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First person: Gemskii on regaining control of her life

March 13th 2014

I don’t really know how I ended up homeless. It just happened. You might think it shouldn't have, my schooling was private and so I pretty much always lived away from home. College accommodation was a shared room but that was still paid for by my mum.

By the time I was there, I had already started self-harming. But here was when I started taking overdoses. I knew about overdosing from TV and films, but how many do you have to take? The bottle said 12. I edged up the dose slowly. 12 didn’t kill me, it turned out.

Once though, after overdosing, I fell down in a Manchester doorway and was shocked that people pass you by. No one stopped to help me. A small time later I overdosed enough to have my stomach pumped. Ha! I never did it again after that. I mention all this because it shows that at 16 I was pretty miserable.

I moved out of the cramped room and into a love triangle where she fancied he, he fancied me, and I fancied she. I had sex with he. My first consenting sex was a shameful secret and that did nothing for my developing sense of self.

I got several flats in a short space of time but ended up in a derelict one with boarded windows and mice. I met a woman, she was considerably older and was established so I moved in. After a couple of years it ended and having nowhere to go I ended up street homeless in London. I was 19.

During that first night a man approached me whilst I ‘slept’ (I wasn’t asleep - it was too cold). He offered me a can of coke that I didn’t want but in any case I accepted his kindness and sat up. I remember not wanting to talk to him; warning bells were ringing so I lay down to sleep.

He got on top of me and started thrusting. My coping strategy was to disconnect and disappear inside myself. Luckily another man was passing and rescued me.

Next I answered a dubious job advert and ended up in Italy, in a brothel. One of the customers bought me out but set me to work with his friends – after a while he tried to have sex with me too. I ran back to the brothel and stuck it out so I could get paid and escape.

Back in the UK, I stayed briefly with parents that didn’t understand, mainly because I never told them. Why? Because their love felt remote.

There were more girlfriends, one was really violent, but I didn't leave because I had nowhere to go until I got a job as a resident DJ. It was cushy, short hours, high pay, no rent, and I became a party girl with a really good skunk habit.

In the end I got arrested for my drug use, caught by CCTV camera and prosecuted. Suddenly my homelessness was visible. The courts intervened in 2000, placing me with St Mungo’s. My last suicide attempt was here but I survived with arm stitched inside and out.

They placed me in supported housing. It was a turning point. For a start it was the first time I had a place that was mine and not dependent on a relationship.

It’s 2014 now and I’m very different because I’ve had to unpick all my internal tangles in order to survive. I now have a home that I share with two dogs and four goldfish. I got my first sofa yesterday, a friend’s cast-off one, but it is leather and comfortable. I don’t want to die any more, I don’t drink or smoke and if I have sex these days, it’s completely my choice.

I work for myself too, both as a theatrical practitioner and as a cleaner – building maintenance I prefer to call it. I have an award-winning one-woman show, Transformation, which tells the story of my journey, plus I teach. It feels good to take control of my life, to tell my own story.

Gemskii took part in the Where From, Where Now project.




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Teens found guilty of killing Ralph Millward

The Passage withdraws service "as a last resort"

New learning centre for Glasgow

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Homeless interrogation

Affordable housing development opens in Edinburgh

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Nobby on stage

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London homeless services in limbo over ?Ǭ£3.28m cuts

Disused night shelter re-opened for winter months

Coventry Cyrenians forced to cut services

London hub success for new rough sleepers

Crisis Skylight in Birmingham - a year on

Residents look ahead to staff upheaval

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Labour call for hefty council tax levy on empty homes

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Homeless couple marry in Australia

Number of homeless in Southend underestimated

Basic banking for all

NSNO expands into west London

Scottish homeless applications drop by 19 per cent

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Invisible People film UK homeless

The demilitarised zone in North America’s drug war

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Rough sleeper donates $250 to charity

Food voucher scheme scrapped

Commemorating friends and companions

Human rights for all

First person: Gemskii on regaining control of her life

The shades come off

Upfront: spikes

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Opinion: All up in smoke?

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The Pied Piper of Housing

March for the Homeless

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The vulnerability ruling

The Queen’s speech

Criminalising homelessness

116-bed hostel for young homeless to close in Southwark

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The birth of the North Gower Action Group

A pianist, an artist, a dog called George and a new homeless app

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Councils back change in law to tackle rising homelessness

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Mayoral hustings on homelessness


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Surviving the streets – by those who've done it

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Glasgow homeless services at risk

Alexander Withers

Bill gives councils legal duty to stop homelessness

Homeless Grenfell survivors afraid of deportation

Remembering those who have died in the past year

Safer injection action update

Kevin Headley


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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484