Woman’s experience of homelessness in south London amid Covid

“You don’t really feel the chilly till about two o’clock within the morning, that’s when it’ll be icy chilly,” says Ifama Mawusi Abimbola, who was pressured to sleep exterior on the streets of South London on two events throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Ifama isn’t her actual identify, however a reputation she has chosen for herself so she will communicate to us extra overtly about her expertise of sleeping tough.

Ifama has at all times executed admin and reception work for the NHS and different well being organisations.

She’s not somebody you’d anticipate to develop into homeless.

When her contract got here to an finish in February final 12 months, she determined to take a much-needed break as a result of company work doesn’t often enable her to take a lot day without work.

Sadly, when she tried making use of for jobs once more in early March the coronavirus pandemic was changing into extra severe, and the nation had been plunged into its first nationwide lockdown.

It was unimaginable to search out work.

“It simply occurred abruptly,” she mentioned.

“I used to be dwelling in a personal property and clearly, I couldn’t pay my hire anymore. I used to be nonetheless hoping, in my head I used to be so positive that I used to be gonna get again into work. So I didn’t actually begin doing the profit factor or something. I used to be similar to, ‘oh, I’m gonna get into work’.

“However then I realised it was April.”

Ifama was evicted and spent three nights sleeping exterior in Brixton earlier than she was put up in an evening shelter. 

It gave her someplace to remain, however it wasn’t ideally suited.

She needed to arrive by 8pm at night time to safe herself a mattress, and needed to be up once more by 7am the following morning.

Through the day she “needed to be artistic”.

“There’s nothing actually I can do. I can’t actually go to work. I did attempt to search for work, you understand, I did get an interview, however then they suggested me, it’s good to discover lodging first, even like a room.”

Within the shelter, situations had been fundamental.

“If it’s good to bathe there’s like two showers for female and male. However generally the showers don’t work.

“However while you’re in that scenario, I imply, I feel meals is the primary factor and being heat. Bathe is just not actually, you understand, that a lot of an enormous deal. However then, you understand, as a girl, you do need to take a bathe.

“Typically I didn’t need to go there. I arrived late, I wished to go there simply to sleep,” she mentioned.

Stock image

Inventory picture

By Could she was again on the streets once more.

“It was getting a bit hotter, so it was a bit simpler since you don’t really feel the chilly till about 2am within the morning, that’s when it’ll be icy chilly,” she mentioned. 

“I don’t know the way I managed to undergo [the winter], you understand, like, it’s solely afterwards while you look again.”

She was now staying across the Oval space, which she mentioned was a lot safer than Brixton.

“That was tough,” she mentioned. You don’t actually sleep anyway particularly in wintertime.

“It’s simply screaming and it’s so energetic till the morning.

“Oval is calm. There have been occasions after I’d leap into the park and simply keep there till they closed the park.”

“In order that was actually, actually secure for me, you understand, like, I might truly sleep.”

Earlier than too lengthy, Lambeth Council turned concerned and helped to search out Ifama a spot in momentary lodging on the Dudley Resort in Clapham.

However Ifama discovered it tough to get a extra everlasting place, as a result of viewings had been so aggressive.

“It’s arduous to discover a property as a result of personal landlords need cash. And the landlords that take folks on DSS are very, very restricted.”


Individuals on DSS embody folks receiving Common Credit score or housing advantages.

“Whenever you go there to have a viewing there might be like 30 folks. It’s a race. The owner has to interview us, after which they should decide who they need to be of their property,” she mentioned. 

She ultimately discovered a spot in Wandsworth, however that didn’t finish her worries.

“That was one other hiccup, as a result of after I made the applying, I assumed that the whole lot was alright, just like the profit coated the whole lot.

“I used to be form of stunned after they got here up with a choice to say that they weren’t capable of pay my full hire.

“I used to be shocked. I used to be on a excessive after which actually, I simply went proper down.”

Ifama didn’t know what to do. 

Her Common Credit score didn’t cowl her housing prices as a result of she was the topic of the profit cap which meant that her hire was greater than she acquired to cowl her housing prices.

She feared she was going to finish up on the streets once more.

“For the primary month, I used to be so scared. I used to be considering I’ve to offer the whole lot to my landlord. So I solely saved a bit bit. They paid I feel £1,100 and I actually saved  £50 for the entire month and I simply gave it to her,” mentioned Ifama.

That was till somebody suggested her to talk to her native Residents Recommendation Bureau, the place she was related to her adviser, Jo Anderson.

Jo helped her to use for a discretionary housing fee from Wandsworth Council to cowl the distinction that the profit cap took away from her Common Credit score fee for housing prices.

She additionally organized a few foodbank deliveries and discretionary social fund funds from the council to get Ifama again on her toes.

“It was good to have the ability to have a pleasant meal, to get recent stuff and cook dinner and the whole lot,” mentioned Ifama. 

Jo says Wandsworth Council has “actually elevated their provision” in mild of the pandemic.


This implies it’s simpler to use for the discretionary social funds, and you’ll apply extra typically.

Different assist akin to grocery store and gas vouchers for folks with pay as you go meters can be out there.

However she says the system is “actually tough to navigate” particularly in the event you’re on the streets, otherwise you’ve simply come off the streets and also you don’t have entry to the web or to know-how.

“Making use of for all these things, most of it needs to be executed on-line, it’s simply actually, actually tough to navigate ranging from scratch.

“Our recommendation could be to hunt recommendation, communicate to Residents Recommendation, or to different native organisations like Ace of Golf equipment. There’s numerous folks, numerous organisations like that, that present actually good recommendation and can assist to navigate that system, as a result of it may be very difficult,” mentioned Jo.

Now Ifama is making use of for jobs and has registered with Wandsworth Careers Providers.

She’s additionally hoping to begin learning once more, presumably in English Literature and drama.

“I’m grateful, as a result of all of them educate or assist me somehow.

“To Jo – What can I say, you understand, thanks. If she wasn’t capable of assist me. I don’t know the place my life would have been proper now.

“I wouldn’t be glad. I wouldn’t have my head down like this.  I don’t know what would have occurred.”

Recommended For You