Meet Grace

Grace is a single mother, working two jobs.   Her son is currently on remand, awaiting trial. Abandoned by friends and family because of her sons’ arrest, she has been left bereft of support in the wake of police raids and consequential financial and emotional instabilities.

‘The bedroom door gets pushed in, my daughter runs in… “There’s police at your door, at your door with guns!”

September 2014. In the early hours of the morning, dishevelled and half-asleep, Graces’ house was raided. Flustered and distraught, she was taken aback by the sudden occurrence. Sprinting down the stairs, she found herself in the middle of a verbal crossfire, leaving her bemused and distraught at the sudden chaos.

‘He’s got his beam of light in my face and he’s screaming like a banshee. Shouting and screaming… I told him to calm down; you are not talking to animals’

Shaken and traumatised, Grace was temporarily displaced from her home for 2 days and unable to make plans to travel to work while officers continued with the search and seizure of all electronic devices. All of which, 8 months later have not been returned.

However, just 18 days following the last raid and her son’s arrest and consequent release, she received a call informing her that officers were preparing to break down her door. Just weeks following the last raid, the ordeal was such that Grace was at breaking point.

‘I can’t take anymore. The last one was so fresh, how comes they’re doing this again?! …I broke down. Screaming, ‘why is this happening to me again?! Get them to stop!’  

Following two police raids, Grace lost every semblance of security she gained from her home, as her door remained broken and the press imposed on her property. She felt increasingly polarized from the rest of the community and entrapped within her own flat. Without means of communication to the outside world, her isolation grew, aided by the confiscation of all forms of technology, phones and car.

‘I mean. phones of mine that are probably 10 years old… even my router, my broadband.. My landline, my actual home phone they took that. My laptop, everything, my daughter’s iPad… My car was confiscated too’

As the hub of her community, prior to the incident, her support from the neighbours began to dwindle as news spread of her son’s arrest. Her social foundations began to crumble as well as her financial ones. While the community shied away from her, Grace not only lost close friends, but also her partner, leaving a void for emotional and financial sustenance.

‘As a mother, I can’t look to my daughter to be my tower of strength…’

Another detrimental blow to her living standards was the loss of her second client, her volatile income as a child-minder ensured that Grace was not entitled to any sort of benefits. The loss of her son and second job has meant she is now limited to a £200 budget a week, leaving almost nothing to buy food with, most days she rations meals in order to eat the following day.  Borrowing whatever she can in order to stay afloat and with no financial aid from family, Grace has accumulated debts running into the thousands.

‘My son is in prison and I can’t even send him some money because I don’t even have it myself. I am always helping people and I can’t believe now I have to go to people to ask people for this that. I work for £200 a week and my rent is £180 a week. I have to make sure rent is paid, I’ve had to cut off my BT, I’ve got rid of my contract I’m on pay as you go. £200 is a lot of money but after paying rent I’m left with nothing. I have to go to my children, get help from them. If people knew me yesterday they wouldn’t know I’m this person today. I don’t know when I’ve been shopping last time. I would show you my kitchen cupboard now but I’m embarrassed to show you that. I have to remind myself, ‘stop eating now because you don’t have anything for tomorrow. ‘

It was here, at rock bottom, that Grace was approached by HHUGS.  Providing her with the immediate emotional support she needed in order to overcome her trauma. Shunned by her family because her son reverted to Islam, members of HHUGS were the first individualsshe confided in. Through hours of phone calls and guidance, HHUGS fostered the regrowth of Graces’ confidence.

‘This voice on the other side was almost like a god send, like an angel come down from heaven, man. That soft soothing voice, at that point, how she made sense of anything I don’t know. I’ve never met her.   I’d love to meet her, I’d like to thank her and apologise to her, I was dazed at the time, I was a mess. She was really supportive.

‘Everyday somebody from HHUGS rings to ask me, ‘how am I? How am I doing today? ‘ I can’t go to my family, because they don’t like the Muslim thing my son went into. I was cool about it… It was definitely for the better. I got myself back a son. Definitely. Half the time when I get the argument from the rest of the family, they were all saying, ‘why did you let him?’ Why did I let him do what? He’s 23, he’s a big man. I always got the blame because he wanted to be a revert, blame me for everything, my mum doesn’t speak to me…Where I need the support I don’t get it. I don’t, I’m lonely… I always say to my family, if it wasn’t for the Muslim people I wouldn’t be anywhere because I’ve had nothing from the family as such. Everything and any little thing that’s helping me stay above water are from my son’s background you know.’

Coupled with the support Grace received over the phone, HHUGS acted swiftly to provide the financial relief that Grace needed in order to reconnect with the outside world and maintain a stable standard of living. Easing Graces’ mental burden, HHUGS helped to settle some of her debts.

On a daily basis, HHUGS continues to be crucial to Graces’ day to day living, making sure that essentials such as gas and electricity continue to run, the likes of which Grace could not previously financially maintain. Furthermore, with the aid of monthly food vouchers, HHUGS gave Grace the sustenance she requires and put an end to the food rationing Grace had to go through every day. The consistent aid Grace has benefited from reminds her of beingcared for by family; such was the nature of the support she received.

‘I remember speaking to an individual from 11pm to 12.30am. He asked, “Please, Aunty, before you leave, tell me you have gas and electricity”. And I said, “How do you know I don’t?”, and then he said, “That’s why I’m asking”. I said I didn’t. He replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll have someone put some money on it for you”.   £50. Never met that guy, never. Just a voice on the end of a phone. If that is how a brother treats a stranger, that’s where I want to be. These guys make it the norm.  It’s coming to me from complete strangers, who I call family now.’

Unable to commute for work or pay for travel, HHUGS arranged for the collection and restoration of Grace’s broken car from the police compound.  In addition to this, HHUGS funded both bus and train passes for Grace for work commutes, and to allow her to attend prison visits and court hearings.

‘A HHUGS mechanic, he said he will speak to the police and get the car to where I live or fix it himself. They have helped me big time. How valid they are in my life and in my heart. Had it not been for their phone calls, to get me outside the house, I was down. I don’t know if I’m fixed now, but I’m a lot better than before.’

While Grace continues to overcome renewed trials day upon day, HHUGS are here to support her throughout them, financially and emotionally.  

‘I want to tell families about HHUGS. An organisation people need in their lives. It’s like a loving mother whose love reaches out to people. HHUGS is my mum, my grandmother and I am truly grateful for them.’