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A journey from home to home

9 December 2019

Terrayne Brown – Junior Designer

When I ask myself what it means to be a Londoner, I think about the tube, the congestion and the extortionate cost of living. I also think about the resilience that these things give you, but nothing really prepares you for the change that is homelessness and not knowing when you’ll be home again. In a city that is constantly changing, homelessness is a real concern for residents of ‘up and coming’ areas with ‘potential’.

East London has been through a lot of change since I moved here in 2001. It’s chopped, changed and shifted, and now is filled with cafés, shipping container shopping and sparkly new-builds. Along with these shiny new additions has come a new version of the East-Londoner. Gone are the days where the typical East-Londoner was a market trader from Queens Market or Dagenham, where the best place to shop was Stratford Centre or the Ilford Exchange. Now we cycle with our electric hire bikes to the nearest organic grocer’s, before a quick trip to a Boxpark for a £10 drink with pals. This change is all well and good and has probably lifted the economy of East London, for sure making it feel more glamorous than ever. However, the ‘in with the new’ is inevitably preceded by the ‘out with the old’ – and that’s perhaps the headline image for residents priced out by private landlords or who’ve lost their homes back to landowners. 

That was the beginning of my journey of growth with this city, in 2013 my mum and I were made homeless. Told that we’d shortly be able to move into a flat nearby, the new flat wasn’t finished and wouldn’t be for three months post-eviction – an already intense situation, made more intense by me being only 15. Never having your own space is a big enough challenge without having to consider occupying someone else’s. Hopping between friends and family’s homes made it extremely difficult to just live, let alone study or work. What kept us going was the bigger picture: this is all temporary, and before we know it we’ll be moving into our own home – though 3 months in with little to no contact or information, this was a quickly fading dream. 

Eventually, after nine months of sharing a sofa, we finally moved into the flat. The relief was immense, but it was followed by a different kind of uncertainty. We found ourselves in a new community that had not had the time to develop its sense of togetherness. The lack of community engagement post-move leaves you feeling at a loss for ownership or pride for your new neighbourhood, and the challenge is then how do I feel like part of this place? 

Things are missing in the journey of change. Communication is the most important step in any transition and in a communal change, it is critical. The journey would be a lot smoother with more on-the-ground communication and inclusion of existing communities – which is why the work we do at make:good is so important. By involving and connecting with existing communities we help to demystify the process and make change accessible. After finding my way through the experience in the dark, I know the power of listening and hearing the communities going through this change. Their voices are imperative in better shaping and delivering the growth that comes with living in an ever-changing city.