Sandra* was one of the first HIA tenants I supported back in 2013. I met her as she was coming towards the end of her time at rehab (the standard time now being 6 months, cut back from 2 years a while back to save local authority funding). She was due to finish her time there next week and move into an HIA home, she wasn't sure if she was ready.

I remember the first time I saw her. I'd heard a lot of words used to describe her: "addict" "thief" "prostitute" so when I saw the skinny, vulnerable, beautiful young woman leaning on the lamppost in front of me, I wasn't sure if it was her. Surely this wasn't the same person described so harshly on a referral form?

We got on well from the offset. I complimented her earrings, she liked my shoes. We both drank lattes. I could tell she'd bounced from different agencies for a while, you get used to the mixture or truth and clipped answers, as they protect some elements of their life and just share the bits that will result in them securing that all important roof over their head.

'Don't rush it' I thought. She'll open up when she's ready.

And that she did. The eating disorder she'd hidden through rehab by vomiting in plastic bags in her wardrobe. The tricks she'd regularly turn to score when life just got too painful and unbearable. The partner she lost to an overdose. How her modelling photographer was the person who got her hooked on cocaine. The kids she adored who lived with her parents. It all came out.

And then she was gone.

Relapsed and pulled back into the dark cave from where she had come. 

I still hear from her about once or twice a year. A text or Instagram message when she's managed to get hold of someone else's phone (her own was confiscated long ago). "Kate, I'm serious this time, can you get me out of here? I'll move anywhere. Please, can you meet me? I'm gonna die if I stay." 

She's always in fear. Regularly beaten by pimps and clients. Once so hard that they burst her breast implant. 

Every time she contacts, I agree to meet her, and I'm sat on the steps outside the library now. Waiting. She's late.

The nearby church bells ring to signify that it's midday. She's not coming. I know that. But I go through the motions anyway.

One day she may turn up. But then again, she may not. 

My phone goes, someone else needs me.

I dust my sandals and leave.

*name changed for anonymity