Moving on from Grenfell

| Care and Support | Housing | News

After witnessing the Grenfell Tower fire up-close, Jasmine had to leave her family home opposite the block to recover from the trauma. Metropolitan made that journey possible

Jasmine and Marteen

Jasmine (left) with Metropolitan Senior Care and Support Worker Marteen Johnson.

Jasmine lived in a tower block directly opposite the 24-storey West London high-rise where 71 people lost their lives last year. She watched the devastation through her window.

“It was just horrible,” she says. “I didn’t know any of the victims, but I did recognise some of the faces from the news reports.”

In the weeks that followed, the emotional trauma took its toll. “I felt anxious, scared and on-edge,” she explains. “I couldn’t sleep. I had my first panic attack about a month after the fire. I couldn’t stop crying and had to stay in my mum’s room to calm down.”

Jasmine, who had spent more than 25 years of her life in the Kensington and Chelsea family home, had to get away. “My mum and brother were able to carry on. I found it more difficult.”’

She moved in with her father for a while, then did the rounds of friends’ sofas, but a more permanent solution was needed. The local authority referred her to Metropolitan’s Longridge Road supported living service for women.

Initially, Jasmine had mixed feelings about moving into a hostel. She’d heard stories of poor conditions and bad behaviour, but it was nothing like that at Metropolitan.

“Actually, it was really nice,” reports Jasmine, who moved in last December. “Halima [Kanyike, the service team leader] and her team could not have been more welcoming. They put me at ease. That first night, I enjoyed the best sleep I’d had since Grenfell.”

The place was well kept, too. “I have a phobia about mice,” she says. “Maybe I was expecting the worst, but let’s say that I was delighted the hostel was so clean.”

She occupied one of its 12 bedrooms, each equipped with its own fridge and sink. She brought a TV with her. Bathrooms, kitchens and a lounge were shared.

Working nights as a PPI claims assessor, Jasmine didn’t get to know the other residents well, but she found them well-mannered and amiable when they did meet up.

Away from Grenfell, she was able to start her own recovery. Counselling sessions helped Jasmine process the trauma, while the Metropolitan team provided practical and emotional support.

Monthly review meetings were an opportunity to assess her needs, while the team – on site all week and on call at weekends – was there to listen. “The office door was always open. I could talk about anything at any time.”

Most residents spend an average of six months at Longridge Road and part of the team’s job is to prepare them for their next step. Jasmine found sessions on budget planning – something she hadn’t needed to consider before – particularly useful.

After a few months, she was ready to move on. Metropolitan arranged an internal transfer to one of its own properties in Southwark. While many residents are reluctant to move outside of their own borough, Jasmine felt she needed a bit of distance.

She has now settled into her new one-bedroom flat. “It’s nice and spacious – and my mum approves,” she says. “It’s a new start.”

Had she not got away from Grenfell, she fears that her mental health would have suffered more lasting damage. And she can’t thank Metropolitan enough for guiding her through a difficult period.

“Halima and her team helped me in a really big way and for that I’m so grateful.”