Former addict who spent last Christmas on streets thanks public who helped her


Nedyalka Petrov moved to the UK from Bulgaria in 2015, initially working as a cleaner. However, she and her boyfriend became homeless two years later and during that time she became addicted to heroin

Nedyalka Petrov
Nedyalka Petrov has been helped by the social enterprise Beam

A former heroin addict who was homeless last Christmas has thanked people who helped her buy work clothes and a phone so she could rebuild her life.

Nedyalka Petrov, 26, spent three years sleeping on the streets or in car parks around the London Bridge area with her boyfriend after moving to the UK from Bulgaria.

During this time, she became addicted to heroin, battled depression and tried to take her life.

In January this year, she was helped to find temporary accommodation and supported to beat her addiction.

Ms Petrov has also been helped by the social enterprise Beam, with 57 members of the public donating £858 so she could buy a phone, laptop, Oyster travel card, and work clothes.

Ms Petrov has just completed six weeks’ training at the Old Spike Roastery in Peckham
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Clean for almost a year, she has just completed six weeks’ training at the Old Spike Roastery in Peckham, south-east London, where she will start a part-time job as a barista in the new year.

Ms Petrov said this Christmas was the first time in five years that she has been able to buy gifts and a tree.

The woman said: “I just want to say thank you so much for everyone who had belief in me and for everyone who helped me, that it really means so much for me.”

She added: “They have helped me so much, now I have some hope for a better life.”

Ms Petrov, who comes from a village in Bulgaria, would like to train to become an architect and dreams of opening her own kitchen design company.

The woman will start working as a barista in the new year
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When she arrived in the UK in 2015, she worked as a cleaner and her boyfriend as a builder, living with 15 people in one house for two years.

The couple, who have been together for 10 years, saved £1,500 for a deposit but were scammed and lost it all, after which they started living in their car.

When the car went missing, they lived in a tent for about a year before moving on to the streets in south-east London.

Ms Petrov said: “When I first came to the UK, I saw people sleeping on the streets and I asked my boyfriend ‘why are they sleeping on the streets, isn’t it cold?’ Two years later, that was me.”

She and her partner are currently living in a hotel in West Norwood, south London, as they wait for the local council to provide them with a more permanent home.

The former heroin addict thanked members of the public who helped her
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Beam, which helped Ms Petrov, has supported 593 people into homes and stable jobs in sectors such as hospitality, retail and social care, and crowdfunded £2.7 million in donations.

It received royal recognition earlier this year when the business was given the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Founder and chief executive Alex Stephany said: “Since launching Beam at the end of 2017, we’ve supported more than 500 homeless people into stable jobs and homes.

“Many are former addicts, like Nedyalka, who are now clean and desperately want to secure stable work, contribute to our society and build brighter futures.

“But there are often some big financial barriers in their way, like training, travel costs, a laptop or childcare.

“Beam’s crowdfunding platform makes it simple for members of the public to donate to a homeless person looking to start work and send a message of support.”

According to research by homeless charity Crisis and Heriot Watt University, almost 227,000 families and individuals across Britain faced homelessness this Christmas.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “No-one should be without a place to call home now or at any time of year.

“It is utterly devastating that throughout Britain thousands of people are facing a Christmas on the streets, trying to shelter in places like a car or stuck living in one room in a B&B with no proper cooking or washing facilities. It shouldn’t have to be like this.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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