Parminder’s little balcony garden is beautiful. Filled with an array of flowers, leafy plants and copious amounts of coriander, her potted plant paradise makes a sanctuary of the little space outside her first floor flat in Redbridge. 

“I spend a lot of time out here tending to my garden. And all that coriander? Well I love to cook and you need it when you make the amount of curries that I do! My family visit a lot and it’s important that my place is nice for them, especially the little ones.”  

It’s a far cry from her life on the streets just two years ago.  After enduring domestic violence, and with no support system to fall back on, she was forced into rough sleeping on the streets of Redbridge. 

The experience has made her appreciate having her own home so much more and she’s determined to make it a safe and cosy place. Safety, especially, is something that plays on her mind a lot. 

“When I slept rough in Ilford, I stayed in a little covered area by Poundland because I knew there was a camera facing directly at it which felt like an important layer of protection. When you’re a woman in that situation, you do whatever you can to stay safe but I felt so vulnerable. My things would get stolen and I was always on edge.” 

So how did she get back on her feet after her time on the streets? 

“My grandkids saw me sitting outside Poundland and I knew that I needed to get help so I could build a relationship with them. I spent time in a Salvation Army shelter and was finally referred to Single Homeless Project in their Housing First Scheme. 

“I was supported into my own place and I’ve been here ever since. It’s changed my life in so many ways. I’ve built up a much stronger relationship with my family. They helped me learn how to use technology and now I love making video calls to stay in touch with them. I manage my finances through online banking and even shop online too! 

"I feel really independent especially now that I’ve got my PIP through which couldn't have happened without the help of Viniece my Support Worker. I'm so grateful for everything she's done for me - from helping me with the paperwork to taking me to hospital appointments. I never feel alone knowing she's there by my side.” 

For Parminder, her flat is more than a place to sleep. It’s her own space, where she can feel secure, and she is determined to make it into a warm and welcoming environment for herself and her visitors. 

“Now that Covid restrictions have lifted, I get to see my family face-to-face when they come over. I keep toys for my grandson to play with. He even has his own little chair that he loves to sit in. 

“My little garden makes me so proud. I've built it up with lots of care and attention over the past year. It represents what I didn’t have when I was on the streets: safety, purpose and calm.”