Djamila Borges was forced to move out of her uncle’s home after his girlfriend became ill.
Student Djamila Borges has told how she became homeless after moving to England to complete a degree at Staffordshire University.
The 23-year-old moved to Northampton from Portugal in 2017 to live with her uncle while she studied drama at Staffordshire University’s Stoke-on-Trent campus.
When she got her place at the university Djamila believed she would be eligible for a maintenance loan for her studies, but when she arrived in England she was told that you could only receive the money if you had lived in the country for five years.
“When I moved to England I never thought I would end up homeless.”
Then during her second year of studies Djamila was forced to leave her uncle’s home, where she was sleeping in the living room, as his girlfriend developed fibromyalgia and the living room was to be adapted for her needs.
Thankfully she was able to land a bed at Hanley’s Macari Centre, which provides free accommodation and food to the homeless, and she has now been there for more than a year.
She said: “For my first year of university they said I would receive a maintenance loan but when I moved here from Portugal they said I couldn’t have it because I hadn’t been in the country for five years. I’m also not eligible for any benefits because I’m a student in university.
“I was living with my uncle and his girlfriend, in Northampton, and my mum sent me money for the train and bus to get to Stoke-on-Trent for university in my first year.
“I got a job at Holiday Inn to help support myself but then my uncle’s girlfriend became ill and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and they needed to adapt the house for her pain.
“I was sleeping in the living room and it meant I couldn’t sleep there anymore. I went to the council offices but because I didn’t have a big income from my job to pay for rent and food they advised me to go to The Macari Centre.
“This was in November last year, during my second year of university, I lost my job and I’ve been here ever since then.”
Djamila now works for Royal Stoke University Hospital as a cleaner alongside studying for her degree and living at the homeless hostel.
She said: “I can’t study at The Macari Centre, I have to do all my studying at the university. A lot of the people living here take drugs and I’ve seen two people die here. But I finished last year with good results.
“When I moved to England I never thought I would end up homeless. I moved from Portugal because it was too difficult to get into university over there.
“The university knows about my situation and the student union advised me to quit and go back to Portugal.
“I have to thank Mr Macari, because of him I have been able to stay here and finish my degree which is what I came here to do. When I finish my degree I’m going to look for a job related to drama.
“I’m went to my uncle’s on Christmas Day this year, but I spent it at The Macari Centre last year. Now I have a job at the hospital I’m going to go to the council again and see if I can find a house.”
A spokeswoman from Staffordshire University said: “Staffordshire University understands people find themselves homeless for many reasons, which is why we continue to work closely with organisations such as YMCA North Staffordshire to help tackle this issue head on.
“We thank organisations such as The Macari Centre for the valuable support they offer within our community, empowering young people to overcome significant challenges and achieve their full potential.
“Most importantly we applaud students such as Djamila, who are combating negative stereotypes surrounding homelessness.
“Djamila’s courage, hard work and determination are an inspiration to her fellow students and the wider community, demonstrating that everyone, regardless of their background or personal circumstances, can look forward to a successful and prosperous future.
“Staffordshire University is fully committed to supporting students who are experiencing challenges, both personal and financial.
“As some of our students do not have families to visit over Christmas, the Students’ Union and wider University community have arranged activities to ensure that nobody feels alone or isolated during the festive break.”