“I have been in London for 19 years, and no one has helped me as much as the Cardinal Hume Centre. Thanks to the Centre we were able to stay in our home”.
For more than 30 years, the Cardinal Hume Centre has been dedicated to helping the most vulnerable and isolated families in our community. Last year, we registered and assessed hundreds of people in need in our Westminster hub, finding the best ways to support them out of poverty and homelessness by providing free services from after-school care, to immigration advice, to help with employment and housing. Karima – interviewed below – is just one of the many parents who came to the Centre in 2019, in crisis, but determined to provide for her four children and secure their futures. This is her story.
Karima, 49, grew up in Algeria but was born in France. She loves to cook and her signature dish is lamb couscous, popular with her children aged 4, 9, 13 and 15. When her partner unexpectedly left her, Karima found herself in the dire position of a single mum without the income to pay rent or buy food for her four children.
What led you to come to the Cardinal Hume Centre?
When I first came to London I was working with administration, but for a long time now I have been at home with the children. When my partner suddenly left me last year, I had no income, nothing. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and feared eviction. I thought that my children were going to be out on the streets. I didn’t know what to do. Because of my French citizenship, I never worried about my status here in the UK, but because I’m not British, I couldn’t get any welfare support. All of my children are born here. They go to school here. This is all they know.
How did you first hear about the Centre?
Actually, I first came to the Centre because of your support for children. I came to your homework and after-school clubs with my daughter Elina and my son Adam about two years ago. I didn’t feel like my English was good enough to properly help my daughter with her homework and I was afraid that she would fall behind in school, so a friend told me about the Cardinal Hume Centre. The clubs are great, they have helped my daughter perform better in school, but also made me more confident when helping my children with their homework at home.
How was the Centre able to help you?
Thanks to the Centre we were able to stay in our home. It was the staff from the homework club who introduced me to the advice and immigration teams. Debbie and Mike from the immigration team helped me get settled status here in the UK, so that my children and I could stay and get support until I find a job. While we waited for our status, I could not afford to buy food for my children or pay our rent. But Fella from the assessment team made sure we didn’t go hungry, she gave us foodbank vouchers and negotiated with my landlord so we could stay in our home. Jenny from the advice team then successfully challenged a wrongful benefits decision, and finally, I could feed my children and pay our rent again. That’s when I realised that the Centre is unique, because it’s one place where you can get help with everything.
What is your life like now?
Now everything is okay, but without the help of the Centre, my children and I would have been homeless. The staff is so nice to me here. I still have things to sort out, our rent is higher than my income so I’m £66 pounds short each week. But slowly, my advisor, Fella, is helping me work things out, so I don’t feel alone anymore.
Now, I study ESOL at the Centre to improve my English, and I want to start IT classes too. Soon, Adam will go off to nursery school and I will start working with the employment team to find a job. I would love to work with administration again, maybe as a secretary. I have been in London for 19 years, and no one has helped me as much as the Cardinal Hume Centre.