In 2014, following a chain of traumatic events, and a serious mental health crisis, I was introduced to a new scheme in Lewisham Borough (South East London – UK) for homeless individuals needing mental health support, while waiting for social accommodation – This was meant to be a chance to recover. Unfortunately, I was abused by my carer.

– This a longer article than usual, I wanted to describe my experience as thoroughly as possible –

In 2014, after a traumatic breakup, my daughter moved in with her Dad, with very little money and being officially homeless, I was referred, by Lewisham Council, to Certitude, specifically to their “Shared Lives Scheme”: “Shared Lives is a quality alternative to residential care settings where people live as part of a family.” The page reads as follows: Shared Lives Carers support people within their own homes, either in a long-term arrangement, day support, or on a respite basis, which may be a day, weekend, or a few weeks at a time. People benefit from consistent support from people who know them well and build positive relationships and friendships.”

To be fair, looking at their website now, things have changed, since 2014. The scheme, back then, entailed me being paired up with a “Living Carer.” I was to stay with her for up to two years, depending on my progress. It was a time for me to recuperate and to live independently again, with all the support I needed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t what happened. The day I moved in, I was broken, I didn’t stop crying. I had just lost my home. I wanted to die, every single day. One of the first things M (my” career”) asked me was if “I’d like to join them, on Sunday.” I didn’t understand, what she meant. So, she added: “To church?” I politely declined the offer. At the time I was a practicing Buddhist. 

The next day, as I couldn’t stop crying, I poured my heart out to her. She got talking about her Faith, and, as the curious being I am, I asked her some questions, informing her I had a different faith. Her passion inspired me to go back to my own practice. The next day, we had another chat. She got the Bible out and cited some passages. I felt uncomfortable. I felt she was trying to convince me to join her. I felt it was inappropriate for her – as a carer, to open her Bible. My past training in the homelessness sector taught me not to talk about religion or not to indoctrinate patients. As a support worker, of any kind, you keep your beliefs to yourself. It is called being professional.

This was confirmed to me when they invited me to have dinner with them, Earthquakes just shook Nepal and I was glad someone I knew just come back to the UK, a few days before. When M’s husband, A screamed: “This happened because THEY don’t believe in THE ONE TRUE GOD!!” I left, disgusted the living room.

 “In a few words: she didn’t want me there.”

The other thing M was insisting on was that I save money to get my own TV so I could watch in the privacy of my bedroom. Once, I settled with them to watch TV. She made me feel very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, I left quickly. In the bedroom I was offered, there was a broken computer desk that I had to get rid of, myself. I asked for a replacement or a small shelf. I never got a replacement. There was a big wardrobe, with a door off its hinges. This was fixed when I was out, without any notice. There seemed to be a few excuses to get into my room when I wasn’t there. They had a living room, with a big dining table but they put stools for me to eat at the kitchen top. The kitchen was small and there was barely any space for 2 people to be in there. I was given one tiny cupboard, for my own food and kitchen ware. I wasn’t allowed to leave a few essentials in the bathroom, such as my soap and toothbrush. In a few words: she didn’t want me there.

I noticed she kept letters inviting me, and herself to attend monthly residents’ groups. She watched everything I did. I was given a few chores but, it was never done properly. The house was cluttered and messy but, I was the problem.

She would forget my laundry days and had to ask her husband if I could do my laundry. She was supposed to cook healthy meals when I first arrived but only bought me microwave meals. 

On a regular basis, she would let the electricity meter run out, and she would be out all day. Turned out, she had a full time job and, adding all her church activities, she was barely in the house. Her full time job was supposed to care for me, to take me out, to provide a safe environment for my recovery. It was evident, I was extra money for her.

She told me to “think positive.” When I replied I didn’t like this piece of advice, she retorted: “What else am I supposed to say?” This was after spending the afternoon in A&E, felling suicidal and being given Valium to calm me down.

Once, as I was swiping the floor, I found a £10 note in a shoe. I was puzzled. What was it doing in one of her shoes? My intuition told me she was testing me: will I take the £10 note? I decided to leave it there, so it was visible. After a couple of days, it was still there, so I told her: “There is £10 in your shoe? isn’t that weird?” The way she feigned her surprise showed me everything I needed to know. It had been a trap.

Another lady arrived a month or so after me. The small cupboard in the kitchen was divided between us. Same thing in the fridge. We had on tiny shelf each. She too had to squeeze in the kitchen to eat. She had a smaller room than I had. She wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. She later was moved to another property within the scheme.

I had complained about things feeling off to S, the manager since I had first moved in. I was told it is always difficult to live in someone’s home and having to adhere to certain rules. It wasn’t the point I was making. The manager was appalled M left us with no electricity, on a regular basis. M was warned but, it still happened. There was talk about moving me to another property. It didn’t happen. I discovered my “flatmate” was moved to the same property I was offered within my first months of living with M and A, but never got to move into. I was unhappy about this.

I kept a record of all the occasions I was called to clean the mess that wasn’t mine. My every move was monitored. I felt persecuted. I WAS persecuted. It escalated until I started to seriously battle with thoughts of self-harm. I acted upon them too. Soon after, I wrote to the manager, again, informing her of my struggles. A meeting with M, herself, and myself was scheduled. I added if they didn’t move me as soon as possible I will fill in a formal complaint. Why wasn’t I moved in the property my flatmate was offered?

“S told me M wanted to punish me, she wanted to harm me with this comment. “

During this meeting, M feigned to be choked at my anger (Didn’t you know individuals diagnosed with BPD are angry monsters?) I never seemed happy and willing to fit in. S brought up the time she read the Bible to me; M challenged me “Which passage of the Bible?” “I don’t know”, I replied, “it is a big book”. “We are a family!” She exclaimed. I flinched! “No, we aren’t.”

 M brushed off the incident of her husband shouting passionately “Those people deserved to die in earthquakes because they didn’t believe in the ONE TRUE GOD.” “I cannot talk for A.” Same as the time A told me off for not picking up THEIR soap off the shower floor.

At the end of the meeting, M declared haughtily: “Well, I didn’t want to bring it up but, your bedroom is very smelly!” She made it sound as if I was one of the most disgusting people in the world. I felt as if I had just been slapped.

I was left alone with the manager, once M left. S told me M wanted to punish me, she wanted to harm me with this comment. She had been in my bedroom, to check if I was comfortable: “It didn’t smell and it was clean and orderly.” S finally through M. She also worked out M was working full time when she wasn’t supposed to.

“How many people, such as M, are using these care schemes, offered full training, to indoctrinated vulnerable individuals into their places of worship? Or just to make themselves feel good and powerful? Or just to get extra money? “

Thankfully, I was moved into my own supported accommodation, soon after. M and A gave me a hard time until the end: “Make sure you leave things as you found them!!” They repeated and again. On the last day, I just shouted at A: “I am leaving!!! Let me be!!” Maybe I should have brought back the broken desk and gotten the wardrobe door off its hinges.

Waiting for my friend to help me move my things, I took a walk. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t breathe. When the last box was in the car, M asked if I was coming back to clean the bedroom floor and give her my last weekly payment of £20. The money was on the table. I said: “Sure, I’ll come back.” I left the key and never came back.

S sent me a review/ feedback a few weeks after I departed from the scheme. “Your concerns have been taken seriously. M will no longer work for us.” I never sent this feedback letter: I wanted to put all of this behind me.

10 years later, I still have nightmares of becoming homeless and moving into an awful place. I still see M, in my dreams (Nightmares) regularly. I saw her a couple of times in the neighborhood. I still feel anger at the abuse I endured in her “care.” And I am till mad at the way it was mishandled. This is the reason why I am writing about this now.

Even though, I spoke out, loud and clear, it took too long for my warnings to be taken seriously. It shouldn’t have happened. S was a lovely woman, but I wished she had listened to my concerns much earlier.

How many people, such as M, are using these care schemes, offered full training, to then indoctrinate vulnerable individuals into their places of worship? Or just to make themselves feel good and powerful? Or just to get extra money?

I know for a fact that M was sacked from Certitude but, before I left, I saw files on the living room table to join Bromley’s ( South East London – UK) own scheme. I wonder if she is working still, in this capacity? Is she still abusing vulnerable people, in the community? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was.

I am also sharing this to let others know: that if you are mistreated, talk to someone. I hope and pray someone listens to you and protects you. I know too well we can speak up but, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean we will be listened to and protected. We all deserve a safe place to land, so we can recover from whatever hardships we’ve experienced.

Take gentle care of yourselves.



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