An elderly woman who experienced homelessness and had hit rock bottom in her life used the power of singing to change her fortunes.

Dee Allison, 73, who is a carer, was unable to work after an ill patient broke her thumb – an injury that would turn her life upside down.

Moving from South Africa in 2009 due to the violence she faced there, Dee never thought at 65 she would be sleeping rough on the streets of London for nine months.

But after being forced to stay in squalid and unsafe temporary accommodation, Dee was finally able to secure an apartment through the help of a friend.

She is still unable to afford heating and everyday basic luxuries but has been able to rebuild her confidence thanks to the help of Streetwise Opera.

Hillingdon Times: Streetwise Opera received a grant from the National Lottery to help people who have experience with homelessnessStreetwise Opera received a grant from the National Lottery to help people who have experience with homelessness

Streetwise Opera is an arts organisation working with the homeless sector to inspire change and empower people to realise their own creative potential – they engage world-class artists to collaborate with diverse individuals affected by homelessness to create powerful works of art, and to positively impact how society views homelessness.

“I had about £450 in the bank, but social services said I had money and that I'd have to spend it and be broke before they'd help me,” said Dee.

“But when I did, they wouldn't help me. I wasn’t eligible, and so I was on the streets for nine months. For my age, I thought that was disgusting. I had to be resilient and see what I could do, but it wasn’t easy because there wasn’t anything available.

“I had a freedom pass so I could sit on the bus, and I would sit at the train or bus station with friends in the same position.

“When they closed, you were on the street for those hours, so I used to have a certain bus route, one that I could ride on, and they were kind enough when they got to the end of the line to let me stay on the bus for those 20 minutes while they had a break.

“One of them didn't – he would put me off at the last stop, and I’d have to wait in the rain while the bus came back round.

“I'd been a confident person all my life, but I lost all that confidence. I used to hear people singing when I was having help at The Passage, and it was beautiful – it took me two years of listening in the corridor before Streetwise Opera convinced me to come along.

“I've been singing with them for a long time now, and we've done so many things, including recently singing at the Royal Festival Hall. It was what kept me sane, quite honestly. Music is universal, but it gave me confidence, I even sang a solo which to me was impossible. I’ve found the voice I lost."

Hillingdon Times: Dee Allison, 73, found herself homeless after being unable to workDee Allison, 73, found herself homeless after being unable to work

Streetwise Opera’s Head of Communications Rey Trombetta said: “I once asked one of our guys why he came here, what was it that brought him here, and he said it was the only time of the week that he felt human.

“I have my own experience of homelessness, and one thing I feel is that when people are homeless, they lose their self-esteem, they feel that they’ve failed and have nothing positive to give.

“They need to recover that sense of worth, and that whole feeling of singing and people being impressed by what you did – that is part of the magic of what we do.

“I’m fascinated by the generosity of British people. This is the most generous country that I’ve been in, a country where people are always looking for ways to raise money for charity.”

Strictly Come Dancing star Neil Jones, who struggled with homelessness as a teenager, is highlighting the incredible support National Lottery-funded homeless projects have provided to people all over the UK during the last 10 years.

The 31-year-old professional dancer is now a regular fixture on screens across the UK, but just a few years ago he was in a very different position and, for a brief time, he even found himself sleeping rough on the streets.

With Christmas fast approaching, Neil is helping to highlight the extensive funding and support The National Lottery has provided to homelessness projects over the last decade.

Since 2010, more than half a billion pounds (over £576 million) has been awarded to more than 3,000 projects that involve or support homeless people or help tackle homelessness throughout the UK.

Hillingdon Times: Strictly star Neil Jones has opened up about his experience with homelessness as a teenagerStrictly star Neil Jones has opened up about his experience with homelessness as a teenager

Jones said: “With winter upon us and Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time of year to spare a thought for those who don’t have a home to go to or have somewhere safe, comfortable and warm to sleep over the festive period.

“It’s tough to think about the difficult things they’re going through at this time of year because it’s such a time of joy for most of us, but it’s important to recognise that there are so many people out there who really do need our help.

“Thankfully, there are countless incredible charities and organisations doing some really incredible work supporting homeless people across the UK with National Lottery funding.”

The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, alone has awarded more than 600 grants worth around £80 million to projects that involve homeless people since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to provide much-needed funding to incredible organisations that are making an important difference to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

“Whether supporting people experiencing homelessness to improve prospects for employment, supporting with mental health or providing a safe place where people can build their confidence and self-esteem, dedicated groups and their volunteers are working tirelessly with the homeless community, so that they are better able to overcome challenges and hopefully go on to prosper and thrive.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps charities and organisations which support homeless people in our communities. To find out more about National Lottery funding go to