Just a name – not her real name nor is this a picture of “Sam” She is a woman I have never met or spoken with.
Sam has been released from HMP Holloway. I found Sam on a live stream from London Probation Trust. Sam is homeless, we know nothing about Sam, only she is in despair. Sam feels her only option is to commit a further offence in order to be recalled to HMP Holloway. I know nothing of her crime, I know Sam is a mother and that she signed her tenancy over to her partner at some point. Imagine, ensuring her children have a roof over their head. We know Sam has suffered domestic abuse, is mentally suffering and is basically, a woman, who has been abandoned by all but a handful of people.
I picked up on Sam’s story, purely because I know what it is to be homeless. I know how it feels to call many agencies and charities and be told many times over, that you cannot be helped. I know how despairing it is when you sit for hours in a Local Authority office to be told “you have intentionally made yourself homeless” and to be sent away. And I know what it is to be left to the mercy of the outdoors, walk miles everyday and ask for a drink of water.
Three of us today, got our heads together. With the power of friendship, trust and approximately three decades of knowledge between us of how hard it is to face life after prison and suspended sentences, we have hopefully signposted “Sam” to get the ground help she needs. I do not want to see Sam back in HMP Holloway. But I can understand her wanting to go back there. She’s weak, scared, on the edge, she likely has little or no money. I have said it before, I’ll say it again. Without a home, there is nothing. No pathway to benefits, no registration of GP, people walk around you, steer their children away from you. There is nothing.
If Sam’s only “hope” is to be recalled to prison and she feels this is the easiest way, what does this tell me? It certainly does not tell me that prison is a holiday camp. Conditions are terrible. I have spoken with friends who have been there. It tells me everything I have been banging on about for almost a year and then some…. Life after prison is shit. £47 is all you have in your pocket. (If you are on remand, there is not even this and no support from Probation) If you are lucky, there may be a probation hostel. Chris Grayling thinks supervision in the community is going to solve the re-offending problems? Training and education signposting is all very well. But little point without a home. Homes have to come first.
My message to Sam:
Don’t give up – there is help out there and from the unlikeliest of corners. If I could bottle what I have had to do for myself and send to you via LPT, I would happily do so. It is shit right now for you, but there are other options that are easier than going back to Holloway. We do not know you, Sam but for some reason, you’re in my head today as I look around my little home and cherish it as I know how hard I have worked to come through adversity, the crap, the police cell, the court dock and find a life that is rich with peace. Not money, but peace and I can finally hold my head high. Call the lasses at Kazuri, they’ll help you and when you’re through this time, you will get through it, it isn’t easy and it is not pretty, send a message via LPT that you’re on your way up. When you have to build from nothing gal, build the right way.
I have looked back – over my situation a year ago. I was like a house with subsidence. I could no longer plaster over the cracks. It had to come down. Because only then, could I cleanse the wound.
Once that wound is cleansed and the healing process begins, you can dress the wound to protect it as the healing sets in. The ripping of the plaster will make you wince for a moment and then you can step out to a brighter future.
The scar will fade to a fine silvery line and will always be a reminder of this time. You can do this – you deserve a stab at a life. It will not be handed to you on a plate but if you give this a chance, you just as much as the next person, can have a life.
I am willing you on and willing you through, Sam. I know you can do this.
From one woman to another.