News & stories Real stories Sandra's story Every woman deserves a place to call home, to be seen, heard and feel safe from harm. But the truth is, women experiencing homelessness are more at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation than men. In fact, 95% of the women we help have experienced domestic abuse, severe trauma and had their children taken away from them. When Sandra, 52, arrived at Grace House, one of Single Homeless Project’s women’s only hostels in March 2022, she had been homeless for five years and weighed just seven stone. With our support and Sandra’s resilience and determination, today she is getting her family back together. Sandra wants other women to know that when you open up and talk about things, you can get help and you can blossom. “When I was a child, I was abused by my uncle. I had a baby by him, that’s where my journey started going down. My son is adopted, he’s a barrister now, but I haven’t seen him for 35 years. “I went down the wrong road with the wrong people and became homeless. Social services got involved and my children got taken off me. I was homeless for five years. I started shoplifting and every year I would end up in prison. I thought I couldn’t get out of the hole. It was like a circle, I kept on going around and around. “It’s more dangerous for women to sleep out than men. Women are more vulnerable. Men can abuse you. I was nearly raped in my sleep at 5am while I was sleeping out. I was sleeping in a subway in Finchley Road, and I woke up to a man on top of me. Luckily someone walking past grabbed him and called the police. When Sandra came to Grace house, she weighed just seven stone and was scared. But in just a year, with the support of Single Homeless Project and the women around her, things couldn’t be more different. “I tried to get help so many times, and I’ve fallen. I wasn’t ready then, but I’m ready now. I’ve been out of prison for three years now thank God. And since I came here - I haven’t looked back. I’ve been in many hostels and didn’t like them. I only stayed one day and left. I’d run away and hide. I was afraid, you know? I didn’t know what I was scared of, but I was scared. But Grace House is the best hostel I’ve ever been in. I’m happy where I am now, I feel safe. “The staff here are very supportive and consistent. They understand, they know the journey we’ve been on. You can come and talk to them, and they understand. They don’t give you five minutes of their time, they give you all of their time. It’s brilliant that it’s a women’s only hostel. I can’t be around men, and I’ve known some of the women here a long time. “I’m proud that I’m clean now. I’m on methadone, and I’m on the straight and narrow. I’ve been engaging with all the services. I’ve got bi-polar, schizophrenia and personality disorder, so arts and crafts really helps me. Sandra is still on her journey to recovery, but she’s shown her extraordinary determination and resilience. At our recent awards ceremony at Grace House, Sandra received multiple awards recognising how far she’s come in just one year. Sandra knows what she’s working towards. Getting her family back together. “I’m back in contact with my son again, we’ve got a brilliant relationship now. I’m in contact with my other son as well, and I have a very close relationship with my brother - so all my boys are coming together now. “I’m not out the woods yet, anything could happen. I’m just starting my journey. What I wish for is to be able to sit around a table next Christmas with all my boys around me having dinner. That’s my journey. We asked Sandra what she thought would help other women with similar experiences to her. “We should have more specialist support for things like mental health and abuse. And there should be more opportunity to hear from people that have experiences what we’ve been through. People don’t understand what this life is really like unless they’ve walked it themselves. “There is help out there. If you talk about things, you get help. It’s like a little flower, if you open up and talk about things, you get help, you can blossom. Speak out. You have a voice. There are people out there that will hear you. There are people out there that will listen.