The LHF is proud to support the excellent work of Prisoners Abroad, who won second price, and £20,000, in the London Homelessness Awards 2017. We asked two people they have supported to tell us their stories. Desmond’s blog first appeared on the Prisoners Abroad site www.prisonersabroad.org.uk
I was deported from America in 2016; having been out of the country for 3 decades.
I was last in London in 1982 and had no idea of what I could expect upon my return. I was supported by Prisoners Abroad whilst incarcerated in America. Time almost stood still at times, but the cards, newspapers and knowing that they were on the other side of the water were there for me made a massive difference.
After 23 years in incarceration, I was placed in immigration custody for deportation and removal process. This meant I was ready to be deported back to my home country of Great Britain. As strange as it might sound, I didn’t feel ready.
I was in federal prison. There were days when you thought you’d never get out and you’d have to come up with scenarios and methods to deal with this fact – or this thought. Everything is an issue, your life is full of sharp edges, like you’re walking on ice and you have to constantly be careful – anything could tick you off.
One thing I understood about being in prison is the loneliness that becomes a part of reality. Loneliness is an enemy – it attacks and it eats you, but you have to develop a way to deal with it in incarceration; there is no time to be lonely, because loneliness is everything, so it’s nothing to make a deal out of anymore, if that makes sense? You need to understand the power of it.
It is a beautiful thing when you enter that state of thinking. Prison for me was a school. Isolation and not seeing your family were so difficult – then you overcome that part and you start to restructure what you want your life to be after prison.
As soon as I touched down at Heathrow everything sped up. I had a roof over my head from the first night back in London – Prisoners Abroad funded accommodation in Croydon and we discussed my housing options at length. I was supported to make a homelessness application to Croydon council and assisted through the process, and I now have a one bedroom apartment in Croydon. Even when housed the support from Prisoners Abroad continued. It was amazing to have someone I could call my home for the first time in decades, and Prisoners Abroad helped me with a microwave, pots, pans, cutlery and bedding. I attend the Resettlement monthly support groups which are a continued help. I hope that by sharing my story it will help others who find themselves in a similar position to me.
To find out more about the London Homelessness Awards and how you can apply in 2018 go to www.lhawards.org.uk