Life in the Shelter, personal experience of a beneficiary of Streha

It has been months since I left my family, but every time I remember those moments my flesh growls. I remember as if it happened yesterday when my brother discovered my sexual orientation from some texts and decided to expose me openly in front of everyone, but I did not give him this opportunity.   

At 4 o’clock in the morning I left the house without saying goodbye.  

I had never heard of the Shelter and I did not know it existed, but I knew a  community organization I had contacted before, I asked them for help and they directed me to the “Streha” without any question. The only thing I knew was that this place I was heading to was a shelter. I felt a sense of warmth when I heard this name because in those moments what I needed was a shelter, a home to feel safe and know that I would not be left on the streets.

It was a long way until I arrived at Streha , I was on a bus full of people, I could not stop the tears, I cried all the way until I was so tired that I could not even cry anymore. After many hours I finally arrived in Tirana and met with the staff of Streha.  After some very uncomfortable questions, they took me to the Shelter. After I met all the other beneficiaries there, they showed me my bed and where I would sleep that night. I was so tired, I fell asleep even though it was too early. I was so exhausted …

The next day that feeling of waking up in an unknown place suddenly increased my anxiety and I started to feel very stressed, but after I remembered what had happened the day before and why I was there, I was very grateful and felt lucky to have a place to sleep. Everyone was organized to go to the pool.  I still felt like I was among strangers and I did not know anyone there.  It usually takes me a long time to adjust, especially since I also have social anxiety, but everyone was so calm and patient with me, as if they were allowing me to take my time.

I already had cut all my connections with my family.  I did not check my phone and I just wanted to be alone.  I missed my mother and I knew that she was very worried but I also knew inside that as soon as my brother told her, she would not miss me anymore. I decided to turn on my cell phone and I saw a lot of threatening calls and messages from my brother and many, many other horrible things, but I did not have the patience to continue with this drama.  I decided to distance myself from the family completely and only when I felt ready to speak would I respond . The only thing that mattered to me now was my life.   

I began counseling sessions, I worked hard with myself and after a few weeks I was ready to talk.

My family called me and they said they would come to meet me in Tirana and talk. I was certainly not ready but I just wanted this part of me that was left hostage to be free. With the help of the shelter staff, I felt ready to face my parents. My brother was also there and I was only answering those questions I wanted  to answer. I was under so much pressure to go back to their house, but I was determined and it was not even an alternative for me.

I said goodbye to my parents and went back to the Shelter, I felt so light, so relaxed, and I never wanted to lose that feeling.

After a lot of work with myself I felt I was ready to go out and look for a job. Working for me was not something new, I had worked long hours in the family business since I was 12 years old.

Looking for work with the staff of the Shelter, we stayed late until we found some alternatives, made some copies of my CV and the next day I sent them to these places. I waited for answers for a few days and was not getting anything.  Then, I started to feel so bad about myself that I was close to giving up and not looking for work at all. With the help of the staff who pushed me so hard to not give up, I found work in a call-center, where I met two very special people for me and we became friends from day one.

Months after my departure for the shelter, I felt the need to come out openly to my mother.  To that time I had a good relationship only with my mother.  I had written a letter in which I had expressed everything, after many attempts I read this letter to her on a phone call.  My tears were flowing and my voice was shaking. When I was close to the end of the letter, my mother interrupted me and told me that my orientation does not matter, that I will always be her son.  At that moment I burst into tears even more. It was the happiest day of my life.

Now I am free to be myself, now I am independent, now I can live free. All that I have today is thanks to the Streha and the Streha staff. If it were not for Streha, I would not have had a place to stay, I would not have had all the opportunities that were opened to me during the time I was there.  I do not even want to think about what would have happened to me if it had not been for Streha.

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Burimi i fotos: Historia Ime

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