During this last month, as part of #BoazIs15, we have been focusing on our clients, who are of course the most important people in our work. Over the last 15 years we have supported well over 1000 people who have desperately needed accommodation and support, having become homeless at some point through the asylum process here in the UK.
Each one of those individuals has their own story to tell, and all too often this may be too painful or risky to share. Some of the people we’ve worked with have been afraid of sharing their own experiences, because they are anxious that this information might be used against their family back home. Others have said how ashamed they are to be homeless, and to be living in such difficult circumstances now. This is one of the reasons why you won’t see many media reports or articles about our work- so many of the people we work with are simply not willing to open up and share their experiences publicly, and this is completely understandable.
Having said that, we recognise that stories are powerful, and that when stories are shared well and appropriately, it can have a significant impact on the people listening- far more than sharing simply numbers and statistics. Owning and sharing a personal story can also be incredibly empowering for the person involved, as Mariam who was a Boaz client at the time, shared at the NACCOM conference last year.
“I draw my strengths from campaigning and raising awareness, when I speak to different audiences, school children, practitioners, local communities, sharing my story, experiences and challenges. I am inspired by asylum seekers who have developed coping mechanisms on little or no income at all. Going out to speak or share my experiences has made a huge difference in my life.”
Recently two clients have been able to share their experiences of destitution publicly. One was at a Greater Manchester-wide meeting, attended by the Mayor of GM, Andy Burnham, as well as local council staff and voluntary sector organisations from across our region. The second occasion was at the launch one the Manchester Poverty Truth Commission, when another client spoke explained the reality of life for people who have no recourse to public funds and are unable to work and live here freely, in safety. Along with others locally, we are working hard to make sure that the impact of their powerful words continues to influence conversations, policies and practices, locally and regionally.
Sharing stories can also help us demonstrate the impact our work has, and how the generosity of our supporters is making a real difference to peoples' lives. We’re really grateful to some of our clients who have been brave enough to share some of their stories with us recently, and you can read about them on our Stories page.