For most of us, the life we’ve built for ourselves seems so solid it doesn’t occur to us that it can ever fall apart. Marian knows all too well how easily this can happen.
Marian is 64 years old. She was born in Paddington, has a degree in Social Science and is a human rights activist. She is also homeless.
Marian doesn’t fit the stereotypical perception of a rough sleeper. She calls herself “silver spoon fed” - her parents owned several pubs, and she received a private school education. In August 2018, after being harassed by her landlord for six months, Marian was evicted from her home, forcing her to travel around West London in search of a place to stay.
When your home is taken away from you, you don’t just lose shelter - you become unimportant and ignored. Marian has had her benefits stopped six times in the last year, forcing her to live without an income for months at a time. After decades of work, she has been left to fend for herself.
When Marian first walked into the Open Kitchen, the first thing she noticed was ‘the respect you get when you come through the door’. It is an hour-long journey to the kitchen - and she has to ask the bus driver to waive the bus fare she can’t afford - but it is worth it. The atmosphere is as nourishing as the food, non-judgemental and calming.
‘I love that this space is quiet and peaceful and allows me to meditate,’ Marian says. ‘I get respect here 7 days a week, unlike other places that don’t even give me a second’.
Marian doesn’t just come here for the food and respect she receives; she also comes to support other homeless women. ‘You can start to build up your life with the respect you get here, and you can be yourself and help women feel safe. Not fixing people, not giving advice, just allowing someone to be themselves.’
Having had a tough life herself, she knows how important it is for women to receive basic compassion and care. Not only has Marian been made homeless twice before, she has also endured the pain of having her daughter taken away from her by social services because she was too poor to provide for her. She was also the victim of an emotionally abusive marriage. Marian has always tried to help other people during the difficult periods of her life, just like she is doing today.
It’s inspirational to see Marian striving to help people in need, and it is wonderful to see that her own health is improving. Last year, she had to stay in the Intensive Care Unit after her health deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t walk. Thankfully, she is now eating nutritious meals every day, so she has more energy and strength and is better able to take care of herself.
Marian really enjoys the community kitchen and feels at peace when she is here. At the Open Kitchen, she can help people instead of being questioned by various authorities, and she feels she has gained independence. Marian would love to further her studies and do a Masters in Global Economics.
It is an honour and a privilege to serve people like Marian in our Open Kitchen. She has dedicated her life to helping others, and we are glad to be here for her in her time of need. Her story reminds us that we are truly making a difference with our Open Kitchen initiative.
If you know of anyone who is struggling to put food on the table, or a rough sleeper with no plan for their next meal, please direct them to our Open Kitchen, where they can receive hot meals every day of the week. If you would like to donate or volunteer at the Open Kitchen, click here.