Poverty and destitution

I’ve been in the UK for more that 6 years. The Government stopped all support to me in 2004 and I hadn’t anything, any support, any benefit, until 2007 when they introduced Section 4 support. For 3 years I hadn’t any support and nowhere to sleep, I just keep moving from friends to friends. That period of time, that situation, destroyed our dignity. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything. It was a very bad situation.

I had to sleep in the park. It’s really hard, you can’t imagine, its a really bad, bad situation. It’s a bad memory, a cold, rough life, starving, everything terrible. Now I get Section 4 support which is Vouchers worth £35 per week. But still you can’t do anything. 24 hours just repeats itself, keeps repeating and repeating and you can’t do anything. It’s a waste of time, a waste of age. And when you go to the shop and take out the voucher you feel ashamed and embarrassed.

I’ve been away for 5 years in the UK, and when I left Zimbabwe my business was gone, my own business was destroyed, my house was also destroyed and taken over, and now being in the UK for more than 5 years I still have nothing. I own nothing. Home is home ok, but if I have to go back today I am on zero ground, I’m on ground zero. What in life is there for me to start life? I am aging, I will not have another 40 years to live or another 40 productive years of my life, there’s only a little bit left now. Why can’t I live it in dignity?

For many years I have depended on a local charity that gives clothes to asylum seekers. My background is a dressmaker, so I would be able to make my own dresses. I’m not in a position to do that anymore. I would continue with the job I know, that is dress making. I would love to go back to what I am used to, that would be going back to my origins.

I get £35 worth of vouchers per week and these vouchers can only be used at a certain store, it does not give me a choice of store. You just have to go to that particular store that’s all. And £35 won’t buy much. People talk about the credit crunch, things have gone so much up in the shops but my vouchers will still stay the same amount. Its hard to fill the gap. A few months ago I used to buy eggs for £1.19 but of recent it went up to £1.50. And everything else that I cannot list now has gone so much higher. £35 puts me in difficult situation. With children you cannot afford to buy enough food for the house, let alone with vouchers, you can’t buy clothes, you can’t use them to travel by. In other shops they don’t even allow you to buy a packet of paracetamols, because they are food -only vouchers.

If you have a house that NASS has given you to stay in, you cannot keep whoever is your sister who has been taken out of the house because their case has been decided and refused,. You will be breaching the NASS laws of being a resident in that house. Which is very difficult. There are people who actually sleep in the parks, in the bus station, because I can’t keep you. If NASS finds us here, you and me will be out of this house. The refugee centre gives charity of £5 per week and a bag of food, its only a few foods. But no one would live off £5 a week. Talk about transport, everything else that can come out of £5. It is degrading. It is mentally disturbing as well. It is crippling, mentally crippling. You know if you are crippled physically it is better but if you are mentally crippled that’s the finish, that’s the end of a human being.

When you are in a situation like that (destitute) some friends are kind, some of them just ignore us and they hurt us actually. Sometimes we have no place. They want their life, their normality, some people were married and they need their freedom. They work hard and earn money very hard and sometimes they are not ready to spend for you. Its not one day, 2 days, 3 days, it’s very hard to support someone from your pocket and you don’t know till when. That’s the problem. If, for example, you could say I’ll just be with you this week and after this week I’ll give everything back, then maybe they’d say OK. But our future at that time was unclear, so it was very hard. We los some friends and we made some friends. It was really hard and not nice for a young man who is not disabled or anything, and you have to ask someone for money. It is embarrassing to us. You can’t do anything. 24 hours, it just repeats, keeps repeating and repeating. You can’t do anything, you can’t travel, you can’t go anywhere because you need money.

Some people are deprived of even the basic things like choosing what to buy, because they only have vouchers, and these can only be used at a specific shop.