‘I had a duvet that I kept in the boot of the car. That’s all I had to keep me warm at night.’

‘I had a duvet that I kept in the boot of the car. That’s all I had to keep me warm at night.’

As a taxi driver, Umer’s job was to see everyone home safely at night. But, during the peak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Umer had nowhere safe to go himself.

Umer’s living situation deteriorated very suddenly. He had been living at his friend’s house when it was repossessed just before the pandemic broke out. When he was unable to get support from the council, he turned to the only place he could find – his car.

Vulnerable and exposed

For 44 days, Umer lived in his car. He has a long-term back problem, so this was especially painful for him. At night, he’d park on a quiet street, but he felt very vulnerable and exposed, as people could see through the windows as he slept. Umer worried about being attacked.

During the day, the streets were empty – it seemed like everyone was staying safe from the pandemic in their homes. Umer was terrified of catching the virus and worried about how he’d cope if he did. He was exhausted, cold, and hungry.

‘Shelter saved my life.’

Then, a friend told Umer to call our emergency Helpline. He spoke to Clare, who was outraged that Umer hadn’t been helped. Clare got in touch with the council to explain that, as someone with a chronic health condition, they had a duty to house Umer immediately.

Once the council realised that they needed to prioritise Umer’s case, they found him temporary accommodation in a matter of hours. Whilst Umer was delighted to have a safe bed for the night, he needed somewhere to live long-term.

With our help, Umer soon found a flat. Now, he’s planning for his future and hopes to start his own takeaway business. He feels like his home has given him a fresh start.

Our Shelter advisers have the knowledge and expertise to help people like Umer, to advocate for people experiencing homelessness and help them understand their rights. It’s thanks to kind supporters like you that we can continue to be there for people like Umer.

Donate to Shelter this Christmas and you could give hope to people struggling with homelessness. Give home. Give hope.

If you’re struggling with a housing issue or facing homelessness, we are here to help. Visit our help pages to find out more and to access support.