Producing more homes resurrecting empty properties

In our new series of stories about Cromwood’s tenants, we meet Habiba whose home has helped restore her humanity and zest for life after suffering from depression and spending months sleeping in her car.

Habiba had lived in her family home for 25 years until, one day in 2020, her brother told her that she had to be out of the house by midnight. At 50 years old, she became homeless overnight. 

Habiba began sleeping in her car, then rented a garage to stay in, before moving between different friends’ houses each week. She applied to over one hundred places for housing, but no one was able to help her. “I was so desperate,” she says. As time went by, her physical and mental health was deteriorating – she got pneumonia and depression took hold: “I felt helpless… Some days I wished I was dead. I had hit rock bottom.”

In November 2021, Habiba was in hospital with Covid when she received a call from Cromwood Housing. They had read her application and she was eligible for the GLA funded scheme run by Cromwood Housing and Thames Reach. These were one bed properties across London that Cromwood owned, being offered to rough sleepers who were considered suitable for independent living, with some initial floating support. Once Habiba had recovered, she moved into her new home in West Drayton in December 2021. “I don’t think there are enough words for me to describe what it felt like to have my own place. It was like my palace,” she says. 

Cromwood has over 300 properties which are used to house rough sleepers. Tenants are supported by Thames Reach, a charity that supports homeless and vulnerable people in London to find decent homes, and provides advice and assistance that is personalised for their specific needs. Habiba initially didn’t even have essentials like a duvet or pillows, so she was supported with the necessities to help her get back on her feet: “I wasn’t expecting this… they went beyond what they needed to. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

“Having a warm place where I can sleep and eat properly has given me my dignity, my humanity, my self respect back.”

For Habiba, having a home once again has restored her sense of self. “I had lost the joy of living, I didn’t consider myself a human. Having a warm place where I can sleep and eat properly has given me my dignity, my humanity, my self respect back.” She is looking forward to gradually building back her health in order to start working again. 

“It’s not just a roof over my head, it’s my home.”