my research and my own experience, there is enough social housing available for people, but only a few people know their rights and how to fight for them. Unfortunately, the system is quite messy, and people will not share useful information with you unless you know that information yourself. No one should have go through something like that without support.

This is why it is so important that a charity like Just for Kids Law is there to support young people in educating them about their rights and teaching how to fight for them. Through their support, they can find their own magic and find the light at the end of the tunnel.