I am writing this after a weekend of battling with a leaky roof, not a big issue in the grand scale of things but an issue non the less. This is something that happens in my flat whenever there is significant rainfall and has been doing so for the duration of my tenancy so far, which is about sixteen months. I live in supported housing which is provided by a well known organisation in the city. Back in February 2017 I was offered the tenancy and was given a weekend to make a decision, I was told that it would be on a two year resettlement plan and I would receive regular support with my bills and my welfare. This was nothing new to me as I have been living in temporary accommodation now for almost a decade after experiencing long term homelessness from 2009 until 2014. Since 2014 I spent two years in shared supported housing and a further two and half years with my current landlord/ supported housing provider.
I am too ashamed to do the math and reflect on the cost of my circumstances to society….
I was born to parents who were struggling to exist and were homeless until the birth of my sister in 1977, we were then placed in temporary accommodation by our local authority in the form of a caravan on a site owned by a local business owner. To which he was quite happy to receive the money yet do very little about the poor living standards, for example no running water, no heating and limited electricity. We may as well been living back in the 1950s slum housing conditions. We were left there for nearly a decade along with other poor families, schooling was terribly humiliating for me as you can imagine the stigma around the whole arrangement. Everybody knew we were poor and nobody would let us forget it, a constant barrage of abuse from my peers and the elders of the community. I was six years old and it was supposed to be my best years yet I wanted to die… Simple tasks like washing clothes was impossible, you cant dry wet clothing in the winter without some sort of warmth, so more often than not I was to go school in damp clothes for all to assume I was a bed wetter.. Not only that but I was to stand in a queue to receive my free school dinner while students looked on with contempt at my plight.. I never took to school and looking back its not surprising.. We were there for what seemed to be a lifetime and I would often catch my mother crying about the whole situation. It was as if we had been forgotten.. So she wrote a letter to an MP which at that time was David Knox (the only MP I have ever liked) who after the ten years we lived there pulled some strings to get us moved onto the miners estate. I was nearly nine years old and had never stepped inside a house never mind lived in one. I remember falling up the stairs and thinking what a strange concept they were. I can still see the look of joy on my fathers face as he built up the coal fire and lit it for the first time, yet all this was too late as the community had earmarked us for a damn good dose of prejudice and we would be there target for the duration. Its not nice when you see your parents subject to a torrent of verbal abuse from your neighbourhood just for being on hard times.
There is only so many times you can be called a scrounger until it permeates into your head, and you start believing the description
So my father died a scrounger/ scumbag at the age of 53 in 1993, with not a penny to his name. Drank himself to death, I suppose we were to be grateful that the government paid a third towards it. Devastated cant even begin to describe how we felt, I still don’t know how I feel about my father, I was fourteen when he died and I have gone through every emotion from hate through to guilt and battled with addiction in the process. I never attended school after his death, everything changed as people started to pity me when usually they were harassing me and I couldn’t deal with that. I made an oath to myself that my circumstances would be different in adulthood and I was to never claim benefits, I had another go at education in the form of college to pursue a qualification as well as my maths and English GCSE’s. I lasted a year before I realized me and mum couldn’t afford to live again as rent arrears slowly built up, I had no choice but to get employment in a warehouse and I worked there until they went into receivership. So I found another warehouse until the same thing happened over and over, time and time again..
What as this got to do with a leaky roof? I hear you cry… its not so much the roof but how social landlords assume we are to be grateful for that roof and so we shouldn’t grumble, often having a never ending complaints procedure to throw you off the scent with in my experience no outcome at all. Sending out maintenance teams who on looking at the job scratch their head and say they have no tools in the van, or even better say its not their responsibility…. well I am sorry but they work for my landlord so it is there responsibility.. it begs belief that the organisation who rents me the property say its the landlord they sub let the property for who is liable..
This dispute has lasted for over a year with very little movement and I cant understand why, I feel like I am going crazy..
We talk a lot about homelessness in this current climate, I want to focus on the rights of individuals who are living in supported/ temporary/ hostel accommodation as they are often overlooked and made to feel stupid for raising issues. This has a huge impact on a persons mental and at times physical well being and can mean the difference between someone having a positive outcome or a negative one.