A former heroin addict who spent last Christmas on the streets has thanked members of the public who helped her buy work clothes and a phone so she could rebuild her life.
Nedyalka Petrov, 26, spent three years sleeping on the street 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, 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.
Clean for almost a year, she has just completed six weeks’ training at the Old Spike Roastery in Peckham, south-east London, and will start a part-time job there as a barista in the new year.
Ms Petrov told the PA news agency this Christmas is the first in five years that she has been able to buy gifts and a tree.
She 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.”
The 26-year-old 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.
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 of 10 years saved up £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.
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.”