This report mentions physical and sexual abuse of children.
In this piece GG tells us a bit about their experience and why this project is important in giving them a platform to share some of those stories.
What does being part of this project mean to me?
What does being part of this project mean to me? The opportunity to write, to give correct versions of events, to comment on social injustices, to speak freely without fear of judgement or to be penalised.
Here is my voice, my words, my lived experience. Here is a woman telling her story. Of something that happened or is happening. Here as I speak, as I write, I make it valid and real. And you read and listen and I am real. I am a lady, 44, an artist, a poet, a storyteller, I bore four children, but have been pregnant six times.
I have experience of homelessness in London, across Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, France and Japan. I have swam in the waters all over the world. I can tell you my truth and how every day I budget and scrimp in order to live my life as beautifully as possible.
After my children were removed by social services due to domestic violence towards me and my mental illness, I begged the judge to let me write them letters. I knew my children would be frightened, worried and confused. I knew my words, their mother’s words could offer some semblance of comfort. Permission was granted. But through the chaos and the trauma I ended up on the streets in Spain.
One time in Valencia a week before Christmas, I begged for money, to fulfil my request to the judge. It took me four hours to get the €5 I needed (about £3.50) to buy paper, envelope and stamps. I was neatly dressed, sometimes I danced a little or sang my request, and the whole time I smiled.
The art of begging, that was my first and last time of the commonly known form of begging. However I still regularly beg… doctors, and children’s services, housing officers, and psychiatrists for help. Straight forward requests for appointments of support and help are regularly ignored or refused.
I did it, I got €5 and was able to send my four children a Christmas card. I also had just enough for a few stickers to decorate the plain brown envelope. I wrote their names and I wrote the words: ‘I love you, I miss you, happy Christmas, love Mum’. I was under strict instructions from the social workers to write no more and they had to check and approve first before allowing my mother to pass the card onto her grandchildren.
She let me know by email the three older children, then aged 10, eight, six read it out loud to the youngest baby sister age one. My words were seen as potentially harmful as I had reported both their fathers for physical and sexual abuse. Disbelieved, labelled a liar, the courts rejected my words and silenced me. I was after all a mentally ill woman reporting years of abuse. Why would they believe me?
So the solution was to silence or minimise my words. Silence my truth. Object to my request for safety, peace and justice. Here with this project I tell stories of my being, of my adventures, good, bad and sad. Of my ongoing fight for mental health support, housing needs met, and I tell you I’m here waving not drowning from the part of me who is an artist and a woman. When I create, whether it’s art or poems it is an act of both self-soothing and resistance.
I use words in my artwork, sewing poems or manifestations and creating wall hangings. I would like you to repeat after me as you read this, to read this part out loud: I AM HERE, I EXIST, I CAME BACK.
Too many people who have been homeless in all its various forms have gone through various traumas and afterwards someone and some bureaucratic organisation told them to shut up and go away.
Here I speak and write, you read and listen.
To me, to me – I am here, I came back, I’m speaking my words, and I exist.
Image by Mat Amp (Instagram: matamp67)