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Former rough sleeper praises support from council

24 March 2023

A slavery victim who ended up sleeping rough to escape the horrors of her ordeal, has described how she 'will never forget’ the help she was given from Peterborough City Council’s Outreach team to turn her life around.

The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, is now living in secure accommodation with her partner and three children and building a new life.

Her current situation is a far cry from a decade ago when she was brought to the UK from her native Slovakia by a Peterborough family on the promise of a better life.

Instead she lived in miserable conditions, was forced to work in prostitution and made to give up her newly-born child. The family stole thousands of pounds from her earnings and forced her to cook, clean and even shoplift - if she failed to do so they subjected her to beatings.

She eventually escaped from their property and began sleeping rough, which led to the Outreach team meeting her in 2019 during their regular rough sleeper checks.

The woman began to slowly rebuild her life following support from Kelly Slack, the council’s Rough Sleeper Outreach Manager who helped her find temporary accommodation and support at the Garden House which is run to help rough sleepers. After hearing about her experiences, the team contacted the police and two of the offenders were jailed earlier this year.

The woman said: “When I was on the streets, I wanted to give up, I had never slept rough before and everything was horrible. My life now is 100 per cent better than before. I am happy now with my partner and children – I want to give them a better life than I had.

“My previous life was very bad and tough, but I have to thank Kelly, the council and the Garden House for helping me. I will never forget Kelly for all that she has done for me and appreciate everything she has done.

“The council does a good job for rough sleepers, especially when things are bad in winter and freezing weather, they are always there to help.”

Kelly Slack, the council’s Rough Sleeper Outreach Manager, said: “It took time to build a rapport and gain her trust, but we never give up on anyone and want to give all rough sleepers the opportunity of support. She had suffered experiences that you wouldn't wish on anyone and I'm glad she now has the chance of a positive future.

"We meet all kinds of people sleeping rough and it can happen to anyone. Our team is here to help and signpost people to the right services, so they can get the support they need with the aim of getting rough sleepers into accommodation."

Councillor Marco Cereste - Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Planning, Housing and Transport, said: “We are extremely proud of the Outreach team and the dedicated work that they do. They are out there in all weathers checking on rough sleepers and offering them support and their tireless efforts have seen the number of rough sleepers in the city decrease over the past year.

“This story is one extraordinary example of their amazing work and shows how the team will go above and beyond to help those in need. They will help everyone - it doesn't matter who you are or why you’ve ended up rough sleeping.”

For more information about the Outreach Team and services to support rough sleepers visit here.