Salah's Story

I am originally from Eritrea, but I spent a large part of my childhood in Sudan. I moved there with my family when I was 8 years old because of the civil war in Eritrea, but it wasn’t a good life. As I was a foreign citizen, I wasn’t provided with an education so I had to work long hours in the hot sun doing any menial labour work I could find. By the time I turned 15 the civil war in Eritrea had ended and my family wanted to return but I decided to come to the UK to study.

I applied for political asylum and was given leave to stay in the UK. I moved to London and began my studies. I was living in a shared house with other people from Eritrea. I didn’t know any of them as you find your accommodation through the agency when you apply for asylum, but I studied hard and I was happy. I got a BTEC National in Science, Maths and English and wanted to study to become a solicitor but I studied computer science instead.

I had about three months left of my course when my father suddenly died so I had to quit my course and return to Eritrea to help my family. When I returned to the UK a few months later I went straight into work. I worked at Burger King during the day and then in a cloak room and bar at a London club at night.

In 1997 I got married. We had two lovely children, my daughter who is now 14 and my son who is 12. We had a normal and happy family life until 2008, when my wife decided she wanted a divorce. From that point on my life went a bit upside down. I had to move out of the family home so my wife could stay there with our children, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. I stayed with friends for a while but I also spent a lot of time on the streets.

This lasted for about a year. I was working as a kitchen assistant throughout the whole period, until I got sick and had to be admitted to hospital. I’d lost a lot of weight, I started vomiting and then I collapsed with exhaustion. I spent two weeks in hospital. When I was discharged I realised I needed help and somewhere permanent to stay. I went to see Camden Housing Options and they sent me to Conway House. This was in January 2013, and I haven’t looked back since.

As soon as I arrived at Conway House I decided I wanted to get myself back to how I was before. During my time on the streets I had become quite dependant on alcohol, so Zoe Cumbers, my key worker put me in touch with Barry who is a councillor from the Camden Alcohol Service. She also referred me to Single Homeless Project (SHP). They have both really helped me to understand my addiction and recognise and control my desires.

I have really got involved in life at Conway House, I am currently a Resident Representative and I have been taking part in lots of programmes and courses. I have completed a Money Skills course through the Mary Ward Legal Centre and a food safety and catering course, level 2, which I am very proud of. I’ve also been undertaking some voluntary and charity work and I helped out at Crisis at Christmas, which I really enjoyed.

I am planning to apply for a job in business and administration and I recently did a two week work placement at an internationally recognised law firm, which is really good for my CV. I have started to see my children again, which is a great feeling, and I am hoping to move to my own place very soon, which will really help me to get settled and into a good routine. It really does feel like I am achieving what I set out to do all those months ago when I first arrived at Conway House, I am getting myself back and that really is the best feeling in the world.